Who to notify first? 

When someone dies it can be a confusing and very difficult time and you cannot be expected to do everything immediately.

It is important that in the first five days you do the following:

  • Notify the deceased’s family Doctor

  • Contact a Funeral Director to start funeral arrangements (you will need to check  their Will for any special requests or Pre-Paid Funeral arrangements which may have already been made)

  • Contact The Registry Office  to register the death

  • Contact any departments who may have been making payments to the deceased, such as Tax Credits, benefits, pensions etc advise then of the death.

As soon as practical you should:

  • Contact the Executors of named in the Will to enable them to start the process of obtaining Probate

  • If there is no Will then decide who will apply to sort out the deceased’s affairs and apply for Letters of Administration.

    You will also need to contact relatives and people close to the deceased for a full list of who to contact go to select Government Citizens and Rights – then Death and Bereavement and What to Do After A Death.

If a will has been left.

    In this case one or more of the ‘executors’ named in the will soul start to deal with the person’s affairs. The executor applies for a ‘grant of probate’ from a section of the court knows as the probate registry. The grant is a legal document which confirms that the executor has the authority to deal with the deceased person’s assets (property, finances and possessions). They then use the grant of probate to show they have the right to access funds, sort out finances, and collect and share out the deceased person’s assets as set out in the will.

If a Will was not left.

 If there is no will, a close relative of the deceased can apply to the probate registry to deal with the estate. In this case they apply for a ‘grant of letters of administration’. If the grant is given, they are known as ‘administrators’ of the estate. Like the grant of probate, the grant of letters of administration is a legal document which confirms the administrator’s authority to deal with the deceased person’s assets.

   If someone dies without making a will, they are said to have died ‘intestate’. If this happens, the law sets out who should deal with the deceased’s affairs and who should inherit their estate (property, personal possessions and money). This information covers England and Wales only.

  When someone dies without leaving a will, It can also take a long time – months or even years in some very complex cases.

Who can deal with the deceased person’s estate?

Usually the legal right to sort out the estate of the person who has died. Is given to a close relative like a spouse, child, or parent.

Applying for a Grant of Letters of Administration

In order to be able to administer someone’s estate you normally need to apply to the Probate Registry for a ‘Grant of Letters of Administration’. 

 On receipt of the grant you become the ‘administrator’ of the estate. The grant provides proof to banks, building societies and other organisations that you have authority to access and distribute funds that were held in the deceased’s name.

   These grants appoint people known as “Personal Representatives “to administer the deceased person’s estate.

When a grant is needed

A grant is  usually needed when the person who dies leaves one or more of the following:

  • £5,000

  • stocks or shares

  • certain insurance policies

  • property or land held in their own name or as ‘tenants in common’

In most cases above, the bank or relevant institution will need to see the grant before transferring control of the assets.

When a grant may not be needed

    Where deceased’s estate is below £5,000, and doesn’t contain any land, property, or shares, then in some circumstances it may be possible to deal with it without obtaining a grant. Also, a grant might not be needed if the whole of the estate is held in joint names and passes automatically to the surviving joint owner.

     In some cases, where the beneficiary is a child, the law states that more than one person must act as the administrator.

    You will need to write to each institution informing them of the death and enclosing a photocopy of the death certificate (and will if there is one).To establishes whether the assets can be obtained without a grant, Not until some or all of any Inheritance Tax that is due on the estate has been paid will the personal representative be granted probate. Applies to England and Wales.

If the person who died lived in Scotland you must apply for a ‘grant of confirmation’.

Why Appoint a Professional Executor?

    Many people choose relatives or close friends as their Executors but being an Executor can be a difficult and time consuming job and has to be carried out at a time when they may not feel up to the task.

    Before appointing friends or relatives as the Executors of your Will, please take the time to read through some of the reasons why you may wish to reconsider your decision.

You should bear in mind the following:

  • The role of an Executor carries some legal liability

  • Decisions made by the Executors could prove unpopular with your beneficiaries

  • They must notify all parties concerned.

  • Obtain valuations of all estate assets owned (including properties)

  • They would need to settle any debts and pay any outstanding utility bills.

  • Calculate and arrange payment of any Inheritance Tax due.

  • Submit R27 to HMRC and register any income tax due and make full settlement.

  • Prepare and submit the Estate Accounts

  • Apply for the Grant of Probate and later register the Grant with all relevant organisations.

A professional Executor is the best choice, particularly if any of the following apply:

  • Where there are multiple assets such as: bank accounts and savings, shares, bonds and investments.

  • Where a property is to be sold or conveyed

  • Where the estate is of a high value

  • Where there is a business or the deceased was a partner in the business.

  • Agricultural Property

  • Family trusts or large gifts to under 18’s

  • Where a potential claim under the Provision for Family and Dependants act 1975 by someone who feels unfairly treated by the Will, or by the rules of intestacy.

  • If the Will is badly drafted, or beneficiaries cannot be traced.

Most professional Executors and in particular banks charge high fees for acting as an Executor (anything between 3 and 5% of the estate value plus an hourly charge for all the administrative work undertaken, plus the usual legal disbursements) and can be difficult to contact to see how things are progressing.

If there are any terms that you do not fully understand refer to the glossary