LETTERS OF ADMINISTRATION - GRANT OF PROBATE - WILL SOLICITORS UK
A Grant of Letters of Administration gives authority for up to four administrators to deal with the assets of a deceased person who has not left a will appointing executors. The administrator's powers are derived from the Grant of Letters of Administration as opposed to an executor who derives power directly from the will at the time of death. A potential administrator should not inter-meddle with the estate until the issue of the Grant of Letters of Administration following application to the Probate Office which deals with matters on behalf of the Probate Registry of the High Court of Justice. A proposed administrator may however consider that securing assets prior to the issue of the grant is important especially if the administrator is also likely to be one of the estates beneficiaries. An administrator or proposed administrator is personally liable to the beneficiaries. A Grant of Letters of Administration is appropriate if there is no valid will or if there is a valid will which does not specifically appoint at least one executor. The person who applies for a Grant of Letters of Administration is usually one of the potential beneficiaries under either the will or the Intestacy Rules.
If there is no will then the person dealing with the deceased’s estate applies to the probate division of the High Court for a Grant of Letters of Administration which gives that person the legal right to deal with the assets. If there is a will with a named executor then that person may apply to the court for a Grant of Probate. Unlike an executor named in a will, an administrator does not automatically have the authority to begin collecting and distributing the deceased’s assets until that person applies to the court and receives a Grant of Letters of Administration.
As long as the executor faithfully abides by the specifications set forth by the testator in the terms of the will, there is little that anyone can do to strip the executor of this authority. Should the executor fail to properly perform any of their duties, the proper recourse is to apply to the court to have the executor dismissed. If the court grants the dismissal, someone new is appointed to carry out the testator’s wishes.
A testator can elect to grant the executor very wide powers. It is not uncommon for a testator to appoint the executor as trustee of the estate and give that person a good deal of discretion in distributing the assets. More than one person can be named as executor. In these instances, all of the people named in the will to a maximum of four can apply to the court for a jointly held grant of probate. Typically the court refrains from picking and choosing and instead orders that the parties jointly share the responsibilities. Any of the people named as executor can choose to decline the position.
An administrators powers under a Grant of Letters of Administration are extremely similar to an executors powers under a Grant of Probate. The administrator's role is one of responsibility to the beneficiaries which may require professional advice and assistance from a specialist solicitor. The main duties of an administrator are as follows :-
The administrator should secure all assets and where possible should take possession.
The administrator should take out insurance to protect the value of any relevant assets.
The administrator should pay all of the estates liabilities in order of priority including taxes.
The administrator should thereafter distribute the estate in accordance with the deceased wishes as set out in the will or where there is no will in accordance with the Intestacy Rules both of which may involve liquidation of some or all assets by way of sale.
Obtaining Grant of Representation
Obtaining authority to be either an executor or an administrator follows broadly similar principles. In both cases an application for a grant is made to the District Probate Registry of the High Court of Justice using standard forms. In the case where there is a will, the original must usually be submitted however in the case of a lost will it may be possible to use an authenticated copy in order to obtain authority as executor following consideration by a Judge. If there is no will or if the will does not appoint an executor, an application is made for a Grant of Letters of Administrator which authorises an administrator. If there is a will that appoints at least one executor, an application is made for a Grant of Probate which authorises an executor. Both an executor and an administrator must value all of the assets of the estate and estimate the liabilities before submitting this information to the Capital Taxes Office for determination of any tax due. Once these issues are resolved the Probate Office will issue the grant of representaion. In the case of an executor, once the assets are gathered in and debts paid the proceeds are distributed in accordance with the terms of the will. If there is no will, an administrator must similarly gather in the assets, pay the liabilities and thereafter distribute the net proceeds in accordance with the Intestacy Rules which sets an order of precedence amongst relatives of the deceased.
Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration?
To receive a Grant of Probate, the person named as executor must first make an application to the court. The application must include the original will as well as a document that lists and values all of the assets in the deceased’s estate. Once the application has been prepared, the executor must then swear an affidavit that details the deceased and their assets. The last step is for the court to seal and issue the Grant of Probate to the executor to assist the executor in carrying out the terms of the will.
Executors are appointed solely by will. If there is no will, there is no executor. Not having a named executor further complicates the probate process for your loved ones. It adds yet another step to an already complex process. In cases where there is no executor, an interested party applies to the court for Letters of Administration. Typically the interested party is a relative of the deceased and believes they have some claim to the deceased’s assets. The person who is granted Letters of Administration carries out duties similar to those performed by an executor. That individual is responsible for the collection and distribution of the deceased’s assets in accordance with intestacy law.
Rather than follow the instructions set forth in a will, however, this person will distribute the estate according to the intestacy rules which set forth the relatives who may inherit assets from the estate and their priority in receiving those assets. Should the deceased have no qualifying relatives, the assets may be claimed by the State.