Letters of Administration: What are they and when do you need them?


When someone passes away, it is the duty of the executor(s) to apply for a grant of probate, which legally gives them permission to administer the deceased person’s estate (all of their assets) and share it out to loved ones according to the wishes stated in their Will.

If there is no will, however, the UK’s inheritance laws will determine who is to be the administrator of the deceased’s estate - the spouse is usually first in line if they were married. This administrator will have to apply for a grant of letters of administration to be legally authorised to distribute the estate.

Once probate or the grant of representation has been granted by the probate registry, they will have legal proof that they are the administer of the estate and can begin the process of distributing the assets amongst beneficiaries.

In our guide below, we go into more detail regarding what letters of administration are, when they are required, the cost and how to go about getting them.

What are letters of administration?

Letters of administration are also commonly referred to as:

  • A grant of letters of administration
  • A grant of representation

It is a legal document provided by the Court which proves that an individual has permission to manage and distribute a deceased person’s assets (money, property, possessions, etc).

Once the Court grants representation, the individual will be legally allowed to share out the assets to all beneficiaries (as per the intestacy rules due to having no Will), and they will also have control over things like closing the deceased’s bank accounts or selling their property, for example.

Who must apply for it?

If the deceased made a Will, the named executor, or executors, are responsible for applying for grant of probate. But if no will was left behind, the person who is due to receive the majority of the inheritance according to the rules of intestacy will have to apply for a grant of representation. 

Generally, this is the spouse or civil partner - otherwise, it will be another member of the family. Here is the order of beneficiaries according to UK law:

  • Spouse or civil partner
  • Children
  • Grandchildren if children have passed away
  • Parents
  • Brothers or sisters
  • Nieces or nephews if siblings have passed away (must be over 18)
  • Grandparents
  • Aunties or uncles
  • Cousins

Children must be 18 or over to apply for a grant of representation, but if they are younger than this, an adult (usually a parent or someone with parental responsibility) will have to apply on their behalf.

When do you need a grant of letters of administration?

Generally, a letter of administration is required when the deceased person did not have a Will in place. Or, it will be needed if they had a Will but the executors are unable to administer the estate for a certain reason.

If there was a Will but the executors cannot act and another family member needs to apply for a grant of representation, they will need to apply for what’s known as a grant of letters of administration ‘with Will annexed’.

A grant of representation is required in the following situations:

  • When there is no Will
  • When the Will is invalid
  • When no executors have been named in the Will
  • When named executors are unable to act and manage the estate

If the deceased left a Will with a named executor, this person will need to apply for a grant of probate rather than a grant of representation.

How much does it cost to get letters of administration?

The cost will depend on how you go about getting this done. If you’re applying for a grant of representation yourself, you should expect to pay around £215, but if you’re getting help from an official probate service, it should be a lot less, around £155.

On top of this, however, you will need to pay handling fees, which means the cost could reach as much as £750 - provided there are no problems with the estate.

While this seems a lot more expensive than doing it yourself, using a probate specialist ensures that the whole process runs smoothly and it takes the pressure off of you, so you get peace of mind knowing that everything’s taken care of.

How to get letters of administration

The person whose responsibility it is to apply for a grant of representation will need to submit an application with their local probate registry office. You can find the nearest one to you on the GOV.UK website or on probateforms.co.uk.

The applicant can either complete all paperwork themselves or use a solicitor if they need expert help and want to get the process completed quickly.

The main steps involved with applying for a grant of representation are:

  • Contact a probate specialist near you: You’ll need to tell them the value of the deceased’s estate and other relevant details.
  • The executor/administrator will receive the probate application and tax forms: These will need to be signed and submitted to your local probate registry office.
  • Your application will be reviewed and if approved, the grant of letters of administration will be sent to the executor/administrator.

How long does letters of administration take?

If everything is plain sailing, it can take up to 30 days to receive a grant of representation, but for more complex cases, it can be longer than this.

After this, the process of managing and distributing the estate to the beneficiaries can take between three and twelve months, but the time will all depend on the size of the estate, how many accounts and properties the deceased had and whether or not any of the properties need to be sold or given to someone else.

Of course, the executor does not have to do all of this on their own, there is help available, either with a probate specialist or a solicitor.

If you need help with applying for a letter of administration or you would like to know more about our probate services, contact our team today to speak to an expert, obligation-free.

If you’d like to start putting your own plans in place for the future, such as writing a will or setting up a lasting power of attorney, register today for free to get started, and get professional help and advice along the way.