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What to do next when someone passes on

It’s understandably a difficult and emotional time when someone passes away but what of the practicalities that need to be carried out? There is a process that needs to be worked through when this happens to ensure that matters are conducted properly and in accordance with the law. If you are aware of the steps to be taken when someone passes away it can make it easier as you can focus on how you and other people are feeling rather than trying to find out about what to do and worrying if you are doing it right.

What do I do?

There are three things that need to be done first:

  1. Obtain a medical certificate from the doctor for the person who has passed away.
  2. Use the medical certificate to register the death within 5 days. This will then give you the documents you require in order to arrange the funeral.
  3. Arrange the funeral – the majority of people use a funeral director as they can advise and guide you on how to do this.

How do I register the death and who do I need to tell?

You can register a death online using the Government website and they also have an online service called ‘Tell Us Once’. This service enables you to notify most of the government organisations at the same time that the person has passed away, saving you time and paperwork in notifying everyone individually. This will notify people like HMRC who will advise if there is tax due to be paid or refunded for the deceased. HMRC will also notify you if a self-assessment tax return is required for the person.

In addition to the government organisations, you will also need to notify the banks, insurance and mortgage companies as well as any utility companies or other organisations the deceased had connections with.

What do I do next?

You need to apply for a ‘Grant of Representation’ which is the legal right to deal with the person’s estate. You may know this more commonly as ‘probate’. When applying for probate you can complete the process yourself or use a solicitor to help you. We would recommend using a professional to assist you with this as it can be a complicated process and it’s important to get it right to avoid complications and penalties.

Who applies for probate?

If there is no will, known as intestacy, then the next of kin should apply for probate. If there is a will this will state who the executor of the estate is to be, they should apply to enable them to have legal access to the person’s bank accounts etc. The executor might not be benefiting from the will but instead could be a person the deceased trusted to finalise their affairs for them. If the estate passes to a surviving partner or spouse and the bank account is in joint names with no property, land or shares then probate is not required.

I am the executor, how do I apply for probate?

In order to obtain probate you will need to:

  1. Complete a probate form.
  2. Complete an inheritance tax form stating how much the estate is worth (if inheritance tax is due, some may need to be paid before probate is granted). It is worth seeking professional advice on this as providing incorrect information regarding the value of the estate can incur a penalty.
  3. Send the application with the death certificate, the original will as well as 3 copies, and the application fee which is £215 as at November 2016 (the application fee is less if you use a solicitor).
  4. Swear an oath – either at a solicitors or the local probate office.


What does the executor then do?

The executor is responsible for carrying out the wishes the person has set out in their will. If there is no will then the law will decide who will inherit the estate. If you are the executor then you will be responsible for:

  • sorting out and collecting the assets of the estate e.g. the monies from the sale of any property or land.
  • paying the inheritance tax (if you pay this from your own money then you will be reimbursed from the estate).
  • paying any debts that remain outstanding, again, this payment will come from the proceeds of the estate.
  • distributing the estate by giving money, property or possessions to the beneficiaries of the will.
  • preparing and signing off the final accounts for the estate and ensuring the beneficiaries sign these off as well.

Although the process looks simple from this outline, the work needed will vary according to whether the deceased left a will or not. In either case family tax planning may be required to manage assets for existing beneficiaries and future generations so those assets are protected wherever possible.There is also the need to ensure the information provided during the process is correct to avoid penalties and interest being incurred.

For initial advice, assistance or for a general chat, whether for you or someone you know, contact Ian Flack on 01403 738777.

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