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

If you’re the executor an estate, you’re required to request a grant of probate, which formally authorises you to manage the deceased’s estate and distribute their assets according to their Last Will and Testament.

But what happens when there’s no Will?  Letters of Administration.

In the absence of a will, the administrator of the decedent’s estate will be chosen in accordance with UK inheritance laws; if the decedent and administrator were married, the spouse is typically given priority. 

To be able to legally divide the estate, the administrator must seek for a grant of letters of administration.

They will need to have legal evidence that they are the estate’s administrator once probate or the grant of representation has been granted by the probate register, at which point they can start the process of allocating the assets to beneficiaries.

What are Letters of Administration?

A legal document that demonstrates that someone has authorisation to oversee and distribute the assets of a deceased person.

That person will be able to legally distribute the assets to all beneficiaries (in accordance with the intestacy laws because there is no Will) once the Court alllows. They will also have control over decisions like closing bank accounts or selling property.

Who needs to apply for Letters of Administration?

The executor, or executors, specified in the will are in charge of requesting the grant of probate. However, if there was no will, the person who would have been entitled to the majority of the inheritance under the laws of intestacy would need to request a grant of representation.

If the deceased had a spouse or civil partner, it would generally fall to them.  If they are unattached, then a family member would likely be the one to request it.

When it comes to beneficiaries of the estate, they are prioritised in this order:

Civil partner or spouse


Grandchildren (if children have died)


Siblings (if siblings are deceased, nieces or nephews may step in (must be over 18))


Uncles or aunts


In order to apply for the grant of representation, you’ll need to be at least 18.

When are letters of administration required?

Typically, when a person passes away without a Will, letters of administration are needed. Alternatively, they’ll also be required if they had a Will but the executors were unable to handle the estate’s administration.

The following situations call for a grant of representation:

  1. No Will
  2. Invalid Will
  3. No executors specified in Will
  4. If the designated executors are unable to act and administer the estate

If there IS a Will AND a named executor, you must apply for probate, rather than a grant of representation. 

How to obtain letters of recommendation

The individual whose job it is to file an application for a grant of representation must do so, either at their local register office, or online.

How long do letters of administration take?

Receiving a grant of representation can take up to 30 days if all goes according to plan, but it may take longer in more complicated circumstances.

Following the grant being awarded, the administration and distribution of the estate to the beneficiaries can take three to twelve months, depending on the size of the estate, the number of accounts and properties the dead had, and whether any of those assets need to be sold or transferred to another party.

Do you need help to apply for a grant of representation?  Call DIY Probate now on 0116 2795044, and we’ll do all we can to help you.