As part of the will making process, you will usually name an executor or executors to oversee the distribution and disposal of your assets (such as property and cash) when you’re no longer around to do so. This system works well in most cases, but in some cases, a person may die without having made a will, and so a Grant of Letters of Administration is usually required.
What are letters of administration?
Letters of administration are an order granted by the Supreme Court which confers the right to control the deceased’s assets in order to distribute them. Where a will has been made, it is expected that asset disposal will be in line with the will’s stipulations. Intestate estates will need to be divided up according to intestacy law, which varies slightly from state to state.
Why do you need letters of administration?
When someone dies without a will (in which case, a competent executor has not been clearly identified) you will usually need letters of administration to dispose of and distribute the estate’s assets.
Obviously, if you are going to sell off property which isn’t in your name or dispose of things which aren’t yours, you need to have some legal justification for doing so. A letter of administration confers the necessary authority to control the deceased’s assets.
Who can be given letters of administration?
The most usual person to be granted a letter of administration would be the spouse of the deceased. If the deceased led a single life, children and/or extended family members may apply to the court to gain administrative rights over the estate. The court will determine who they feel would be best placed to undertake the job.
Letters of administration are one of the initial steps in the probate procedure. Further legal intervention may be required as the process continues.
As this is a complex area of law, it’s always worth obtaining some help or independent legal advice to ensure that you’re acting correctly.