The length of time that it takes to obtain a Grant of Letters of Administration can vary dramatically. This will depend on the complexity of the situation, whether searches for a potential Will need to be carried out and who the surviving relatives of the deceased person are (if any).
What is a Grant of Letters of Administration?
A Grant of Letters of Administration is the document issued by the Probate Court to the Administrator of an Estate when a person has passed away without making a Will. An Administrator carries out the same role as an Executor (when there is a Will) and is responsible for administering the Estate in accordance with the law.
The administration of an Estate requires a significant amount (70 – 100 hours) of legal, financial and administrative work, which includes but is not limited to:
Calculating and paying any Inheritance Tax due
Finding all of the deceased person’s assets
Settling any outstanding debts
Selling or transferring property
Selling or transferring shares or other assets
Creating a complete set of Estate Accounts
Distributing the rest of the Estate to the Beneficiaries set to inherit it.
The Grant of Letters of Administration is obtained by the Administrator at the beginning of this process. This document gives them legal authority to carry out the administration of the Estate.
Banks, pension providers, asset management companies and other financial institutions are unlikely to speak with anyone regarding a deceased person’s accounts or assets without this document. It will also not be possible to sell or transfer property without first obtaining the Grant of Letters of Administration.
Who Can Apply for the Grant of Letters of Administration?
The person who is entitled to apply to the Probate Court for the Grant of Letters of Administration is any of the Beneficiaries in the Estate. The Letters of Administration will be granted by the Court on a first come, first served basis.
When a person passes away without making a Will, there are laws called the Rules of Intestacy that set out who will benefit from the Estate (these laws apply in England and Wales).
Under the Intestacy rules, if the person who has passed away is married and their Estate is either worth below £250,000, or worth more than £250,000 but there are no children, the surviving spouse is the only person recognised as a Beneficiary. Therefore this person would be the Administrator of the Estate and the person who would apply for the Grant of Letters of Administration.
Factors that Affect How Long It Will Take
Obtaining the Grant of Letters of Administration in these circumstances will be no more time consuming than obtaining the Grant of Probate would have been if there had been a Will, as the position is straightforward. Similarly, there should be no extensive delays if a child is to be appointed as the Administrator, as all the children are in the ‘class of Beneficiaries’. Any one of the child Beneficiaries can apply to the Probate Court (although there is a requirement for two Administrators where there are minor Beneficiaries).
However, in more complex situations, there can be significant delays in obtaining the Grant of Letters of Administration. Say for instance, a person has passed away having not made a Will and is not married/does not have children. If both their parents died before them, the Estate will pass to their brothers and sisters (or their brothers’ and sisters’ children if they have predeceased). This can make it harder to ‘verify’ the Administrator i.e. establish who is a valid member of the ‘class of Beneficiaries’ and entitled to apply to the Court for the Grant of Letters of Administration.
Similarly, it may be that a search needs to be done in order to establish whether the person who passed away had made a Will and maybe lodged it with a local Solicitor. It may be that if the Beneficiaries are nieces and nephews, they do not know whether a Will was made and a thorough search may be required to establish whether there was actually a Will in place.
The most significant delays in obtaining the Grant of Letters of Administration are when a person passes away having not made a Will, and their relatives (if any) are not immediately known. This can result in Social Services being involved and research being carried out to establish who the deceased’s family is and therefore who is a member of the ‘class of Beneficiaries’ and therefore entitled to take out the Grant of Letters of Administration. This can cause significant delays where there is a need to trace Beneficiaries in order to establish whether they are valid member of the ‘class’ and therefore entitled to administer the Estate. It can take months for the appropriate research to be done.
In certain circumstances i.e. in the most straightforward of cases, obtaining a Grant of Letters of Administration can be done fairly quickly. Where the circumstances are more complex, however, there can be severe delays and it is always best to seek specialist Probate advice and, to make a Will.
If you would like help with regarding the Probate process, then please contact us on 01482 893258.