Dealing With the Estate of Someone Who Has Passed 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. We hope to provide you with some guidance in this short blog on the steps that you should take, should the circumstances occur.  


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 5 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, which 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 it contains any funeral wishes. It is also practical 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, 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. 

Our Private Client team can assist you with obtaining probate only if you wish 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 on 0151 281 9040.

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