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Read more articles in: Author, Blog, Private Client, Rachel Blackburn

No Will? You might need Letters of Administration

Letters of Administration are legal documents granted by a probate court that allows the administrator – also known as the personal representative – to manage and distribute a deceased person’s estate in cases where there’s no Will.

They also apply where the Will doesn’t name an executor, or the named executors are unable or unwilling to act.

They can be an important part of the probate process, which ensures that the estates of deceased individuals are not simply forfeited or distributed unthinkingly.

Do you need Letters of Administration?

You may need to apply for Letters of Administration in the following circumstances:

  1. No Will exists: If the deceased did not leave a Will, there is no document specifying who should manage and distribute their estate. In this case, the law requires the appointment of an administrator to handle these duties.
  2. The Will does not name an executor: Sometimes, a Will may not specify an executor, or the named executor may have predeceased the testator (the person who made the Will) and no alternate was named. This situation necessitates the need for Letters of Administration to appoint someone to manage the estate.
  3. The named executor is unable or unwilling to act: If the executor named in the Will is unable or unwilling to take on the responsibility for any reason—such as illness, incapacity, or personal choice—Letters of Administration may need to be granted to someone else who can undertake the role.
  4. The Will is invalid: In cases where the Will is found to be invalid due to not meeting legal requirements or being successfully contested, the estate may have to be administered as if no Will existed, requiring Letters of Administration.
  5. Executor renunciation: If an executor renounces their role and there are no other executors willing or able to act, it may be necessary to apply for Letters of Administration to appoint an administrator.

In any of these circumstances, it is always best to consult with a qualified and experienced solicitor to determine your rights and responsibilities.

Who can apply for Letters of Administration?

Generally, there’s a priority order that determines who can apply for Letters of Administration, based on your relationship to the deceased.

Under the rules of intestacy, the following order of priority applies:

  • Spouse or civil partner: The deceased’s legal spouse or registered civil partner usually has the first right to apply.
  • Children: If there is no spouse or civil partner, the deceased’s children (including adopted children but not stepchildren unless legally adopted) are next in line.
  • Grandchildren: If the deceased’s children are no longer living, any grandchildren can apply.
  • Parents: If there are no descendants, the deceased’s parents are eligible to apply.
  • Siblings: Full siblings are next in priority, followed by half-siblings if there are no full siblings.
  • Nieces and nephews: If the deceased has no living siblings, the children of siblings (nieces and nephews) can apply.
  • Other relatives: Beyond nieces and nephews, other relatives may be considered, following the intestacy rules, which might include aunts and uncles or cousins, depending on who is surviving.

Non-relatives, including friends or unmarried partners, are not automatically entitled to apply for Letters of Administration, regardless of their closeness to the deceased or the deceased’s intentions unless specified by a Will (which would then typically involve an executor rather than an administrator anyway).

How to acquire Letters of Administration

If you need Letters of Administration, the process for acquiring them is as follows:

  1. Applying to the probate court – The person intending to administer the estate must apply for Letters of Administration. This often involves filling out specific forms and submitting them to the court along with the death certificate and an estimated value of the estate.
  2. Granting of Letters – If the court approves the application, it issues Letters of Administration, officially appointing the administrator.
  3. Duties of the administrator – With these Letters, the administrator has the authority to gather the deceased’s assets, pay off any debts and taxes, and distribute the remaining estate according to the rules of intestacy if there’s no Will. The rules of intestacy determine who is entitled to inherit in the absence of a Will, following a specific order of relatives.

Again, it’s best to consult with a solicitor in these matters as we can apply for the Letters for you.

The complexities of Letters of Administration should outline the problem of not writing a Will and highlight the issues it can cause for your loved ones when you pass away.

A written Will prevents your family from having to apply for Letters of Administration and simplifies the probate process considerably.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our experts if you require further information on Letters of Administration or if you’d like to write a Will.

Rachel Blackburn

Head of Wills, Probate and Older Client Services

I joined Mander Hadley’s Wills, Probate and Older Client Services Team in 2018.I specialise in the preparation of Wills, Probate and estate administration, trusts and trust administration and Lasting Powers of Attorney. I also have experience of care fee planning and appeals of Continuing Health Care decisions.