Dealing with the financial affairs of someone who has died:
Obtaining a Grant of Representation
What is a Grant of Representation?
When a person dies somebody has to deal with their estate (money, property and possessions) by collecting in all the assets, paying any debts and distributing what is left to those people who are entitled to it. A Grant of Representation is the court's authority given to a person or persons to administer a deceased person's estate. The document issued by the court will vary dependent upon whether the deceased person had a will or not. In either case, the document will provide the holders with proof that the correct person is administering the estate. This proof may be required in order for you to deal with the estate.
What is an estate?
Everything owned by someone who has died is known as their estate. The estate may be made up of:
- Money, for example cash kept in the house or money in a bank. This could include any monies paid out under life insurance policies
- Money owed to the person who has died
- Shares and investments
- Property, for example their home
- Personal possessions, for example a car or jewellery
Where the person who has died owes money to someone else, for example for the payment of a bill or to pay for their funeral, this is known as a liability and must be paid before the estate can be shared out.
Why is a Grant of Representation needed?
A Grant of Representation is necessary to protect the interests of the estate and those entitled to anything under it (the beneficiaries). Before releasing money or other assets owned by the deceased, those holding the assets, such as banks, need to know that they are dealing with someone who has the legal authority to deal with the deceased's affairs. The Grant of Representation provides that assurance.
Are there different types of Grant of Representation?
Where there is a will -
If the deceased left a valid will naming a person as responsible for dealing with their estate, the named person is called the executor.
An executor must apply to the Supreme Court for what is known as a Grant of Probate before they can act. A Grant of Probate may only be issued once 7 days have passed after the death of the deceased.
Where there is no will -
Where the deceased does not leave a valid will it is called an intestacy. If there is an intestacy or there is a will but the executor is unwilling or unable to deal with the estate, someone must apply to the court for authority to deal with the estate. The authority from the court is called Letters of Administration and the person appointed by the court is called the administrator. Letters of Administration may only be issued once 14 days have passed after the death of the deceased.
Ordinarily, the deceased person's next of kin must apply to be the administrator. If there is more than one next of kin, for example a number of children dealing with the death of their parent, then any one of those children is equally entitled to apply to be the administrator of the estate.
I have been given a Grant of Representation; what do I do now?
Once the Grant has been made you should send it to any institutions that hold assets under the estate, for example the deceased's bank. They should then release those assets to you. Should you find you need additional copies of the Grant for more than one institution, please contact the court.
Once you have obtained all assets under the estate you should establish what liabilities may be outstanding and ensure that they are paid. As the executor or administrator you have a legal responsibility to pay off any debts or outstanding payments before distributing the estate.
Once all debts have been paid you can move on to distribute the estate either as instructed in the will or as required by law if there is no valid will.
After this you must prepare the estate's accounts. These must be submitted to the court within 12 months of the Grant of Representation being made.
There is no will—what am I meant to do with the estate?
When a person dies without leaving a valid will their estate must be shared out according to the law of intestacy. This means that the law determines who is to inherit the estate and in what priority and proportions.
A person's right to inherit from an estate in the Falkland Islands is not affected by where they live or their nationality; where a family member lives outside the Falkland Islands and they are entitled to inherit under the estate then they must still receive their share of the estate. A list of persons entitled to benefit on an intestacy can be found in the Administration of Estates Act 1925 (of England). If you need more information or are in any doubt, you should seek independent legal advice
This page is a brief summary and does not cover every circumstance.
The court can only provide you with assistance regarding any procedural queries you may have. For any other questions regarding dealing with the financial affairs of someone who has died please seek independent legal advice.