When a person dies the person or persons who are to administer their estate are known as personal representatives. There are two types of personal representatives:
1. Executor – someone appointed in the will to deal with the estate
2. Administrator – Where no executor is named in the will or their not willing to act, or there is no will
Personal representatives are required to obtain a grant of representation from the high court, giving them the legal authority to administer the estate of the deceased in order to distribute it correctly to the beneficiaries. The 'grant' gives the personal representatives the authority to deal with the deceased's estate and also establishes the validity of will or that the deceased died without making a will.
The people named on the Grant of Representation are legally responsible for and ultimately liable for the administration of the estate. The decision about who is named on the grant is a very important one because it carries responsibility, and should not be taken lightly.
Types of grant representation
There are three basic types of grant representation:
1. A grant of probate
2. A grant of letters of administration with will annexed
3. A grant of letters of administration (grant of simple administration)
A grant of probate is needed where the deceased left a valid will appointing executors who are willing to act, and prove that the will is valid.
A grant of letters of administration with will annexed, this is where the deceased left a will but it does not qualify to be obtained under a 'grant of probate'. There are many reasons why this could be the case, examples include instances where for example all the executors have predeceased the deceased or the executors have renounced their right to act.
A simple grant of administration is where the deceased has not left a valid will.
When is a grant needed?
A grant is generally needed for all estates but there are exceptions to this rule. Where a deceased's estate is valued at less than £5,000 and it does not include land, property or shares, a grant of probate will not be needed. Additionally, where assets were held jointly with another and all assets pass to the surviving person will not normally require a probate.
A grant is required to deal with any property (e.g. shares, land etc.) for which a legal proof of title is needed. Assets for which there is no legal proof of title are part of an estate but the grant is not needed to deal with them. Examples include chattels, cars, phones and antiques.
The above is a list of some of the common examples of when a grant is not needed, but this is not an exhaustive list and you should seek professional advice.
How we can help?
Understanding all the relevant probate rules can be a daunting experience, which is why you should appoint a licenced accountant to undertake this work on your behalf. We will assess your situation and circumstances before advising on whether a probate of representation is required, and if so which type of grant will be needed.
Not everyone can be appointed as a personal representative, and we will advise you on the hierarchy of individuals that can act.