If someone dies without a will, a close friend or family member can apply to become an administrator. They’ll take on a similar role to an executor, legally allowed by their Grant of Letters of Administration.
In an ideal world, any adult that dies would have a will that expresses their wishes. In reality, many people pass away without having written a will. This might happen because they didn’t expect to pass away so soon, or because they didn’t feel that they had anything of value to pass on.
In cases where there’s no will, and there are no named executors, someone close to the deceased can apply to manage their estate.
Read on to learn more about a Grant of Letters of Administration.
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If someone dies without a will, also known as dying intestate, then they have left nothing that indicates their wishes or names, someone, to manage their estate. A close friend or family member might want to take on this role.
Applying for a Grant of Letters of Administration is a way to take control of an estate. If your application is approved, you will be able to become an estate administrator.
As the administrator of an estate, you can take control of the assets left behind to make sure that they are properly managed, either transferring ownership of properties, claiming insurance payments and giving funds to relatives and loved ones.
Once you have the Letters of Administration, you can show these to financial institutions as evidence that you can take control.
A Grant of Letters of Administration is almost certainly needed if the deceased had more than £10,000 of assets, or where they had property or land, investments or certain insurance types. Someone needs to look after the estate and make sure that it’s properly managed.
A Grant of Letters of Administration will not be needed if the deceased has a surviving spouse and if their estates were jointly owned so automatically pass to their partner.
With the right evidence, some financial institutions may provide you with access, regardless. Before you apply for a grant, you can contact any company and ask for control of the accounts. By providing evidence like a death certificate, you may be able to gain access to accounts without getting a Grant of Letters of Administration.
Usually, if the funds are significant, further evidence is needed. This is why a Grant of Letters of Administration can help with larger estates.
A Grant of Probate isn’t the same as a Grant of Letters of Administration. Whilst the latter is provided when someone dies intestate, the former is given to named executors on a will. Both come under the wider category of Grant of Representation.
Once they’re in place, both types of Grant of Representation do the same. They’re roughly equal, giving people the same powers to manage an estate after death. The difference is that a Grant of Probate is given automatically on death, whilst a Grant of Letters of Administration must be applied for and approved.
This can slow the process down, and an aspiring administrator is unable to act until their application has been granted.
If someone has named their own executors, the situation is very clear-cut. The deceased gets their wishes automatically followed so that there are no arguments. If they’ve not written a will, those left behind might disagree about who should manage the estate.
Without the deceased’s wishes written down formally, there’s always a chance that there’ll be arguments. People might disagree about estate management and may not always be on the same page.
Multiple people can apply for a Grant of Letters of Administration. If this happens, the courts may need to be involved in the dispute. Any dispute overseen by the court is likely to take a bit of time, as well as incurring ever-growing costs that people would rather avoid.
You might need to apply for a Grant of Letters of Administration is a named executor won’t act.
Perhaps the named executor has already passed away, or they’re unable to take on the role for another medical reason? Maybe they don’t want to be responsible, and have voluntarily chosen not to act? Someone else can apply for a Grant of Letters of Administration.
If this happens, the will remains and is still entirely valid. The approved administrator must continue to follow the wishes expressed within the will.
Though anyone can choose to contest an application, there are general rules that should be followed. The highest priority to take on this role is the spouse of the deceased. Next in line will be their children or grandchildren, then their surviving parents, followed by their siblings and then by their nieces and nephews.
If none of the above apply for a Grant of Letters of Administration, the next people in line will be any surviving grandparents. After this, aunts and uncles. Then, cousins.
If none of the above voluntarily apply for a Grant of Letters of Administration, responsible for the estate will fall to the Crown. An unmarried partner of the deceased is usually not able to apply.
If the estate passes to the Crown, it then becomes Bona Vacantia. This means ‘unowned property’, which will be managed by the Treasury Solicitor. An unclaimed estate sits on the Bona Vacantia list for 30 years. During this time, it can still be claimed by a blood relative of the deceased. Afterwards, it returns to the Crown completely and is gone forever.
To avoid a situation where an estate becomes Bona Vacantia, you will need to apply for a Grant of Letters of Administration.
To make your application, you will need a copy of the death certificate. You’ll also need to pay a Probate Fee of £215.
You can make an application on your own, though you’ll also have the option of hiring a solicitor to apply for the grant on your behalf. This is a lot simpler as it means you know it will be handled correctly.
You can apply for probate online, but won’t be able to act as administrator until the application is approved.
Once you’ve submitted your application for a Grant of Letters of Administration, you are likely to be waiting roughly six weeks to take control of the estate. This process can stretch to several months if the estate is over the threshold for Inheritance Tax. Errors on the form can delay the process, so it’s important to make sure that you’ve filled it in correctly. Ask for a solicitor’s help if you’re concerned that you could make errors on the form.
Our financial partners can help you with details regarding Grants of Letters of Administration, like how to pay your Probate Fee and how to manage the estate. Why not also take time to read our online guides to money management, property and finance?
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