Dealing with the estate of a loved one after they have passed away can be a complex and emotional process. One important step in the estate administration process can be obtaining a Grant of Letters of Administration (also known as simply Letters of Administration).
However, the process of applying for a Grant of Letters of Administration can be confusing, especially for those who are unfamiliar with the legal system. In this blog post, we'll provide an overview of what a Grant of Letters of Administration is, when it's needed, who can apply for it, and more.
What is a Grant of Letters of Administration?
A Grant of Letters of Administration is an official document released by the Probate Registry, authorising an Administrator to manage the affairs of a deceased individual's estate in accordance with the law.
With the Letters of Administration granted, the Administrator gains the legal power to oversee the distribution of assets, settling debts, and other relevant responsibilities involved in handling the estate of the deceased person.
Receiving the Letters of Administration can be a crucial step that sets the stage for the administration of the estate to commence. Without this document, the Administrator may not be legally authorised to carry out their duties, which can cause delays and complications in the process. However, dependent on the value of the deceased’s estate and who is inheriting the assets, Letters of Administration are not always needed. Learn more about when a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration are required.
What is the difference between a Grant of Probate and Grant of Letters of Administration?
Understanding the difference between whether you need to obtain a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration is vital to the estate administration process. The main difference between a Grant of Probate and Letters of Administration is based on whether the deceased individual had a valid Will or not.
A Grant of Probate is only granted to the individuals named as an Executor in the Will. On the other hand, Letters of Administration are issued to the individual who is entitled to inherit under the laws of intestacy in cases where the deceased did not leave a valid Will. Those responsible for this process are called Administrators.
In some cases where a valid Will exists, but no Executor is named, a Grant of Letters of Administration with ‘Will annexed’ will have to be issued. However, these cases are quite rare as professional Will Writers should ensure Executors are named and DIY Will templates will typically cover this.
Furthermore, the umbrella term Grant of Representation may also be used during the estate administration process. This term is used as a collective term for both the Grant of Probate and Letters of Administration.
Who can apply for a Grant of Letters of Administration?
When it has been confirmed that there is no valid Will, the application process can begin. However, strict rules apply as to who can apply for Letters of Administration. The person who can apply for Letters of Administration must be the deceased person's next of kin, and this individual is selected according to a strict order of priority (also known as the rules of intestacy).
The following are the priority order for relatives who can apply for Letters of Administration:
- The deceased's spouse or civil partner.
- A child of the deceased, including adopted children but not stepchildren.
- A parent of the deceased.
- A brother or sister of the deceased.
- A grandparent of the deceased.
- An uncle or aunt of the deceased.
You can use the inheritance calculator to find out who the closest relative is if there’s no spouse, civil partner, or children.
It is important to note that if the deceased person's partner was separated from them at the time of death but was still married or in a civil partnership with them, they can still apply for Letters of Administration. However, if the partner was not a spouse or civil partner at the time of the deceased's death, they cannot apply.
What is the application process for a Grant of Letters of Administration?
To obtain Letters of Administration, you need to complete a form called PA1A and send it, along with the death certificate, to the Probate Registry. You'll also need to provide full documentary proof of all the assets owned and details of any debts owed so that the estate can be properly valued and any tax due can be calculated.
You must also send the correct Inheritance Tax form (if required). There is an application fee of £273 for Letters of Administration, as well as a small additional fee of £1.50 for each copy of the Grant required. You may need multiple copies depending on how many institutions the deceased banked with and the individual thresholds of each institution.
The application can be made by online or by post; GOV.UK currently states that applications can take up to 16 weeks from sending the forms to your nearest Probate Registry to receiving the Letters of Administration (this is due to current Probate Registry delays and backlogs as of 2023).
If the application is not completed properly, supported by the necessary documents, and accompanied by the correct fee, it will be returned. The estate administration process can be stressful and time-consuming, so it's essential that you ensure all documentation is collected and correct. If you're uncertain about what's needed, seek professional advice at the earliest opportunity.
Can you sell a property with a Grant of Letters of Administration?
Legally, it is not possible to finalise the sale of a property that is owned in a sole name before obtaining the Letters of Administration. This is because the document grants the Administrator of the estate the necessary authority to manage and distribute assets, including any property involved.
However, the property can be advertised, and the conveyancing process can commence. It is important to inform potential buyers that the completion of the sale is subject to the Grant of Letters of Administration being obtained. This means that the exchange of contracts and the transfer of ownership cannot take place until the probate process is completed.
Kings Court Trust is a provider of probate and estate administration services that offers solutions to support families in need. Our team of specialists can assist with various tasks, from obtaining the Grant of Letters of Administration to completing the complicated tax and legal work.
If you have any questions about the estate administration process, including applying for the Letters of Administration, please get in touch with our Client Services Team on 0300 303 9000 or fill out the form below.