Probate and Letters of Administration - What are they and why are they necessary?
When a person dies it is necessary for someone to deal with their finances and property. This involves bringing together all monies and assets, paying debts and making sure that the remainder is given to those who are entitled to it.
The legal document which authorises someone to do this is called Grant of Representation, and this is drawn up and issued by the Probate Registry. The Grant of Representation will be in one of two forms, depending on whether the person who died left a will or not. If there is a will a Grant of Probate is issued. If there is no will Letters of Administration are issued.
In the case of small estates a Grant of Representation is often not needed. If a person has assets totalling less than £15,000, banks, building societies and other financial institutions will generally release the asset on production of the will and/or the completion of a small estate declaration form.
If a person who has died owned joint bank accounts or joint investments, or held property as joint tenants, the surviving joint owner is entitled to that asset outright regardless of what is in the deceased person’s will, or if the deceased person did not leave a will regardless of who the law states is entitled to the other assets of the deceased.
As joint assets do not form part of a deceased person’s estate for probate purposes it is not necessary to obtain a Grant of Representation to switch the asset into the name of the surviving owner. Banks and other financial institutions and the Land Registry (in the case of property) only need to see the deceased person’s death certificate.