Getting started, what you need to know
Probate (or confirmation in Scotland) is the system you go through if you’re handling the estate of someone who’s died. It gives you the legal right to distribute the estate according to the deceased’s wishes. Inheritance Tax forms are part of the process even if the estate doesn’t owe Inheritance Tax.
If the deceased left a will, it usually names one or more executors who can apply for the grant of probate. If the named executor doesn’t want to act, someone else named in the will can apply (depending on a strict order of priority). This person is called the administrator and they apply for a grant of letters of administration with will.
If the deceased died without leaving a will, a blood relative can apply for a grant of letters of administration. This is based on a strict next-of-kin order of priority defined in the rules of intestacy. The person who applies is also called the administrator.
The catch-all term for a grant of probate, letters of administration with will or letters of administration is a grant of representation. The catch-all term for an executor or administrator is personal representative.
Different terms in Scotland and Northern Ireland
Scotland and Northern Ireland have different legal systems, processes and terms. The terminology is generally the same in Northern Ireland. However, in Scotland the process is called confirmation and the personal representative applies for a grant of confirmation. Different forms are required in Scotland and Northern Ireland too.