Letters of Administration are required in some cases to deal with an estate when someone dies without leaving a will. Where necessary, an application to a Court needs to be made to obtain the legal right to deal with any property and assets, settle debts and deal with tax liabilities. Whereas Executors are appointed under a Will, in the absence of one, the next of kin may need to apply for Letters of Administration for permission to administer the estate. The process of dealing with the estate is commonly called ‘Probate’.
Do I need Letters of Administration?
Letters of Administration are not always needed. In the case of a very small estate or where jointly owned property passes on to others automatically on death, or where there is only cash savings or Premium Bonds, no application will be required. A small estate is usually defined as one valued at less than five thousand pounds. In those situations it may be possible to deal with banks or other organisations involved without needing to go through any formal Probate process. They will often agree to release smaller sums without Letters of Administration, but each institution has its own rules so it is check with each one before deciding to apply.
Letters of Administration will be needed where the deceased owned property which is not held as a joint tenant with others or where there are savings, investments and other assets in excess of five thousand pounds. Before applying for Letters of Administration the estate will need to be properly valued. Inheritance Tax may be payable and generally some of the tax due will have to be paid before Letters of Administration can be granted.
Before lodging an application it is sensible to seek professional advice to ensure it is necessary and where it is, to make sure the proper procedures are followed. Valuing an estate or identifying assets accurately is not always easy and the right advice can save time and money.
Who can Apply for Letters of Administration?
Once it is confirmed that there is no valid Will in existence, and the application is necessary, there are strict rules on who can apply. You can apply for Letters of Administration if you’re the deceased person’s next of kin, and the type of relative who can apply follows a strict order of priority. These are each in turn:
- the married partner or civil partner of the deceased
- a child of the deceased (including adopted children, but not step-children)
- a parent
- a brother or sister
- a grandparent
- an uncle or aunt
An Application Letters of Administration can be made by a person still married or in a civil partnership with the deceased even they were separated at the time of death. An Application cannot be made by the partner of the deceased if they were not a spouse or civil partner when they died. If you are in any doubt about whether you can apply seek help from a probate solicitor.
How to Apply for Letters of Administration
To obtain Letters of Administration, a Form called a PA1A must be completed. This needs to be sent to the nearest district probate registry along with the death certificate.
Full documentary proof of all of the assets owned will be needed as well as details of any debts owed. This is so that the estate can be properly valued and any tax due calculated. The correct Inheritance Tax Form has to be sent at the same time.
There is an application fee to pay (the latest fees are published by HMCTS in a document called the PA3 ) and a small additional fee is payable for each copy required. It is sensible to have some extra official copies of the Letters of Administration for each institution you need to deal with in order to save time. This means not having to wait for the document to be returned each time before sending it on elsewhere.
The application for Letters of Administration can be made online or by post. The application will usually take between 10-20 days to process but there can be significant delays caused by the workload of the Probate Registries. Often there can be backlogs of many weeks.
Be aware that the application will be returned if not completed properly, supported by the necessary documents and accompanied by the correct fee. The Probate process can be stressful and time consuming. It is essential therefore that the application is properly lodged first time, so if there is any uncertainty about what is needed do seek professional advice at the earliest opportunity.