Grant of Probate vs Letters of Administration: What is the difference?


When a loved one passes away, dealing with their belongings and finances—collectively known as their "estate"—becomes a pressing concern.

Understanding the legal processes involved can be daunting. Two key terms in this process are "Grant of Probate" and "Letters of Administration." Let's break down what they mean in simple terms.

Grant of Probate: When There's a Will

Imagine your loved one left behind a detailed note (a "will") specifying who gets what from their belongings. The Grant of Probate is essentially the court's way of saying, "This note is legitimate, and the person named here can go ahead and distribute the belongings as instructed."

The person given this responsibility is called the "executor," and they're usually named in the will. Their job is to gather all the belongings, pay off any debts, and then make sure everyone gets what they were promised in the will. This process ensures that financial institutions and others can safely transfer assets without worry, knowing that the executor has the legal right to manage the deceased's estate.

Letters of Administration: When There's No Will

Now, if your loved one didn't leave a will, it's like they left a puzzle without a picture guide. The court steps in to help solve this puzzle through something called Letters of Administration. This gives someone (usually a close family member) the authority to gather the belongings, settle debts, and distribute them according to a set of legal rules.

This appointed person is known as the "administrator," and their role is similar to an executor, but they follow a prescribed law for who gets what, instead of a personal note from the deceased. The law tries to distribute things fairly among close family members, but it might not always match what the deceased would have wanted, which is why having a will is so important. 

Key Differences


  • Presence of a Will: A Grant of Probate is issued when there's a will; Letters of Administration come into play when there's no will.

  • Executor vs. Administrator: The person in charge with a Grant of Probate is the executor, chosen by the deceased. With Letters of Administration, the court appoints an administrator based on legal priority.

  • Distribution Rules: With a Grant of Probate, the executor follows the deceased's wishes as laid out in the will. Letters of Administration require the administrator to follow legal guidelines for distribution. 

Why It Matters

Understanding the difference between these two grants helps ensure that your loved one's estate is handled correctly and according to their wishes (if they left a will) or the law (if they didn't). It also highlights the importance of making a will to ensure your wishes are known and can be followed after your passing.

Where Things May Go Wrong or Additional Considerations


Even with a clear understanding of the Grant of Probate and Letters of Administration, the process of settling a deceased person's estate is rarely straightforward. Here are some pitfalls and additional things to consider:

Validity of the Will

A valid will is crucial. Sometimes, what the deceased left behind as their final wishes might not meet legal standards. This can lead to disputes or the will being contested, delaying the probate process. An experienced probate lawyer can help ensure that a will is legally robust.

Complex Family Situations

The deceased's family dynamics can complicate things. For example, if a person dies without a will (intestate), the Intestate Succession Act dictates asset distribution. But what if the deceased's assets include things not easily divided, or if there are estranged family members? Such cases require sensitive and skilled handling, often necessitating legal representation.

Debts and Taxes

The deceased's debts and taxes owed need settling before distributing the estate. Sometimes, the estate might not have enough liquid assets (like bank accounts) to cover these, forcing the sale of property or other assets. This situation can strain the executor or administrator, especially if they're also a close family member dealing with loss.

Foreign Assets

If the deceased had assets in other countries, the administration becomes more complex. Each country may require its own administration application, subject to different laws and possibly involving the high court or public trustee in those places.

Choosing the Right Executor or Administrator

The person dealing with the deceased's estate, whether an appointed executor or an appointed administrator, plays a pivotal role. They need to be someone who can navigate the legal landscape, manage the deceased's assets and debts efficiently, and distribute the estate fairly. In cases where the named executor is unwilling or unable to act, finding an appropriate person becomes even more critical.

Legal Representation

Both the grant of probate and administration processes can be legally complex and may require legal representation. Especially in contested cases or when dealing with large estates, having an experienced probate lawyer can make a significant difference.

Syariah Court Involvement

For Muslims, the distribution is subject to Syariah law, and an inheritance certificate from the Syariah Court is necessary. This adds an additional layer of complexity to the probate or administration process.

Tax Implications

Under Singapore law, there is no estate tax but please note that in some jurisdictions, significant taxes apply to the transfer of property or large estates, which can affect the final amount received by beneficiaries. 

Need Assistance? 

Whether you're a beneficiary navigating the complex waters of estate distribution, or an executor facing challenges in executing a will, understanding your legal rights and options is crucial. At Jacque Law LLC, we specialize in resolving disputes related to estates, whether they involve disagreements among beneficiaries or between executors and beneficiaries.

Our team brings a wealth of experience to the table, having successfully represented clients in a variety of inheritance disputes. We pride ourselves on our empathetic approach to each case, combined with a commitment to professionalism. Our goal is to help you resolve your matters as effectively and smoothly as possible.

For more information or to discuss the details of your case with us, please contact here or drop us an email!


Jacqueline Chua, Managing Director

+65 6970 0518