A probate registry is responsible for determining whether a will is valid and for issuing an order called a grant of representation. That order authorizes a person to perform certain duties on behalf of the estate of a person who has died. The obligation of the probate registry is to ensure that a person who has applied for the grant of representation is entitled to receive such authority over a particular estate. A probate registry generally has no further responsibilities after issuing a grant of representation.
England, Canada, and Australia use a probate registry, while the U.S. uses probate courts to carry out similar functions for settling estates. After a person dies, any property he owned is part of his estate. The estate must be divided among any beneficiaries to the estate. It is first necessary to pay any outstanding bills that the deceased person may have accumulated. To carry out these duties, a probate registry will issue a grant of representation authorizing someone to carry out these duties.
There are different types of grants of representation, and the probate registry must determine which is appropriate. The first type is a grant of probate. The probate registry will issue this grant when a deceased person has left a will identifying an executor. The second is a letter of administration, which is issued when a person dies without a will. A letter of administration with will is issued to someone other than the executor named in a will.
A person must submit an application to the probate registry to obtain a grant of representation. The registrar will review the application and schedule an interview with the applicant. The purpose of the interview is to confirm the information and address any question the applicant may have. The registrar will issue a grant in accordance with the laws of the jurisdiction.
If a person dies with a will and names an executor, the executor ordinarily will have the first right to obtain a grant of representation. If an executor declines the grant or if there is no will, then the surviving family members will have the right to obtain the grant. The order of priority is afforded as follows: the spouse, sons or daughters, parents, brothers or sisters, and other distant relatives. In some jurisdictions, the registrar may issue a grant of representation to several people who will serve at the same time.