Grant of probate, or grant of representation as it’s properly called in legal terms in England and Wales, is the legal authority given by the Probate Registry to the executor of a will. The grant of representation allows the executor of a deceased person’s estate to perform a range of administrative tasks including sorting out inheritance tax where necessary, making sure the beneficiaries of the will get their due and organising the sale of property where that applies.
The executor is the person who is named in the will and is often a close family member although the role can also go to an accountant or solicitor. In some cases a will names two executors, often one family member and one professional person.
The executor obtains grant of representation by application to the Probation Registry, a Government body with regional and district offices around the country.
Once they have received the application form, which can be filled in by the executor or their professional representative, the Probation Registry will require the executor to attend the office in person to swear an oath confirming that the information in the form is true and accurate. As an alternative, the executor can sign a witnessed affirmation with a Commissioner for Oaths, usually a solicitor, and this document can be forwarded to the Probate Registry office.
When a person dies intestate, that is without a final will, or the named executor cannot perform his or her duties, then an administrator of the will must be appointed. The administrator will usually be a close family member. The law defines who the administrator should be with the married spouse or civil partner being the first choice, then children and grandchildren in descending order of closeness to the deceased.
The administrator then obtains letters of administration, a legal document with similar authority to a grant of representation. The letter of administration is obtained in much the same way as a grant of representation from the Probate Registry. Once the Probate Registry has granted the letters of administration, the administrator can then act in the same way as an executor.
Where an estate has a net value of less than £5,000, probate is usually not necessary. The executor or administrator will be able to settle the affairs of the deceased person simply by presenting copies of the death certificate to the relevant bodies such as banks and utility companies.