The period following the death of a loved one is fraught. There are a number of legal and administrative steps that need to be carried out which can add to the pressure. Failure to do these things promptly and properly could lead to increased strife, cost, and problems at a later date. You should be able to get ample help and guidance from the registrars at your Local Authority or professional advisors such as solicitors. An outline of what needs doing can be found below. The list is non-exhaustive and you should follow the detailed guidance available from your probate solicitor, local authority and other professional guidance.
Photo credit: Chris Buckwald
Register the death:
A death should be registered within 5 days. The Registrar at the local authority needs to be told by either a relative, the person who is organising the funeral or someone who was present when the death occurred. When you register the death you can get a death certificate along with copies. It is usually a good idea to get plenty of copies as some institutions such as banks/ building societies will want to see an original from the Registrar (and not a photocopy). Having multiple copies can speed things up.
Find the will:
As mentioned in our previous article: https://makeawillonline.co.uk/blog/where-there-s-no-will if there is a will, it is imperative to find and produce the original. If you can’t find the original there is a presumption that the deceased destroyed their will with the intention to revoke the will.
Pay for the funeral:
There are three main options when it comes to paying for a funeral: insurance, payment from the funds of the deceased person or payment from elsewhere (friends/ family/ public health). Bear in mind that the funeral will almost always happen before probate is granted, and usually within a few weeks, and sometimes before the original will is located.
You should always check for funeral insurance which can pay for some or all of the funeral expenses and possibly the wake too. The main companies to bear in mind when searching can be found here: https://www.which.co.uk/money/insurance/funeral-plans/funeral-plans-reviewed-a4uzt4g0d0sf.
Secondly, whether you’ve found the original will or not, many banks are willing to release funds for a funeral upon the presentation of a death certificate.
If neither of the above options are available then either friends and family can fund the funeral, or alternatively if you contact your local authority, a basic public health funeral can be organised.
Insure the home:
Ensure that the insurers know about the death, especially if the deceased was the only occupant of the property. Listen to what the recommendations of the insurers are. An empty property may require additional steps taken out such as periodic visits or additional security.
When the bank learns of the death it will freeze the account and payments will cease. Anyone receiving regular payments or direct debits from the deceased should be informed so they don’t misread the situation and think that the deceased has defaulted on payment.
The gas, electric, water and any other utilities will need final meter readings and they’ll send a closing bill. As with the funeral expenses, the bank will usually unfreeze the account to allow these to be paid.
Grant of probate/ letters of administration:
Once the value of the estate of the deceased has been finalised with the assets and debts at the time of death fully understood and HMRC has been fully informed then the executors can apply to the courts for a Grant of Probate (or Letters of Administration if there is no will). The process of applying for probate is technical and the consequences of getting any of the calculations are serious. Often executors employ solicitors or accountants to advise on part or all of the process. A list of solicitors can be found here: http://solicitors.lawsociety.org.uk.
If the executors need to, and if the will allows it then the property can be sold and the proceeds used to pay to the beneficiaries.
If the estate is subject to inheritance tax (current guidance on the rates here: https://www.gov.uk/inheritance-tax) you will need to ensure that this is promptly paid following the grant of probate. If it is not possible to pay this immediately (e.g. if the estate has fixed assets that can’t be sold quickly) then it is often possible to get a loan to cover this liability. You should speak with a professional for advice on this subject.