What Does Letters of Administration Mean in Probate?

25 November 2016

When someone dies, their Estate (bank accounts, investments, property, possessions) needs to be dealt with. In England and Wales this process is commonly known as Probate or the administration of an Estate.

Making a Will allows you to decide who you want to manage the administration of your Estate. This is usually your Executors. If your Estate needs Probate (not all Estates do), the Executors of your Will can apply for the Grant of Representation, also known as the Grant of Probate.

The Grant of Probate will prove that your Executors have the legal authority to manage the administration of your Estate.

If you die without leaving a Will, it means that you’ve left no valid instructions about who should manage the administration of your Estate. This includes closing your bank accounts, paying off any debts and collecting in any money owed to you and selling any property you may own.

In these circumstances, someone in your family, usually your spouse, civil partner or child (if they are over 18) must apply to the Court to manage this process for you and become your administrator. 

The application your family will need to make to the Court if you don’t leave a Will is for Letters of Administration also called Grant of Letters of Administration.

This will allow them to show that they have the legal right to complete the Estate administration process.

What is Intestacy?

One further complication that your family will encounter if you die without a Will is that the law will decide who inherits what from your Estate.

When someone dies without a Will, there are rules set out in the law to decide who gets what. These are called the Rules of Intestacy.

The Rules of Intestacy are strict and inflexible and they don’t allow for the complexity of family relationships today. If you die without leaving a Will, and you are not married to your partner, they will not automatically inherit anything from your Estate, even if you’ve been living together for years.

You can help to protect your family from the uncertainty of what will happen if you die without a Will, by making a Will as soon as possible.

When Do I Need a Grant of Letters of Administration?

Before you start the process of applying for the Letters of Administration, you should first check whether you need to complete the process at all. Some Estates don’t need Probate.

If the Estate of your family member:

  • Is going straight to you as their spouse or civil partner (this only applies to anything in joint names)
  • Does not include any property or land.

You may not need to apply for Letters of Administration. But you should be aware that even if the Estate does not contain property or land, you could still have to apply.

Some banks or building societies will ask for Letters of Administration to allow you to access your family member’s bank accounts. You will need to do this to access the money in them and to close the accounts.

There is no set amount of money that you can access an account without Letters of Administration as each bank or building society sets their own amount.

Some banks or building societies will allow you to access up to £25,000 with a Grant of Letters of Administration but other limits are as little as only £5,000.

This does mean that until you start to make enquires you can’t tell for sure if you will need a Grant or not.

Do I Have to Apply for Letters of Administration Myself?

No you don’t. You can get someone else to do it for you. You may want to do the practical stuff as a way of coping with your loss, but on the other hand, it may be too difficult for you to even think about starting the Estate Administration process.

Co-op Legal Services can help you. Our Probate Solicitors and specialists can complete the whole Estate administration process for you and you won’t need to worry about the cost as it can be taken from the Estate at the end of the administration process; providing the Estate has sufficient assets which can be liquidated to repay our costs.

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

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