Under normal circumstances, each one of us is the only person who can deal with our assets. Our house, our bank accounts, our insurance policies – you’ll have all had the experience of contacting an organisation and being given the Third Degree to find out that you are in fact you. It’s a pain!

In the same breath, we can all appreciate why that is necessary. We’d hate for someone other than ourselves to be able to show up to the bank and access your bank accounts.

Keeping this in mind, when someone has died:

  • How are your assets accessed and dealt with?
  • How does the organisation being approached know you’ve really died?
  • How do they know who they should be dealing with in relation to your assets?
  • How do they know that this person will administer your assets in accordance with your last wishes in your will?

When organisations become aware that someone has died, they “lock” all your assets to avoid just this type of situation from becoming a problem. If you are not around to manage your assets, they do not want any unauthorised people to start managing them for you.

All your assets no longer belong to you when you have died; they now belong to an entity called your “Estate”. The only people who can run your Estate are the executor(s) of your will.

This is where probate is required.


Probate is the golden key that allows the executor of your Estate to unlock your assets.

Your lawyer obtains a grant of probate for the executor of the Estate by applying to the High Court where the executor proves and promises that:

  • you really have died;
  • they really are the person who is entitled to be the executor; and
  • they will use all your assets in accordance with your last wishes in your will.

The High Court checks that the applications are in order and, if it is, they send out a document called probate.

Letters of Administration

What is a grant of letters of administration?

Although it sounds slightly more complicated than probate, it is precisely the same thing except it is for an estate where there is no will.

It serves the same function; it just has a different name. In the case of letters of administration, the executors are called the administrators, but again they do the same job.

The process

If you are an executor of an Estate, the best way to obtain probate (or letters of administration) is to contact one of our specialist lawyers, who will make the application for you.

The High Court typically takes 6-8 weeks to consider the application and issue the grant.

Once the grant is made, the Estate administration can begin in earnest as the executor will for the first time have access to all the estate assets.

Keep in mind that if the entire Estate’s assets amount to less than $15,000, you can usually obtain access to the assets without probate or letters of administration, so it is worthwhile checking the figures before making an application – we can also assist with this process.

For more information

Here at Morrison Kent, we have a specialist team and a wealth of resources to make your application for probate or letters of administration as simple, efficient and painless as possible. If you think you might need probate or letters of administration, give us a call on 04 472 0020 or email Jenny Lowe on jenny.lowe@morrisonkent.com.

What is Probate and Letters of Administration? Morrison Kent Lawyers