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.

Is a Grant of Representation always necessary?

Where property is owned by more than one person it may not be necessary to obtain a Grant of Representation as, on the death of one of the owners, the property may pass automatically to the survivor. This is entirely dependent upon the legal arrangements between the property owners and will probably be shown on the deeds. You may have to check with a lawyer.

Where there is a joint bank account, you may only need to produce a death certificate to the bank and the surviving account holder may then take over the account.

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.

How do you apply for a Grant of Representation?

Whatever type of Grant of Representation is needed, you should make an appointment to see the Registrar of the Supreme Court. You may do this by calling the court on (+500) 27271, emailing the address at the bottom of this page,  or by coming to the court in person and requesting an appointment. Please ensure you provide your contact details when making the appointment in case we need to change the arrangements.

If you are the executor or administrator your appointment will last approximately 30 minutes and you need to bring with you:

  • The death certificate
  • The will (where appropriate)
  • Information regarding the value of the estate (estimates of the balance in any bank accounts, value of any property, shares, investments and personal possessions. The estimated value will go in the application form)
  • Some identification, like your passport or driving licence

Whilst at your appointment you will need to swear an oath to confirm the information that you have given is true to the best of your knowledge and belief, and to promise to deal with the estate as the law requires.

Is there a fee to be paid when I apply?

The fee payable varies dependent upon the value of the estate. The current fees can be obtained from the court staff.

The fee must be paid at the time the application is made and may be claimed back from the estate as a liability once the Grant of Representation has been made.

How long will it take for the Grant of Representation to be made?

Once you have applied for the Grant of Representation the court will process your application as soon as possible.

Where you have applied for a Grant of Probate, the Supreme Court Judge will consider your application and once satisfied with its validity will sign the document that grants you authority to deal with the estate. This will then be posted to you.

When you apply for Letters of Administration details of your application must be advertised in a local news paper and the Falkland Islands Gazette. The court will arrange for the advertisement in the Gazette but you must arrange for the advertisement in a local newspaper yourself. The court will give you the wording for the advertisement . A period of 21 days must pass from the publication of the advertisements before Letters of Administration can be granted. After this the Supreme Court Judge will consider your application and if everything is in order, will issue the Letters of Administration. This will then be posted to you.

Please remember that the copy of the Grant of Representation you receive is a legal document and you should not photocopy it; it is not valid unless it is sealed by the court. You may request more than one copy of the Grant of Representation at the time you make your application.

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

 

More information

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.