When someone dies without leaving a Will you may require a legal document called a Grant of Letters of Administration in order to deal with their Estate.
A person’s Estate includes money (held as cash, in investments or bank accounts), property, shares, personal possessions such as their car and any other items that have a financial value. It also includes any debts that they had such as credit cards, loans or a mortgage. This information applies in England and Wales.
A Grant of Letters of Administration (sometimes referred to as a Letter of Administration) is a legal document issued by the Court to prove who has legal authority to deal with
the Estate of the person that has passed away. This document is called a Grant of Probate if the deceased person left a Will and a Letter of Administration if they didn’t.
If a Grant of Probate or Letter of Administration is needed to deal with an Estate, this process is commonly referred to as Probate.
Is a Letter of Administration Always Needed?
You might not require a Letter of Administration if the value of the Estate is small. For example some banks allow accounts to be closed without a Letter of Administration if they do not contain a lot of money. Each bank sets its own limits in regards to this so if you need to close a bank account you should check directly with the bank if they will require a Letter of Administration.
If the deceased owned a property in their sole name or other high-value assets then a Letter of Administration will be needed to deal with these.
Who Can Apply for a Letter of Administration?
First, it is important to check the deceased did not leave a Will. If there is a Will this sets out who has authority to deal with the Estate and therefore who is allowed to apply for the Grant of Probate. If you are not sure whether there’s a Will you could try checking with the following:
- Friends and family members of the deceased
- Any Solicitor you think the deceased may have used
- Any banks used by the deceased
If there is no Will, inheritance laws called the Rules of Intestacy will determine who is allowed to apply for the Letter of Administration. These rules place the deceased’s relatives in order of priority. The person that is highest up on this list is the person that should make the application.
The Rules of Intestacy place relatives in the following order:
- The married partner or civil partner of the person who has died
- The child (or children) of the person who has died (or grandchildren if the child is predeceased)
- The parent of the person who has died
- The brother or sister of the person who has died (or their children if they have predeceased)
- The half-brother or half-sister of the person who has died (or their children if they have predeceased)
- The grandparents of the person who has died
- Aunts and uncles of the person who has died (or their children if they have predeceased)
- Half aunts and uncles of the person who has died (or their children if they have predeceased)
- The Crown
If there is more than one person that is able to apply (such as multiple children) then each of these individuals is able to apply for a Letter of Administration. This will be granted to the person that makes the first correct application to Court.
How to Apply for a Letter of Administration
To apply for a Letter of Administration you need to have details of everything the deceased person owned and how much this is worth, as well as their outstanding debts. You will need this information to complete the Inheritance Tax returns and calculate any Inheritance Tax that needs to be paid to HM Revenue & Customs.
Calculating Inheritance Tax
The Inheritance Tax form that should be used depends on the total value of the Estate and who is inheriting this. Sometimes Inheritance Tax won’t need to be paid if the Estate is being left to the deceased person’s married or civil partner or to a registered charity. This is because these are exempt Beneficiaries.
Also, if the total value of the Estate equals or is less than £325,000 then there is no Inheritance Tax to be paid because each individual is entitled to pass on up to £325,000 tax-free. In most cases where Inheritance Tax doesn’t need to be paid, a simple Inheritance Tax form (IHT205) can be completed.
If it is likely that Inheritance Tax will be due then a more complicated Inheritance Tax form (IHT400) will need to be completed.
For this reason, you should know the estimated value of the Estate before contacting HM Revenue & Customs. You can then discuss which Inheritance Tax forms you will need to complete and establish if any Inheritance Tax will be due.
What to Include in the Application
When making the application to Court for a Letter of Administration, you will need to provide the original death certificate, the Inheritance Tax forms and the Probate fee. If the application is made by an individual then this fee is £215 for Estates over £5,000 (or £155 for a Solicitor application).
Need Help Applying for a Letter of Administration?
At NE Chambers we can take care of all aspects of Probate on your behalf. This includes applying for the Letter of Administration, valuing the Estate, calculating Inheritance Tax and liaising with HM Revenue & Customs.
Administering an Estate can be a complex and time consuming process, with a significant level of risk attached. This can be particularly stressful after the death of a loved one. With our Probate Complete Service you can relax in the knowledge that everything will be taken care of for you.