10 Steps of Dealing With A Bereavement
Here are some handy links and tools to get you started.
If you are not sure how much professional help you need you can use our How Much Help webapp to start with. Alternatively, if you want more in-depth advice and guidance sign up to our Digital Toolkit and access the Executor Toolkit. You can also go through your options with our Bereavement Team, simply contact us for more information.
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Immediate steps to take
The process of registering the death is quite informal and involves a face-to-face interview with the Registrar. To locate your nearest Registrar click here.
The Registrar will be on hand to guide you throughout, however, you may feel more comfortable taking somebody along with you.
The Bereavement Support Network provides more information and guidance if required, and they can be found here, or by calling 0808 168 9607.
Tell us Once is a service offered online here. Once you have filled in the details it will notify Government organisations that someone has passed away. It is a great help and reduces some of the notifications that an Executor would need to complete.
Who does Tell us Once notify?
You will be required to notify other organisations such as Banks and Building societies separately.
Once the death has been registered, you can start to make the arrangements for the funeral. You may have a local Funeral Director in mind; you will need to check if there is a funeral plan in place as a Funeral Director may already be specified. You can contact us if you would like help locating a local funeral director.
The funeral director will guide you through the whole process and can make all of the practical arrangements on your behalf. You may choose to hand everything over to them or to retain some involvement. The main duties the funeral director will carry out are:
Things you may want to think about are:
If the deceased’s property is now vacant it is important to ensure the property is secured. Make sure all of the windows are closed, the boiler is drained downed, electricals are unplugged and all taps are turned off tightly. It is also important to ensure that the property is adequately insured and secured.
If you need to find out who the current energy supplier to the property is, the National Energy Association (NEA) have some helpful advice here.
Vulnerable persons (including children, elderly relatives or disabled dependents):
If the deceased had been caring for a vulnerable person you may need to contact your local Social Services.
Looking after Pets:
If the deceased has any Pets that cannot be looked after by family or friends, it is the Executors responsibility to ensure these animals are cared for. People often leave instruction within their Will for their animals. If this is not the case, then you may need to contact a shelter:
If you would like any help with Step 1, you can contact us by email, telephone or Live Chat.Step 1
Is there a Will?
If you are aware that the deceased has left a Will, it is important to locate the most recently dated, valid document.
For a Will to be valid, it needs to have been signed and witnessed in a particular way, in order to comply with the law. The Will should be in writing, signed and dated by the person who has died and witnessed by two independent witnesses, who must not be benefiting from the Will.
If you are unsure of where the Will is held, we strongly recommend that you carry out a search with Will Registration companies to see if they have any details of a later Will. We recommend using both Certainty – The National Will Register and Will Register UK.
They will search both their own databases as well as make local and national searches with Solicitors and Will Writers.
If a valid Will has been found it will usually state who the deceased wanted to act as Executors. An administrator is appointed to carry out the wishes of someone who has died, where that person did not have a Will or the Executor(s) cannot or do not want to act.
Please note, Executors and Administrator cannot act if they are under 18 years old, if they have been declared bankrupt or are going though the process of bankruptcy (undischarged bankrupt).
As an Executor or Administrator, although legally you do not have to, it is strongly recommended that you advertise for any unknown creditors and / or beneficiaries to come forward. This will offer you protection; you can escape liability in the event an unknown creditor comes forward at a later date after you have paid out all of the money. If you do not place the advertisement and you have paid out the estate, then you may be expected to settle with the creditor from your own funds.
You can place this advert straight away. It is very straightforward and involves advertising in the London Gazette. Also, where the person who has died owned their own home, it is a good idea to advertise in their local paper.
The advertisement expires after 2 months and 1 day, after which time you are safe to distribute the estate, although it is advisable to wait 6 months from the date of death in the event of any claims being brought against the estate.
To place a notice click here.
If you would like any help with Step 2, you can contact us by email, telephone or Live Chat.Step 2
Valuing the estate
As with the Assets, any Debts the deceased had, need to be identified. Debts include credit cards, loans, Mortgages etc. All creditors will need to be informed and accurate date of death balances obtained.
Using our Executor Toolkit will help you to keep track of the Assets and Debts, and with over 50 letter templates, it will also help you contact each institution. Please click here to register.
It is important that an accurate record is kept relating to these gifts since they will need to be disclosed to the HMRC, and depending on the value and types of gifts, may affect the Inheritance Tax position of the estate.
Do the assets of the deceased including property and cash assets total more than £325,000?
If yes, was the deceased widowed? Has the deceased recently given any taxable gifts? These are some of the questions which affect if Nil Rate Band applies and how much Inheritance Tax (IHT) is payable.
Other taxes will need to be considered as well, such as Capital Gains and Income Tax, all of which are the responsibility of the Executors / Administrators. You will need to complete IHT forms and pay any IHT due.
If you would like any help with Step 3, you can contact us by email, telephone or Live Chat.Step 3
Identifying the beneficiaries
Part of your role as an Executor / Administrator is to ensure that all of the beneficiaries named in the Will are located. As previously mentioned, if there is not a current, valid Will then the Rules of Intestacy will apply.
It is usual to send a letter and a copy of the Will to all of the beneficiaries to let them know what their entitlement is. It is also advisable to ask for identification, such as photo ID and a copy of a recent utility bill.
Using the Executor Toolkit allows you can keep track of all beneficiaries by creating a beneficiary worksheet. This will enable you to keep all of their details together for when you distribute the estate. There is also more information on how to locate missing beneficiaries, beneficiaries under 18 years old, Bankrupt beneficiaries and vulnerable beneficiaries. Click here to register now.
If a beneficiary has died, then you need to look to the Will for any provision. If the beneficiary was a child, grandchild or remoter descendant of the deceased then the law states that their share automatically passes to their children, this is unless there is any wording within a Will to stop this from happening, for example “but if he dies before me then his share will pass to his own children”.
If the beneficiary died within 28 days (or a different period if specified in the Will) of the deceased, then it could well be considered that they died first for distribution purposes. If they died after the 28 days, then the beneficiary would still be entitled to their share or gift and it will now form part of their own estate.
If you would like any help with Step 4, you can contact us by email, telephone or Live Chat.Step 4
Applying for the Grant of Probate
The Grant of Representation is a court order and the official authority to deal with the estate of the person who has died. The grant is issued by the Probate Registry which is part of the High Court. There are different types of grants, the most common are:
You may hear this being referred to as “Probate”.
Following the death, many of the Assets will be frozen and the asset holders will only release the Assets to you once they are happy you have the authority to act. The Grant of Representation evidences this authority.
Don’t forget you can hand over obtaining the Grant to us as part of our Fast Track Grant service, click here to find out more.
If you would like any help with Step 5, you can contact us by email, telephone or Live Chat.Step 5
Collecting Assets and paying Debts
It is strongly advised you advertise for any unknown creditors and / or beneficiaries to come forward. This offers protection and reduces your liability in the event of an unknown creditor comes forward at a later date; after all of money has been paid out. If you do not place the advertisement and money has been paid out the estate, then you may be expected to settle with the creditor from your own funds.
The advertisement expires after 2 months and 1 day, after which time it is safe to distribute the estate, although it is advisable to wait 6 months from the date of death in the event of any claims being brought against the estate.
To place a notice click here.
Although there is no legal time limit for the payments to be made, it is advisable to wait until the expiry date of the statutory notices (which is 2 months and 1 day from the date of the notice, this is the time given for any unknown creditors or beneficiaries to come forward) before settling the Debts.
Debts are a priority and should be paid before any of the beneficiaries receive their entitlement.
If you would like any help with Step 6, you can contact us by email, telephone or Live Chat.Step 6
Paying the beneficiaries
Before the beneficiaries can be paid, you need to confirm the following:
If there is not enough money in the estate to pay all of the beneficiaries then they will need to be paid in a specific order. If you find yourself in this position, you may prefer professional help to ensure that the Assets are distributed correctly, in the correct proportions.
If you would like any help with Step 7, you can contact us by email, telephone or Live Chat.Step 7
Finalising the Tax
If you would like any help with Step 8, any assistance finalising the tax affairs and / or completing tax returns then please contact us by email, telephone or Live Chat.Step 8
The Estate Accounts
Estate accounts is a detailed report of the financial information about the estate that you have collected throughout the administration.
You will need to account for every penny and so it is important that the information is correct. Estate accounts give a complete picture of how an estate is made up and how it has been dealt with. As such it provides an invaluable source of reference and will help deal with any queries that can arise after the administration has been completed.
Personal representatives have statutory duties set out in section 25 of the Administration of Estates Act 1925 to:
You have sworn to deliver accounts to the Court, if and when these may be required.
If you would like any help with Step 9, you can contact us by email, telephone or Live Chat.Step 9
Distributing the Estate
As the administration comes to an end, it is worth running through the list below to check that everything has been completed:
To finish the administration there are a couple of small tasks that need to be completed, detailed below:
If you would like any help with Step 10, you can contact us by email, telephone or Live Chat.Step 10
The Executor Toolkit takes you through the all of these steps with additional information and help, supported by a dedicated Legal Assistant.
The information above is meant as guide and to give you an idea of what is involved in administering an estate. There is a lot of information to take in; but keep in mind we are happy to go through any of the 10 steps with you. Contact us directly or go back to the top of the page to see all your options again.