Dealing with somebody’s estate when they pass away

Bereavement is one of the most challenging periods that a family can go through. Whilst dealing with the grief of losing a loved one, it can be difficult to understand where to begin dealing with their estate.

Here, we hope to provide you with some guidance to help provide some clarity on the steps that you should take.

Initial Steps

The first step to take when somebody sadly passes away is to register their death with the local registry office. This must be done within five days of the date of death in England and Wales.

Once you have registered the death, you will receive a death certificate. It is often advisable to obtain several copies as numerous institutions (e.g., banks) will likely ask for one.

The registrar will usually explain the ‘Tell Us Once’ service. This service will inform several government bodies (such as HMRC and DWP) of the death. This will stop pension and benefit payments and enable HMRC to calculate whether income tax is due to or from the estate.

You can begin organising the funeral prior to receiving the death certificate, but the funeral cannot take place until you have received it. If the deceased had a Will, you should check whether they made any funeral wishes in the Will. It is also prudent to check whether the deceased held a pre-paid funeral plan.

Is there a Will?

You should check the deceased’s belongings to identify whether they left a Will. If a Will cannot be located at their home, it is worth checking whether this has been stored with a firm of solicitors that they regularly used, or the bank they banked with. If they left a Will, then it will appoint executors who will be responsible for dealing with the administration of their estate.

If there is no Will, then the deceased’s estate will pass in accordance with the intestacy rules. These rules will also set out who the deceased’s personal representatives are for the purposes of dealing with the administration of their estate.

What is Probate?

Once you have determined whether the deceased had a Will or not, the first step of the administration process will be for the executors/personal representatives to notify each of the institutions in which the deceased held assets, such as banks or investment companies. Any institutions where the deceased had liabilities should also be notified.

Whether a Grant of Representation (i.e., probate) is required will usually depend on the individual requirements of each institution, often based on the value of the account that the deceased held. Where the deceased owned property, probate will usually be required in order to sell it, but this will depend on how the property is owned.

If the deceased left a Will and a grant is required, it will be referred to as a ‘Grant of Probate’. If the deceased did not leave a Will, the grant will be referred to as a ‘Grant of Letters of Administration’. Before applying for probate, the deceased’s estate should be valued to determine whether inheritance tax will be payable. Any inheritance tax should then be paid prior to making the probate application.

Help from a Solicitor

Whilst you can apply for probate personally, it is important that you understand your obligations as an executor/personal representative when applying for probate and dealing with the administration process. By appointing a solicitor you will be reassured that the correct procedure is followed and potential pitfalls are avoided.

Contact us, we are here to help

Our Private Client team are able to assist you with obtaining probate, or with the full administration process. If you would like a consultation to discuss obtaining probate or dealing with the administration process, please contact the Private Client team below.