If a will is left:
If the person who has died leaves a will, it will usually name one or more people to act as the executors of the will - that is, to administer their estate.
If you are named as an executor of a will you may need to apply for a grant of probate.
A grant of probate is an official document which the executors may need to administer the estate. It is issued by a section of the court known as the probate registry.
If there is no will
If there is no will (known as dying intestate) the process is more complicated. An application for a grant of letters of administration (an official document, issued by the court, which allows administrators to administer the estate) will need to be made.
The person to whom letters of administration is granted is known as the administrator. The administrator is the person who has the legal right to deal with the affairs of the person who has died, and is determined by a set order of priority.
The administrator will usually be a close relative of the person who has died, if there is one. There may be more than one person who has an equal right to do this. Your solicitor will be able to provide you with information on the set order of priority.Some more legal terms you may come across
Personal representatives (PRs)
This means executors or administrators. If there is more than one personal representative they must work together to decide matters between them. Disagreements between personal representatives can cause expensive delays.
Grants of representation
This includes grants of probate (when there is a will) and grants of letters of administration (when there is no will). Often people just refer to probate even if there is no will.
When a grant of representation is needed
A grant of representation is not always needed, for example, if the person who died:
However, some financial organisations may require a grant before giving you access even to a small amount of money.
Usually, a grant of representation will be needed when the person who has died left:
Personal representatives are responsible for making sure that the estate is administered correctly. If there is a will, the personal representative must make sure that the wishes of the person who has died, as set out in their will, are followed. If there is no will, you must follow the rules of intestacy (set out in the Administration of Estates Act 1925). We are able to explain these should any issues arise.
Personal representatives are also responsible for finding out if inheritance tax is due as a result of a person's death. If it is, the personal representative has to make sure that it is paid.
Whether inheritance tax needs to be paid can depend on:
We will help with all aspects of this.
Dealing with the affairs of someone who has died can take a long time. It is not unusual for it to take up to a year, perhaps longer if things are not straightforward. Many organisations may be involved in the process, for example, banks, building societies, insurance companies and HM Revenue & Customs.
The estate cannot be dealt with until all claims to it have been received. Individuals have six months from the date when probate was granted to make claims against the estate.
Other things that may affect the time taken are:
Arguments between family members, beneficiaries or personal representatives can also delay matters. Any disagreements must be sorted out before the affairs of the person who died can be settled.
Authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority No 71599