When a person dies, the first question to ask is, did they leave a last will and testament? If they did, the next question is, who did they name as executor? The executor (or executors – there can be more than one) will then be responsible for applying to the Probate Registry for a Grant of Representation, the legal document that allows the executor to administer the will.
If a person dies without a will, or as it’s formally called intestate, or the will does not name an executor, that means an administrator will need to be chosen. An administrator is also needed if the person who is named as an executor is unable or unwilling to take that position.
Where there is surviving family, the law defines who the administrator should be in the following way and in order of precedent:
the spouse or civil partner
one of the children
one of the grandchildren
one of the parents
one of the brothers or sisters
one of the nephews or nieces
Someone who is a beneficiary of the will can act as the administrator. There may be more than one relative who is qualified to act as administrator and in that case a decision will need to be made as to who will perform the administrator’s duties. In the rare case where someone dies without a will and without any surviving relatives, any estate will go to the Crown.
Once an administrator has been named, it is his or her responsibility to apply to the local office of the Probate Registry for Letters of Administration. A solicitor can be employed to do this, although of course this will have a cost. If you elect to do it yourself, then you simply fill the form and send it off to the Probate Registry Office.
You will then be invited to the office for a formal interview. The purpose of the interview is to check the information you’ve included in the form and you will be asked to swear an oath that the information is accurate and true to the best of your knowledge.
The Probate Registry will then send you the Letters of Administration by post and you will now have the legal authority to deal with everything pertaining to the deceased’s will and estate. This may include making a tax declaration to HMRC and ensuring that the correct amount of tax is paid, disposing of any property, paying any outstanding debts and disbursing any legacies to close family members who have a legal right to inherit.