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Demystifying Probate and Letters of Administration

There are many practical tasks that need to be undertaken after someone passes away, including making sure that the deceased’s assets are properly handled and distributed either in accordance with the deceased’s will or if the person did not have a valid will, the laws of intestacy. 


The question is: who has the authority to handle the deceased’s assets? If the deceased had a will, that role would generally fall on the executor appointed under the will. Depending on the value, and type, of assets, the executor may then need to apply to the Supreme Court for a Grant of Probate. 


If the deceased did not have a valid will (otherwise known as dying intestate) then an eligible relative would usually take on the role of administering the assets. Again, depending on the value and type of assets, this person may then need to make an application to the Supreme Court for “Letters of Administration” to be officially appointed as the administrator of the estate. 


Broadly speaking, a “Grant of Probate” or “Letters of Administration” is a legal document issued by the Supreme Court that authorises an executor or administrator to manage the estate of a deceased person. 


To apply for a Grant of Probate, the Court needs to be provided with a number of documents, including an affidavit of the executor addressing such matters as the deceased’s liabilities and how the assets are to be distributed, as well as an inventory listing the deceased’s assets and their value.


An application for Letters of Administration is generally more complex than that of a Grant of Probate as the applicant needs to both establish their eligibility to be appointed as the administrator, as well as carefully identify those people eligible to inherit the deceased’s estate. Due to this added complexity, such an application is generally more costly, and takes longer, than an application for a Grant of Probate. Furthermore, the person appointed as the administrator may not be someone you would have wished to hold such responsibility over your affairs. This reinforces the importance of ensuring that you have a valid will in effect. 


The role of an executor or administrator is an important one, with all of their actions subject to a high standard of care. Without proper legal guidance, an executor or administrator could fail to discharge their legal obligations. As such, we recommend that you consult with a solicitor early on in the process to ensure that the proper processes are followed. 


This article is not legal advice, and the views and comments are of a general nature only. This article is not to be relied upon in substitution for detailed legal advice.

 

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