What is the difference between a Grant of Probate and Letters of Administration?

Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration?

When a loved one passes away, navigating the legal processes surrounding their estate can be overwhelming. Two common terms you may encounter in the UK legal system are "Letters of Administration" and "Grant of Probate." While both provide the legal authority to an individual to enable them to deal with a deceased person's assets, they differ in significant ways.

What is a Grant of Probate?

Probate is the legal process of administering the estate of a deceased person. It is usually required for valuable or complicated estates. When someone passes away leaving a valid will, the executor named in the will typically applies for a Grant of Probate. This document is issued by the Probate Registry and confirms the executor's authority to deal with the deceased's assets and liabilities according to the terms of the will.

To obtain a Grant of Probate, the executor must submit the deceased's will, along with an application form and any required supporting documents, to the Probate Registry. Administering the estate once the Grant of Probate has been obtained involves valuing the estate, paying any outstanding debts and taxes, and distributing assets according to the terms of the will.

What are Letters of Administration?

When someone dies intestate i.e. without a valid will, the next of kin or another interested party may need to apply for Letters of Administration, where the estate is valuable or complicated. This document grants legal authority to administer the deceased's estate in accordance with the rules of intestacy.

Applying for Letters of Administration involves a similar process to obtaining a Grant of Probate, including submitting an application form and supporting documents to the Probate Registry. However, the distribution of assets is determined by the rules of intestacy rather than the deceased's wishes as expressed in a will.

The rules of intestacy prioritise distribution among surviving spouses, civil partners, children, and other close relatives in a prescribed order. Without a will, the estate's distribution follows these statutory guidelines. You can read more about the rules of intestacy here.

What are the Key Differences?

  1. A Grant of Probate is issued when there is a valid will, whereas Letters of Administration are granted when there is no valid will or if the will does not appoint an executor.
  2. A Grant of Probate provides authority to the executor named in the will, whereas Letters of Administration appoint an administrator to manage the estate.
  3. A Grant of Probate allows assets to be distributed according to the deceased's wishes as specified in the will, while Letters of Administration distribute assets according to the rules of intestacy.

Litigation on behalf of a deceased Claimant

There are occasions where cases need to be pursued on behalf of a deceased Claimant, such as, for example, following a fatal accident.

Fatal accident claims typically involve seeking compensation for the death of an individual caused by the negligence or wrongful act of another party. In such cases, having a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration are crucial for establishing legal authority over the deceased's estate. This authority is necessary for pursuing a legal action and representing the deceased's interests in court. Without a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration, it is very difficult to commence court proceedings and it also makes navigating the complexities of a fatal accident claim significantly more challenging. It may impede the ability to access important financial records, assess the value of the estate, and ultimately seek appropriate compensation for the loss suffered.

In summary, while both Grants of Probate and Letters of Administration serve the purpose of facilitating the administration of a deceased person's estate, they differ in their application and the circumstances under which they are granted. Understanding these distinctions can help individuals navigate the legal processes involved in estate administration and claims on behalf of the deceased much more effectively.


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