A grant of representation is an umbrella term for both a grant of probate and a grant of letters of administration. These are two similar documents that give the handler authority to deal with someone’s estate after their death. The key difference is whether there is a will or not. If your loved one left a will, a grant of probate is required. If there is no will, a grant of letters of administration will be needed instead.
If you acquire a grant of representation, you will have legal permission to administer your loved one’s estate, which might include collecting their funds, closing bank accounts, selling their property, and transferring their assets to the beneficiaries.
A grant of representation is not always required following someone’s death. If your loved one’s estate is valued at less than £10,000 in total and is only made up of cash, physical personal possessions such as watches, jewellery, and cars, and includes only jointly owned assets such as property and bank accounts, a grant of representation will not be needed. Another circumstance where a grant of representation will not be required is if your loved one’s estate involved debts that have a higher value than their assets.
If the estate has a higher value than £10,000 and is made up of mostly assets that were solely owned, then a grant of representation will likely be required.
The first step to getting a grant of representation is to figure out who is eligible to apply. If your loved one left a will, this will be fairly simple as they should have named an executor who will be responsible for getting a grant of probate. If they did not leave a will, it falls to the next of kin to apply for a grant of letters of administration. The next of kin will be whoever legally stands to inherit the most assets from the deceased’s estate according to the rules of intestacy. In most cases, this will be the spouse or civil partner, children, grandchildren, parents, or siblings. If none of these relations are alive, the list goes on to include half-siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, children of aunts and uncles, and so on.
Once you know who is responsible for applying for a grant of representation, the next step is to collect as much information about your loved one’s estate and assets as you can find and fill out the legal paperwork required to submit an application to the probate registry. For a grant of probate, you will need the form ‘PA1P’ and for a grant of letters of administration, you will need the form ‘PA1A’. You will also need to submit an inheritance tax form regardless of whether inheritance tax is due or not.
This paperwork can be complex due to the legal and financial jargon used throughout. If you are confident in your ability to fill these out yourself without making any mistakes, you might be able to save yourself some money. However, many people prefer to hire a professional probate service to fill out these forms on their behalf to ensure that there are no errors on the forms and therefore no delays to acquiring a grant of representation.
For a simple estate valued at less than £650,000, it should take around thirty days for the probate registry to approve your application. For those handling more complex estates, it might take slightly longer. This amount of time is also subject to delays regardless of the complexity of your estate. Currently, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the probate registry is stretched thin and is struggling to get through a backlog of applications. Delays are also likely if you make an error on your application or tax forms.
Once the probate registry has approved your application, they will send you grant of representation to you by post and you are free to start handling the estate. This takes most people anywhere from three months to a year, sometimes even more in particularly complex cases.
If you want to ensure that your application is approved as quickly as possible so that you can get on with the estate admin, you might benefit from hiring a professional service to ensure that no mistakes are made on your initial application. If you choose to hire a professional probate service such as Kwil, you will be paying £595 for simple estates or £999 if your estate is complex. The only additional costs involved are the probate registry fee which is reduced from £215 to £155 if you are applying through a professional service, and £1.50 for each copy of the will. Compared to a solicitor, who might charge you by the hour or through a percentage of your estate, Kwil can offer a fixed fee with no hidden costs and, usually, a much cheaper option for those who want the peace of mind that their grant of representation will be approved with no delays.