What’s the difference between Grant of Probate and Letters of Administration?

woman reading a letter

If someone close to you has passed away, along with coping with feelings of grief, you may find yourself thrown into the often complex world of dealing with the deceased’s estate.

With terminology you may not have heard before and matters such as inheritance tax and legal documentation to consider, it is little wonder that many people feel somewhat overwhelmed by the task of dealing with an estate.

Something people can often be confused about is the difference between a Grant of Probate and Letters of Administration, while both may sound technical, they are simply documents which grant access to a deceased person’s estate. Read on to find out more…

What is an estate?

The estate is made up of the deceased person’s money, property and other assets and as such can add up to a significant amount. With a lifetime of finances to unpick, managing a person’s estate can be complex.

Does leaving a will really matter?

Leaving a will is the simplest way to ensure your wishes are respected after your death. Often quick and inexpensive to do, in your will you can outline how you wish your estate to be distributed and who by (known as the executor), bequeath specific items and specify what should happen to your dependants should the worst happen.

Where a will has been left, executor/s will be named. This can be whomever the deceased felt would be appropriate and it is their job to ensure the will is distributed according to their wishes.  

What is a Grant of Probate?

An important legal document, the Grant of Probate is issued only to those named in the will as executor/s. With the Grant of Probate, the executor/s are able to deal with the estate and can set about accessing bank accounts, paying bills, selling assets and cashing in any investments.

What are Letters of Administration?

When a will has not been left, it will fall to the deceased’s next of kin to deal with the estate. In order to do so, the person will need legal confirmation that they have the authority to access the deceased’s finances. With valid Letters of Administration, the deceased’s next of kin is able to deal with the estate in the same ways as the Grant of Probate allows.

In some cases, Letters of Administration can be issued where there is a valid will. Reasons behind this vary but are most likely to be because the named executor does not want the role, are incapable of doing it, or has passed away.

The process of managing an estate

Whether you have a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration, once issued, the process of distributing the estate will likely follow a similar process. With access to the deceased’s finances the executor/next of kin will need to pay any inheritance tax, sell off any assets such as a house, settle any outstanding bills or debts and distribute the estate either as specified by the will, or, when no will was left, by the rules of intestacy – the legally defined rules of inheritance.

Support when you need it most

Dealing with the administrative aspects of a bereavement can be tough, particularly where a will has not been left. Here at Smith Partnership we are experts in wills and inheritance and advise clients on a wide range of matters, from making a will and administering estates to inheritance tax advice. For more information, call the team on 0330 123 1229.