This is a document which allows a deceased person’s Next of Kin (closest relative or spouse/civil partner) to distribute their assets when they have died without a will or executor (a person selected to distribute their assets). The relative must apply to the court to gain this document and with this document they are granted the legal rights to access the accounts and other assets of the deceased to manage and distribute them.
Circumstances in which a Letter of Authority must be gained:
- The main circumstances in which a Letter of Authority must be applied for are the following:
- The person who has passed away has made no will
- The will written by the person who has died is ruled to be invalid
- There are no named executors in the will
- The named executors are unable to act
- Only one beneficiary is named
How to get a Letter of Authority:
Firstly, you must be entitled to apply for a Letter of Authority. There are rules regarding who can apply to be an administrator and list of which types of relationship take priority in gaining a Letter of Authority. The rules differ based on whether there is a will, if you are looking to gain a letter of Authority this is the first thing to establish.
- If there is a valid will, you can apply for letters of administration if:
- The deceased has left their whole estate to you in their will, or
- There is no named executor, or the named executor is unable to act.
- If there is no will or no valid will and you are the Next of Kin of the deceased, you are able to apply to be an administrator. However, there is an order of priority which is as follows:
- 1. You are the spouse or civil partner of the deceased
- 2. You are the child of the deceased
- 3. You are the grandchild of the deceased
- 4. You are the parent of the deceased
- 5. You are the sibling of the deceased
- 6. You are the niece or nephew of the deceased
- 7. You are another relative of the deceased
Once you’ve established whether you fit into one of the categories and are entitled to apply for a Letter of Authority you will then have to fill out the required forms on the government website and submit these. Once your application has been submitted you will need to wait for these to be granted. If successful, the Probate Registry will provide you with a Letter of Authority giving you the legal right to access and organise the affairs.
- It is important to know that when dealing with the estate of someone who has died you do not always need to apply for a letter of authority. Needing a letter of authority usually arises when the estate has a property. You may not need to apply for a Letter of Authority in the following circumstances:
- The estate is just made up of cash (physical money) and personal possessions
- All the property in the estate is jointly owned as this is passes directly to the other joint tenants through survivorship
- The amount of money in the estate is small
- The estate is insolvent (unable to pay any debts and expenses)
It is also important to note that unmarried or unregistered civil partners who have not been named in the will as an executor will usually be unable to act as an administrator. So, if you have a partner who you wish to organise your estate once you die you should consider naming them as an executor of your will otherwise their rights will be limited and will not take priority as family members will.