If you find yourself in the position of having to deal with someone's death, it's hard to know what to do first. It's helpful to have some guidelines as to what to consider, what is urgent and what can be postponed.
As always at Chesterton House, we advocate for planning ahead in life. Knowing what to do in an unexpected and often traumatic situation is part of that. Life is unpredictable and so it's important to be prepared for unexpected circumstances. If you ever find yourself in the position of managing the death of a loved one, here are the things you need to consider.
What do I need to do immediately?
There are only two urgent things to do - registering the death and arranging the funeral.
Who can register the death?
Anyone, but usually a member of the family. You can also do this if you are responsible for arranging the funeral. The registrar will issue a Death Certificate and the Burial/Cremation Certificates - without these the funeral cannot take place. Usually only one or two Death Certificates are needed as Solicitors can certify copies for you.
What else should I do?
Once you have registered a Death, contact a Funeral Director to arrange the burial or cremation. They will also offer their assistance in entering any obituary notices and making the necessary arrangements. If possible, check whether there is a Will. You may find a copy Will amongst the deceased’s papers. If there is a Will, it will say who the Executors are and any expressed wishes about burial, cremation or the type of funeral requested by the deceased. You should check with the solicitors that drafted the Will whether the one found is the last one made. It is important to advise the Executors of the death so that they can make the necessary arrangements.
Does the Will have to be read at the funeral?
This is very unusual these days. Sometimes it is done to make it clear who is to receive legacies under the Will, and to avoid arguments among the family. Some families like to have the formality of a Will reading after the funeral, however it is not necessary.
Can I give people items at the funeral?
Generally this is considered unwise. You should check with the Executors before doing so. This is because the assets in the estate may have been sold to pay bills and outstanding accounts. If anyone says that they have been promised any particular items and this does not appear in the Will, you and they should seek professional advice.
What happens if there is no Will?
Then the person dies Intestate. This means that the law will direct who will inherit and no one should remove any property until an Administrator of the estate is appointed. When a person dies Intestate, a wife or husband will not necessarily inherit everything. Equally, if the deceased was unmarried, the law will not provide for the surviving partners. Winding up an estate can take much longer, can be much more expensive and is more complicated if there is no Will, a good reason to get one completed now if you haven't already.
What happens if I cannot find a Will?
See if you can find any papers relating to a local solicitor, then telephone and ask if they have one. They will usually want to see a Death Certificate to prove that the person has died, then they can check with the deceased’s bank or building society as they may have the Will in safe custody. No one can tell you what is in the Will unless you are an Executor, but they may advise that a Will exists. If you cannot do this yourself then ask your own solicitor to make enquiries for you.
Nothing should be done without proper advice, other than arranging the funeral, particularly if there is no Will. No one has authority to act without the permission of the administrator or executor.
What is meant by a Grant of Probate
This is a document which enables the Estate to be administered. It authorises the executors to collect in the assets, pay any bills and carry out the terms of the Will. A Grant is only needed where the deceased has assets in his or her sole name over and above £5,000.
What about Inheritance Tax?
Inheritance Tax is only payable where the Estate exceeds £325,000. If the Estate exceeds this, then tax may be payable at 40%. Where a Will leaves all the Estate to the surviving spouse or Civil Partner then no tax is payable. However, if people are not married but are co-habiting, tax will be payable even though the Will leaves everything to the other partner.
Will I need a Grant of Probate?
Usually the answer is yes if the deceased had assets in his/her own name that exceed £5,000. However, if all the assets are held in joint names, it may be possible to by-pass the Grant of Probate. In any case, you should obtain professional advice about this.
If the Estate is under £5,000 what do I need to do?
You can ask for professional advice, but generally all that is required is to show the Death Certificate to the bank or building society and a copy of the Will and they will release the money.
How do I pay for the funeral account?
Banks and building societies will generally let you pay the funeral account without obtaining a Grant of Probate. They may also prefer to deal with the solicitors in this respect, and they will need to see the funeral account and the Death Certificate.
What's the next step?
Here at Chesterton House and Woolley Beardsleys & Bosworth, many of our clients have been with us for decades, trusting us to manage and protect their welfare and assets.
When it comes to dealing with bereavement, our solicitors recognise the emotional and practical difficulties of having to sort out a person's estate, and they will take time to guide you through the process, explaining what will happen and how to go about it. They will work with you to get things done smoothly and efficiently, and be there for you when you have a question.
If you'd like more information or to speak to us, please contact us here. Dealing with us is easy, you can simply send us an enquiry, pick up the phone and call 01509 212266, or send us an email and we will arrange an initial chat with one of our Team.
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