This is a much-misunderstood subject. Have you ever heard the term "Tied up at probate"?
When a person dies, someone has to deal with what they own. Such a person is called a personal representative. If they are appointed by means of a valid Will or Codicil, they are known as executors. When they are not appointed this way, as in the case of someone who dies intestate, the personal representatives are known as administrators.
In either case they will normally have to obtain official documentation from the High Court (Probate Registry) to confirm they are the ones with the legal authority to deal with the assets of the estate of the deceased. In the case of executors, once they have ‘proved’ the Will, they will be given a Grant of Probate.
Although by the Will an executor has full authority to act from the moment the deceased dies, Probate officially confirms that they have the right to deal with the estate of the deceased. Where a person dies intestate, usually the relatives of the deceased will apply to become administrators. In this case however, the personal representatives have no authority to act until the grant of Letters of Administration’ have been issued.