10 Steps of Dealing With a Bereavement
Each step gives you an overview of the process, with links and information to help you.
Immediate steps to take
Registering a Death
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
Who does Tell us Once notify?
- HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC)
- You will need to contact HMRC separately for business taxes, like VAT.
- Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)
- Passport Office
- Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA)
- The local council
- Public sector or armed forces pension schemes
You will be required to notify other organisations such as Banks and Building societies separately.
The Death Notification Service
If you are an Executor or Administrator you will receive information about what to do next once you have completed the notification. Alternatively, if you are not dealing with the affairs of the deceased, and you simply want to help inform institutions, all correspondence will be sent to the Executors or Administrators.
It is recommended that you use both the Tell Us Once and The Death Notification Services as they are two separate and independently run services.
Arranging and organising the funeral
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:
- Take care of the body
- Ensure that all the necessary documentation is completed to legally allow the burial or cremation
- Make it all happen, at the right time, in the right place and with the right people present
Things you may want to think about are:
- Burial or cremation?
- What type of coffin?
- Religious or non-religious ceremony?
- Flowers or donation?
- Should there be a wake?
Securing the Property
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.
Looking after any children, elderly relatives and pets
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:
Stop unwanted mail
Helping you to deal with your grief
GriefChat is a completely free service and is available Monday-Friday, 9am-9pm or by email out of these hours. Click here to go to our GriefChat page.
Alternatively, The Bereavement Support Network have information about the stages of grief, feelings and coping with a bereavement, here, which can help you at this difficult time.
Is there a Will? Conduct a search
Finding the Will
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.
No Will: The rules of intestacy
Opening an Executor Account
Valuing the estate for probate
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. To find out more about the Bereavement Services available to you click here.
Gifts made by the person who has died
- Any gift made within the 7 years prior to the date of death
- Any gift made where the person who died retained a benefit, for example a gift of their home and then continued to live there.
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.
Is the estate taxable?
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.
- Return the Driving Licence (both the photo card and paper, where applicable) to DVLA, Swansea, SA99 1AB
- Return the Passport to the Passport Office enclosing this form to Customer Contact Centre, Her Majesty’s Passport Office, PO Box 767, Southport, PR8 9PW.
- Return any library membership cards to the local library
- Return any bus passes, disabled badges or parking permits
- Cancel any club memberships
Identifying the beneficiaries
Finding the beneficiaries
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. To find out more about the Bereavement Services available to you click here.
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.
Beneficiary under 18 years old
Applying for the Grant of Probate
What is the Grant of Probate/Representation
- Grant of Probate – This is the court order issued to the Executor(s) under a Will.
- Grant of Letters of Administration – This is the court order issued to the administrators where the person died without a valid Will.
- Grant of Letters of Administration with Will annexed – This is the court order issued to the Administrator(s) where there is a valid Will, but there are no Executors appointed, or they are unable or unwilling to act.
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.
Do I need the Grant of Representation?
Calculate the assets and debts
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.
Register the Grant or Statutory Declarations with the Asset Holders
Paying the Debts
Debts are a priority and should be paid before any of the beneficiaries receive their entitlement.
Paying the Expenses
Helping the beneficiaries
Checks before paying the beneficiaries
Before the beneficiaries can be paid, you need to confirm the following:
- You have identified all of the beneficiaries
- You have checked to see if the Will/Intestacy needs to be varied
- You have paid all of the creditors and Expenses
- You have identified and understand the gifts described
- There is enough money to pay all of the beneficiaries their full share
- You have waited 6 months from the date of death before distributing the Assets
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.
Varying the terms of the Will?
Deed of Variation or Deed of Family Arrangement, do you need to know more? If so, please contact our experts here.
Giving out the specific bequests
Paying the pecuniary legacies
Making an interim distribution to the residuary beneficiaries
Executors must be satisfied that all debts, taxes and liabilities have been, or can be, settled before making any distributions. They can consider making small interim payments to the beneficiaries if they are confident there is enough funds to settle all debts due when trying up the Estate.
Paying the beneficiaries
Once the bequests have been given and any cash legacies paid, the remaining Assets can be distributed. This is the residue. You may prefer to talk to us directly and obtain more information about the correct practice for dealing with the residue.
Finalising the tax liabilities
Capital Gains Tax
Completing the estate accounts
What are 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.
Summary of the estate
Detailing of the Assets and Debts
Listing the Administration Expenses and specific gifts
Identifying income and capital payments
Calculating the final distribution
Do I really need Estate Accounts?
In short, Yes…
Personal representatives have statutory duties set out in section 25 of the Administration of Estates Act 1925 to:
- collect and get in the real and personal estate of the deceased and administer it according to law;
- when required to do so by the court exhibit on oath in the Court a full inventory of the estate and when so required render an account of the administration of the estate to the Court; …’
You have sworn to deliver accounts to the Court, if and when these may be required.
Distributing the Estate
Distributing the estate
- Did you notify all of the utilities when the house was sold / transferred and all the balances paid or refunded?
- Have you paid all of the Debts and Expenses?
- Have you recognised and collected in all of the Assets?
- Are all of the Assets now sold or transferred to the beneficiaries?
- Have you got clearance from HMRC for Income Tax, Capital Gains Tax (where applicable and Inheritance Tax?
- Are you happy you have identified all of the beneficiaries, you have their ID and you have carried out Bankruptcy searches?
- Have all of the beneficiaries and personal representatives approved the accounts?
- Have you waited 6 months from the date of death before distributing the estate?
Income Tax Certificates
Helping the beneficiaries
Final Administration Tasks
- Make sure you have all of the receipts from the beneficiaries.
- Close the Executor bank account – make sure there are no funds remaining before closing this.
- Tidy up your files and make sure all of your worksheets are complete and up-to-date. You need to keep all of the information for 12 years and you may find that you need to refer back to this from time to time.
Now you have an understanding of what is involved in administering an estate you may wish to look through your options again. We can help and support you as much, or as little, as you need.