Wills, Probate and the Estate

After a person dies, someone must deal with their money, property and possessions (which are jointly known as their Estate). The deceased person’s taxes and debts need to be paid, and their money and property must be distributed to the people entitled to it.

If the deceased person left a will, the person who deals with the Estate is called the deceased person’s Executor. Otherwise, they are called an Administrator. An Administrator must usually be appointed by the court before they can deal with the deceased person’s Estate.

‘Probate’ is a term commonly used when talking about applying for the right to deal with a deceased person’s affairs (called Administering the Estate). If the deceased person left a will, one or more Executors may be named in the will to deal with the person’s affairs after their death. The Executor applies for a ‘grant of probate’ from a section of the court known as the probate registry.

The Grant is a legal document which confirms that the executor has the authority to deal with the deceased person’s assets (property, money and possessions). They can use it to show they have the right to access funds, sort out finances, and collect and share out the deceased person’s assets as set out in the will.

If there is no will, a close relative of the deceased can apply to the probate registry to deal with the estate. In this case they apply for a ‘grant of letters of administration’. If the grant is given, they are known as ‘administrators’ of the estate. Like the grant of probate, the grant of letters of administration is a legal document which confirms the administrator’s authority to deal with the deceased person’s assets.

In some cases, for example, where the person who benefits is a child, the law states that more than one person must act as the administrator.

In some cases the administration of an estate can be relatively straightforward, but equally it can become complex, and in those circumstances you may find it helpful to seek specialist advice.