I talk to people every day who have recently had a loved one pass away. They explain to me that whilst trying to sort out their loved one’s assets after their death, one of the asset holders (eg. Bank, Building Society, Pension provider) has requested sight of the “grant of representation”.
To most people, the phrase “grant of representation” means absolutely nothing. In fact, it is only if you have been through the process before, or if you work in the field (like me) that you are likely to know anything about it.
So, what is “probate”?
Probate is the shortened name for a “grant of probate”.
A “grant of probate” is one of three documents falling under the umbrella term “grant of representation”. You might more commonly hear it referred to as a “grant”.
Put simply, it is a document issued by the court which acts as a proof of authority for the person entitled to deal with the deceased’s affairs.
It can become confusing because in legal terms there are three types of “grants of representation”:
- Grant of probate
This is the name of the document issued when the deceased made a will. The person(s) appointed in the will (the executor(s)) can apply for the grant of probate from the court. This document confirms that the executor(s) have the authority to deal with the assets/liabilities held by the deceased.
- Grant of letters of administration
This is the name of the document issued when the deceased did not make a will, and died “intestate”. Anyone entitled to a share of the estate under the intestacy rules can apply for the grant of letters of administration from the court. In this case, the person applying will be called an administrator. This document confirms that the administrator(s) have the authority to deal with the assets/liabilities held by the deceased.
NOTE: for more information on the intestacy rules, please see my colleague Lee Hacker’s article dated 14 September 2016 entitled “A Brief Guide to Intestacy”.
Grant of letters of administration (with will annexed)
This is the name of the document issued when the deceased made a will but the executor either does not want to act or has died before the deceased. One of the beneficiaries in the will can apply for the grant of letters of administration (with will annexed) from the court instead. The person applying will be called an administrator. This document confirms that the administrator(s) have the authority to deal with the assets/liabilities held by the deceased.
In reality, the document looks exactly the same.
When is a “grant of representation” required?
You or your solicitor will need to contact each asset holder (e.g. Bank, Building Society) to notify them of the death. Each asset holder will then confirm the value of the asset at the date of death and whether they require sight of the “grant of representation” to prove that you have authority to deal with the asset.
NOTE: each asset holder will have different requirements so if you need a “grant of representation” for one asset holder, this does not necessarily mean that you will also need it for another asset holder.
- Bank accounts – when the deceased held funds in their sole name, and the funds exceed a certain value, the banks will need your proof of authority to release those funds. NOTE: every bank has a different limit.
- Property sale or transfer – when dealing with a property which was held either solely by the deceased or as tenants in common with someone else, a “grant of representation” will be needed by the solicitor dealing with the property sale or transfer. It is advised to ask your conveyancing solicitor whether a “grant of representation” will be required.
- Selling or transferring shares – normally it is standard procedure for share registrars to request sight of the “grant of representation” before selling or transferring shares belonging to the deceased.
- Life assurance policies – if there is a lump sum payable from a life assurance policy, the policy holder will normally request sight of the “grant of representation” if the lump sum exceeds a certain value.
NOTE: you will only need to apply for a “grant of representation” if an asset holder has specifically requested it.
Many people find the prospect of applying for the “grant of representation” daunting, as it is not a process which they have undertaken before. The most important thing to do is to find out details of each of the assets and liabilities at the date of death.
At Hugh James, we will talk you through every step and explain clearly what will be required of you. We are always on the other end of the phone if you require help along the way.