Probate where there is a will
If the person who has died leaves a will, it will usually name one or more executors. These are the people who they wanted to administer their estate. Executors can include relatives or, in some cases, the deceased's solicitor.
If you are nominated as an executor you may need to apply for a grant of probate. This is an official document which the executors need to show that they have the legal right to administer the estate. It is issued by a section of the court known as the probate registry.
If executors have not been appointed, or do not want to act, you may need to apply for something called letters of administration. Probate will normally be required if the person who has died left more than £5,000, had stocks or shares, owned a house or land or had certain insurance policies.
Where there isn't a will
If the person who died didn't make a will (known as dying intestate) the process is more complicated. Someone still needs to sort out their affairs, but they will be called an 'administrator' rather than an executor and will usually be a close relative of the person who has died.
An application for a grant of letters of administration (a document issued by the court that allows them to administer the estate) will need to be made. Both executors and administrators can also be referred to as 'personal representatives'.