What are Letters of Administration?

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If someone has died without a will, a person close to them will usually apply for letters of administration. These are required in order to distribute the person’s assets.


As if dealing with a loved one’s death isn’t hard enough, things can get even trickier if your loved one died intestate – that is, they died without leaving a will.

Because without the instructions about how to deal with the deceased’s property that would usually be contained in their will, you and your family are left to work out what exactly are the deceased’s assets, and who should they go to.

This guide aims to make things a little bit easier by taking you through the steps needed to deal with a deceased’s estate when they have not left a will and, in particular, explaining the idea of Letters of Administration.

The guide covers:

    • The meaning of a person dying intestate
    • Who can get Letters of Administration
    • Who needs Letters of Administration
    • How to get a grant of Letters of Administration
    • Using a lawyer to get Letters of Administration

Intestate meaning

When we talk about someone ‘dying intestate’ it usually means that they died without a will. Dying intestate can also mean:

  • the deceased left a will but it is not a valid will (under state law); or
  • the deceased made a valid will but all of the beneficiaries listed in the will have passed away.

The result is often that the deceased has not prescribed the way in which – and the people (i.e. beneficiaries) to whom – they would like their property to be distributed.

The Administrator and Letters of Administration

When a person dies intestate, and leaves behind real and/or personal property, that property needs to be dealt with. Had the deceased left a valid will, it would be the job of the executor named in the will to apply for a grant of probate, and to then follow the deceased’s instructions (contained in the will) in distributing that property to nominated recipients.

Where there is no nomination of executor, it will usually be an administrator who deals with the deceased’s estate, taking care of matters such as collection of property, paying debts and distributing remaining assets. See below as to who can be an administrator.

To undertake the above tasks, the administrator will often require a grant of Letters of Administration. A grant of Letters of Administration is the means by which the court grants authority to the administrator to deal with the estate of a person who has passed away without a will – that is, it enables the administrator to require the people or institutions holding the deceased’s assets to transfer them to the administrator. It is similar to a grant of probate in that it enables the specified person/s to administer the deceased’s property.

Who can get Letters of Administration?

Generally, it is the next of kin of the deceased who can apply for a grant of Letters of Administration. For a full explanation of who can get Letters of Administration in your state, see our Letters of Administration City Guides:

My loved one died without a will – do I need Letters of Administration?

While Letters of Administration will usually be required where a deceased owned assets of significant value, there are some circumstances in which a deceased died intestate that do not require a grant of Letters of Administration:

  • where property was owned jointly by the deceased, it will be transferred to the other owner automatically via the laws of survivorship;
  • if the deceased left only minimal assets with no significant value, it may be possible to have those assets released to you without the need for Letters of Administration. However, be aware that some asset holders will require evidence of a grant of Letters of Administration before releasing or transferring any type of asset to the Administrator.

Even where it’s not strictly necessary, obtaining a grant of Letters of Administration can afford the Administrator some important protections from being found personally liable for their dealings with the estate. You should seek legal advice before making a final decision.

How do I get Letters of Administration?

In order to obtain Letters of Administration, the court usually requires you to prove that you have searched for (and have been unable to locate) any will or document conveying the deceased’s intentions in relation to the future of their estate. To learn more about the process of applying for Letters of Administration in your state, see:

Do I need a lawyer?

Applying for a grant of Letters of Administration in your state can be a complicated and time-consuming process. It is important to understand the legal requirements and to fully comply with them, as not doing so can cost you significant amounts of time and money. Seeking the help of an experienced lawyer can make the process quicker and far less stressful. Gathered Here offers access to specialists in Letters of Administration, at very affordable rates. Our Fixed Fee Service means a fixed legal fee for your Letters of Administration application which you’ll be told upfront. Get a fixed fee quote now – it’s free and there’s no obligation to proceed.

We hope you’ve found this guide to Letters of Administration useful. For information about dealing with a deceased’s estate, see our Probate FAQs.

If you have any questions about our Fixed See Service, or any of our other services, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at support@gatheredhere.com.au or start a live chat by clicking the floating message box in the bottom right corner of your screen.

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