Mature Couple Talking To Financial PlannerEstate administration is about managing the activities relating to the valuation, collection and distribution of the estate of a person who has died. This will include tax, legal and administrative activities.

To administer the estate, you will need to apply for a grant of representation. A grant of representation is a document given out by the Probate Service. It gives the correct person(s) the authority to administer a deceased person’s estate. So for instance, they will be able to access money from any organisations which hold assets belonging to the person who has died.

Has the deceased made a will?

The first step is to check if there is a will. The will would normally state who would administer the estate known as the executor. In this case, it is the executor that would apply for the grant of representation. The executor’s right to deal with the estate of someone who has died is known as probate. If the will names more than one executor, every person named is required to apply for a grant of representation. It is only the executor(s) who swear an oath in support of the application that will be named on the grant of representation and only their signature will be required to release the deceased person’s assets.

The executor is unable or unwilling to apply for a grant of representation

If there is a will, but there is no executor named in the will, or when the executor is unable or unwilling to apply for the grant, you should contact your local probate registry and they would explain what you need to do. They will issue you with a Letter of Administration (with will).

There is no will, what can I do?

Where there is no will or the will is invalid, the deceased’s next of kin can usually apply for a grant of representation. Once this is completed, you will be issued with a Letter of Administration. It is the law that decides who inherits the estate in accordance with intestacy rules where there is no will or the will is invalid.

The administrator is chosen in accordance with the following hierarchy:

  • spouse or civil partner. The surviving partners of co-habiting couples not in a marriage or civil partnership are not entitled to apply for a grant.
  • children
  • grandchild
  • parents
  • brothers or sisters
  • grandparents
  • uncles or aunts
  • any other relatives

Is it always necessary to apply for a grant of representation?

If you are a joint property owner or have a joint bank or building society account with the deceased, there is no need to apply for a grant of representation.

Joint property

With a joint property, you will need to check how the property is owned. If it is a ‘joint tenancy’, the surviving owner will inherit the whole property automatically by rights of survivorship but if it is a ‘tenancy in common’, the deceased’s will "intestacy rules" state who inherits their share. Usually, a married couple hold a property as joint tenants.

I am not sure how the property is owned

The title deeds should state how a property is owned but the words ‘joint tenant’ or ‘tenants in common’ are hardly ever used.

If your home is registered with the Land Registry and the Title Register in the title deeds shows two or more registered owners (including the deceased), the property is owned jointly.

In this case, you should check the register under Proprietorship Register section of the deeds for the following text:

"No disposition by a sole proprietor of the registered estate (except a trust corporation) under which capital money arises is to be registered unless authorised by an order of the court."

If you see these words, it means the property is held as tenants in common. If it is absent, it is held as joint tenants.

You can get a copy of your title deeds, if you do not have one, from the Land Registry.

If the property is not registered with the Land Registry, you will need to look at the deed of conveyance that transferred the property into your names and this should state of you own the property as joint tenants or tenants in common.

If you are not sure, contact the mortgage company, the Land Registry or seek legal advice.

Joint account

If you have joint bank or building society account with the deceased, what is in it automatically goes to you, although the bank may ask to see the death certificate.

How to apply for the grant of representation

The majority of probate applications are made through a Solicitor, Notary or Barrister, but you can also obtain probate yourself. If your application is made through a Solicitor, Notary or Barrister, the client charges would vary depending on a number of factors, including for example, how complex the case is.

If you decide to apply by yourself, you will need to complete a number of steps.

Complete a Probate Service application form

You can get this form by:

  • calling the Probate and Inheritance Tax Helpline on 0845 30 20 900
  • downloading from HM Court & Tribunals Service (PDF)
  • requesting by e-mail from a probate registry

Complete the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) Inheritance Tax form

You have to complete a tax form, whether or not Inheritance Tax is owed, at the same time you apply for a grant. So you will need to have worked out the value of the estate before sending your application. You will have to pay at least some of the tax, if there is any to pay, before a grant of representation can be given to you.

Send your application

The completed application can be sent to your local probate registry and you may wish to send it by registered or recorded post.

You will need to include:

  • an official copy (not a photocopy) of the death certificate
  • the original will and any codicils (additions or amendments to it)
  • three copies of the original will and any codicils
  • the completed probate application form PA1
  • the appropriate HMRC form for your application
  • the correct application fee - a cheque made payable to ‘HM Courts and Tribunals Service’ (there’s no fee if the estate is under £5,000.) You can also pay for extra copies of the grant which means that you can send them to different organisations at the same time.

Swear an oath

You are required to swear an oath to confirm the information you have supplied is correct to your best knowledge and belief. The oath will also set out the legal requirements expected of you as the holder of the grant.

You have a choice of taking the oath at the office of any commissioner for oaths (usually a solicitor or notary’s office) or by visiting a local probate office. You will have to bring two items to prove your identity, such as a full driving licence and a passport.

How long will it take to receive the grant?

You should receive the original grant of representation and copies of the grant (if you have requested them), as well as the original death certificate, within seven to 10 working days of swearing the oath.

You can arrange with your local probate office to collect the documents in person if you want, but you should let them know.

The grant of representation has been issued, what next?

Your legal and administrative duties.

Collect the estate

The grant legally allows you to get any of the deceased’s assets that are held with anyone or any organisations, such as a bank. You should send a copy of the grant to the relevant organisations.

Pay debts, funeral expenses and any outstanding amounts

You legally have to pay off any debts and outstanding payments before distributing the estate to any beneficiaries.

This would include, for example:

  • any unpaid household bills 
  • bills for goods and services they had received but not yet paid for (for example, building work, solicitors, or accountants)
  • loans, outstanding credit cards balances and overdrafts
  • funeral expenses

You may need to look through their paperwork for bills and statements to assist you, as well as contacting energy suppliers or the local council to find out if they owed money.

Distribute what’s left to the people who are legally entitled to it

After all debts and taxes have been settled from the assets, what is left can then be dealt with as the deceased wished or in accordance with the law if the deceased person left no will.

Keep receipts and a record of what you have done

After this, you should prepare the estate accounts. The beneficiaries will need to approve and countersign this with you.

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