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When someone dies there are many decisions and arrangements to be made. Sadly, these have to be made at what can be a time of personal distress. Some of these arrangements can be managed by a close relative or friend, although others need to be done by the executor or administrator of the estate.
Here are some of the things you will need to do if someone close to you dies.
If someone dies at home, the family doctor should be contacted immediately. If the death was expected, the doctor will give you a medical certificate showing the cause of death and explain how to register the death. If someone dies unexpectedly, or the family doctor has not seen the person within 14 days of death, the death is reported to the coroner - the doctor or lawyer responsible for investigating unexpected deaths.
Next you will need to ensure the death is formally registered. The registrar will need the following information:
You should also take the deceased person's NHS number and birth and marriage/civil partnership certificates if possible. The registrar will provide the forms which enable burial or cremation, and information about any available benefits.
If you are unsure where the deceased person’s will might be, contact their solicitor as they may have a copy. If there is a will, you will need to identify the executor to enable them to start the process of obtaining probate.
If there is no will then family members need to decide who will apply to sort out the deceased's affairs and apply to the court for 'letters of administration'.
A will should specify any special provisions and organ donor card requests, so these must be checked before any funeral arrangements can be made. You should also check whether the deceased had paid into a funeral plan; if not, you might need to discuss how the funeral will be paid for (help with funeral costs is available in limited circumstances from the Social Fund).
If the death has been reported to the coroner, this may delay the date on which the funeral can be held, so you will need to check this before finalising any arrangements.
Probate is the legal process of settling the estate of a deceased person. If the deceased has a will, it specifies what will happen to the estate and will appoint people responsible for managing this (the executors). If there is no will, the person is said to have died intestate and the estate will pass in accordance with legal rules. It will be administered by someone appointed by the court to act under Letters of Administration (an administrator).
To settle an estate, the assets of the deceased and any liabilities must be gathered and the full value of the estate calculated. Inheritance Tax will need to be paid on the amount by which the estate exceeds a certain level - the amount of the exemption changes from year to year. Arrangements for paying the tax must be paid before probate can be granted and the assets distributed.
In summary, whoever deals with the estate will need to:
You may also want to contact the Bereavement Register and the Deceased Preference Service to remove the deceased's name from mailing lists and databases.
If you will be instructing a solicitor to act for you in obtaining a Grant of Probate, the more information you can provide about the deceased's financial affairs, the quicker the process will be. Information may include:
If you need advice or support following a bereavement, there are many organisations offering these services, as well as information and practical support, such as Cruse Bereavement Care.
Additionally, anyone who lived with, or was dependant on, someone who died may be able to claim certain benefits, such as a reduction in Council Tax. Other benefits include bereavement allowance, widowed parent's allowance and bereavement payment. Your local Jobcentre Plus will be able to advise you further around these.
Cresswell, our team of experts have a wealth of experience across family law and matters concerning property, wills, probate and trusts. We can help settle the estate of a deceased person and to obtain a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration as quickly as possible, causing you minimum distress and inconvenience during a period of grief.