Probate, Letters of Administration or Neither?

Probate, Letters of Administration or Neither? 


As executor one of the first things, you will need to determine with your solicitor is whether it is even necessary to get a grant of probate. Probate is essentially a declaration by the Supreme Court that the will is valid, and you are the proper person to be the executor.

The grant of probate in your favour gives you the legal standing to deal with the deceased's assets by

  • selling them,

  • cashing them in,

  • transferring them and

  • otherwise doing whatever the will tells you to do with them.

Until you have received a grant of probate the asset holders, such as the banks, financial institutions, stockbrokers, the Land Titles Office, etc will not recognise you as an authorised person to deal with the assets.

Letters of Administration

If the deceased did not leave a will, or if they left a will with defects then instead of applying for probate you will be applying for “letters of administration” or “letters of administration with the will attached”.


In some cases, you will not be required to obtain a grant of probate or letters of administration even though the deceased left assets.

  • If all of the deceased's assets were owned jointly with another person then, depending on the type of ownership, the assets may automatically transfer to the surviving owner.

The other case where you won’t have to get probate is if the assets are relatively low in value.

  • Each bank, company and financial institution has a threshold amount under which they will release the assets to the executor without a grant of probate.

  • Those thresholds are all different depending on which institution you are dealing with.

  • Instead of asking for a grant of probate they will require that you provide certified copies of various documents and statutory declarations and indemnities promising that if the financial institution finds that it has released the funds to the wrong person you will return them.

  • You may be comfortable with this approach but if you did not know the deceased person well you may insist on obtaining a grant of probate so that you have protection against personal liability in case things go wrong.

  • If you are a close family member with full knowledge of the deceased person’s affairs, then you will welcome the opportunity to avoid getting probate in order to save the legal costs and the time involved in obtaining a grant.