What’s the difference between grant of probate and letters of administration?

09 December 2020

Explained by Senior Probate Solicitor Jennifer Goda, TEP

A grant of probate is issued to the executor/s named in the will, whereas a grant of letters of administration is issued to the next of kin of someone who died without a will.

When an individual dies in England or Wales, the bank accounts, property, personal effects and investments they leave behind are known as their estate. Depending on the type of assets they owned and the value of these, legal authority might be needed to deal with the estate.

This authority is granted by the Probate Registry (Court) through a legal document called a grant of representation. This document will allow whoever is dealing with the estate to close bank accounts, cash in investments and sell or transfer property.

The grant of representation can take different forms, depending on whether there is a will and who is making the application.

With our Probate Complete Service we take full responsibility for getting Grant of Probate and dealing with the Legal, Tax (excl VAT), Property and Estate Administration affairs.

Grant of probate and letters of administration explained

A grant of probate will only be issued to the executor/s named in the will, whereas a grant of letters of administration is issued to the next of kin of someone who died without a Will.

Grant of probate

When making a will, real consideration should be given to the appointment of executor/s. This should be a trusted individual who has the capability of managing a potentially complex process that can take 9-12 months (or longer) to complete.

The executor has the legal power to deal with the estate and can start cashing in assets and transferring these to the beneficiaries named in the will. However, some financial institutions may request a grant of probate before releasing funds or closing the account. Other assets, such as property, cannot be sold or transferred without this legal document.

The grant of probate is legal confirmation from the Court that the will is valid. Once the grant of probate has been issued, it means that the will has been officially registered. The executors named in the will are the only ones with authority to deal with the estate.

Financial institutions want to be sure that the will is valid and the named executors are the correct people to be dealing with the estate, before any funds are released to them.

Grant of letters of administration

A grant of letters of administration is similar to a grant of probate, but is issued instead to the next of kin of someone who dies without a will.

If the person who died did not made a will, this means they have not appointed a specific person as their executor. The authority to close bank accounts, cash in investments, sell property, and so on, is not automatic. Depending on the value of the assets, the next of kin may need to apply to the Court for a grant of letters of administration to confirm their entitlement to manage the estate.

This can cause problems if, for example, family members cannot agree which of them would be the best person to deal with the estate. It is common for the Court to get involved in these types of disputes, which can cost time and money. This is one of the reasons why we would always recommend making a will.

If there is a valid will, but the named executor is unable or unwilling to apply for the grant of probate, the next of kin or main beneficiary can apply for a grant of letters of administration instead.

If someone has died and you need help with probate, contact us:

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