Step-by-step guide: What do I do when someone dies?

When someone close to you passes away, or if you have been appointed as an Executor in someone’s Will, you will need to work through the process of collecting together their bank accounts, investments, assets, property, and paying their debts and taxes. This process is known as Probate.

What is Probate?
Probate is the process of administering a person’s estate after they have passed away. The whole process involves transferring funds and closing bank accounts, dealing with property if they are not a joint owner, organising inheritance, and paying off debts and taxes. The process ends once all taxes and debts have been paid and all inheritances have been passed on. The Grant of probate is a document issued by the court which proves that the Executors are validly appointed.

1. Register the death

An Executor or family member can register the death. You should do this as soon as possible (within 5 days) by making an appointment at a Register Office.

2. Locate the Will

You may need to look in the person’s property to see if they have the Will, or any paperwork relating to it, at home. A Will may also be stored at a solicitor’s office or a bank.

The Will states who has been appointed as the Executor of the estate and what wishes the deceased would like to be fulfilled. These wishes can often extend to the funeral which is why you should try and find the Will quickly.

If there is no Will, there will be no appointed Executor so the estate will be governed by the strict rules of intestacy. These rules govern who can administer the estate and which Grant of Representation should be applied for. The overall probate process is the same.

3. Arrange the funeral

You may already know the funeral wishes, or these could be included in the Will. You should make an appointment with a funeral director, to make the necessary arrangements.

4. Collect details of estate assets and liabilities

You will need to find details of all the estate assets and liabilities, including any the person held in their own name or in joint names with someone else. You may find this information by looking at their statements and other personal documentation.

You must obtain a valuation of each asset or liability, as at the date of death. If you can prepare a list of the assets (such as bank accounts, insurance policies, shareholdings, property) and liabilities (such as loans, credit cards, mortgages, utility bills) we can obtain the valuations for you.

5. Collect details of income

You will also need to find details of any income the person had received, such as money from employment, rent, share dividends, bank account interest, and pension payments.

The person may have employed an accountant to assist them with their income tax affairs, in which case you can ask them to help you deal with HM Revenue & Customs requirements. Alternatively, if you can prepare a list of the income, we can contact HM Revenue & Customs for you.

3. Apply for a Grant of Representation

To access the deceased assets, you will need to obtain a Grant of Representation – either a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration.

If a person has a Will, the Executor needs to apply for a Grant of Probate before they can start dealing with the estate.

If a person does not have a Will, a Grant of Probate cannot be applied for as no specific person has been appointed to deal with the estate. Without a Will, the person is deemed to have died ‘intestate’ so the Rules of Intestacy governs their estate. According to these rules, only spouses, civil partners, children and other close relatives can inherit. Therefore, one of the listed family members needs to apply to the Court for a Letter of Administration to give them the legal right to administer the estate.

If a valid Will has been made but the appointment of Executors is invalid (such as where they have died) a beneficiary can apply for a Letter of Administration to deal with the estate instead.

7. Complete the administration of the estate

This is a complex process, made up of various tasks. For example, you may need to complete an Inheritance Tax Return, swear an Oath on application to the Probate Registry, obtain a Grant of Probate, close bank accounts, sell or transfer ownership of property and shares, report any Income Tax or Capital Gains, pay money to the estate beneficiaries, and draw up an Estate Account.

Contact a member of our team, who will help you every step of the way.

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