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What is a chain of representation?

Posted by Nigel Merchant | 03-Jul-2023 15:09:40

The chain of representation refers to the legal framework that allows for the continuous administration of an estate after the death of an individual. When someone is appointed as an Executor under a Grant of Probate (if the deceased had a valid Will) or an Administrator under a Grant of Letters of Administration (if the deceased did not have a valid Will), they become the representative of the deceased person's estate. This representation is formally granted to them by the Probate Registry.


An example of a chain of representation

Let's consider an example to illustrate the chain of representation. John creates a Will appointing Sarah as his Executor. When John passes away, Sarah assumes the role of Executor and obtains a Grant of Probate in her name to begin administering John's estate.

However, before Sarah completes the estate administration process, she sadly passes away. In her own Will, Sarah has designated Mark as her Executor. Mark steps in and takes on the responsibility of administering Sarah's estate. According to the chain of representation, Mark can also act as the Executor for John's estate and continue the estate administration process for both Sarah and John.

In practical terms, this means that Mark can complete the tasks initiated by Sarah and administer John's estate according to the provisions stated in his Will. In order to demonstrate the chain of representation and administer both estates, Mark would need to present the Grant of Probate issued in Sarah's name along with the Grant of Probate issued in his own name.

The chain of representation can extend further until it is broken, or the estate administration has been completed for all involved estates. For instance, if Mark were to pass away before completing the estate administration for John and Sarah, (leaving a will himself) his appointed Executor would assume the responsibility of administering all three estates.

This example highlights how the chain of representation enables a smooth succession of executorship, ensuring that the administration of multiple estates can continue seamlessly in line with the respective Wills.


Click here to read our blog on the duties of an Executor, which can be shared with your clients.


Why is it important to not break the chain of representation?

The crucial aspect of the chain of representation is that it ensures the seamless continuation of representation in case something happens to the appointed Executor or Administrator. To maintain this continuity, it is necessary to have a valid Will in place. If the proposed Executor or Administrator dies intestate, meaning they did not leave a valid Will, it breaks the chain of representation.

A chain of representation can also be broken if an Executor did not manage to obtain a Grant of Probate in their name before they died. In the example above, if Mark started to deal with Sarah’s estate, but died before the Grant of Probate was issued on her estate (in his name), the chain would also be broken.

When the chain of representation is broken, the administration of the first estate reverts to the next of kin according to the rules of intestacy.


Is it possible fix a broken chain of representation?

To rectify this situation and regain the legal authority to administer the first estate, the next of kin would need to go through the estate administration process once again. They would have to apply for a Grant De Bonis Non, which is a document that enables them to take over the estate administration responsibilities. This document serves as the title for the new Administrator.

If the first-person deceased had made a Will, the required Grant is known as the Grant De Bonis Non with Will Annexed. This indicates that the original Will is attached to the new court order, further clarifying the intentions and instructions of the deceased person.


How to apply for the Grant De Bonis Non (with Will Annexed)

The Grant De Bonis Non is applied for through the Probate Registry, it is made on Form Cap A5C. However, the Probate Registry specifies that there are only three situations where the Grant De Bonis Non is needed:

  • On the death of the sole or last surviving Administrator where part of the estate is still unadministered.
  • On the death of the sole or last surviving Executor where the chain of representation is broken, and part of the estate remains unadministered.
  • Where the sole or last surviving Executor or Administrator becomes mentally incapable.

Ensure at least one of these situations are met before applying for the Grant De Bonis Non. GOV.UK currently states that Grant applications are taking approximately sixteen weeks to complete, and the Grant De Bonis Non may take longer depending on the level of case complexity, errors when submitting documents, and more.


Why is it important to have a valid Will as an Executor?

If individuals are aware that they are appointed as an Executor, it is even more crucial for them to ensure that they have a valid Will in place. Failing to do so can lead to complications, such as involving other family members who would need to apply for the Grant De Bonis Non which can prolong the estate administration process.

Another important complication to consider are contentious matters, this is because without a clear and legally binding document outlining the deceased person's wishes, there can be uncertainty and disputes among family members, and other beneficiaries regarding the distribution of assets and possessions. This makes it crucial for individuals to have a properly executed, valid Will to maintain the integrity of the chain of representation and reduce the potential for contention. To learn more about the purpose and importance of a Will, read our blog.


If you need help with probate, administering an estate, or understanding Trusts, contact us by filling in the form below or call our Client Services Team on 0300 303 9000.


Author: Nigel Merchant

Nigel Merchant is a Technical Manager at Kings Court Trust, where he has worked for over 15 years. Nigel has conducted over 2,000 family meetings and built up a huge amount of technical knowledge to share with partners and clients. Nigel has a calm and empathetic delivery which helps to achieve the business’ purpose of helping families to move on. Previously, Nigel worked at HSBC bank for over 25 years in the branch network, lastly as a Branch Manager and Personal Banking Manager, highlighting that customer service is a key driver for Nigel.

Topics: Estate Administration, Probate