When a loved one or friend passes away, there are a number of matters that need to be seen to during a difficult time. Administering an estate, dealing with HM Revenue & Customs, communicating and providing information to beneficiaries can be challenging. Some tasks need to be dealt with quickly whilst others can be carried out at a later date.

Initial steps

Register the death

If a doctor can confirm the cause of death then he or she will provide you with a medical certificate stating this. Within five days of the death you should take this with you to the local registrar to register the death. The registrar will then provide you with a certificate for burial or cremation, also known as the “green form”, so that you can arrange the funeral. The registrar will also issue a death certificate. Each financial institution where the deceased held assets will need to see a registrar’s certified copy death certificate and so you may need to get extra copies, for a small fee, depending on the number of assets.

If the cause of death is not clear, a post-mortem or inquest may be needed before a death certificate can be issued. A post-mortem is a medical examination to find out more about the cause of death. An inquest is a fact finding enquiry into the circumstances and medical cause of the death. Whilst an inquest is on-going, you can ask the coroner for an “interim certificate of the fact of death” so that you can begin to administer the estate. If the body is not needed for further examination the coroner may allow the funeral to take place in the meantime by issuing an “order for burial” or “certificate for cremation”. If you have any questions about the process the coroner will be happy to help you. After the inquest the coroner will contact the registrar to register the death.

Tell us once service

This is a free service that is offered by most local councils when you register the death. It allows you to notify the relevant government departments that the person has died including the DWP, the DVLA, the passport office and HMRC. This means that any state benefits received by the deceased, such as a state pension, are stopped. If the deceased had a passport or driving licence, then these will be cancelled. The local council is also informed so that they can make arrangements regarding council tax, council housing, electoral schemes, Blue Badge schemes and Freedom Passes.    

Arrange the Funeral

You should take the green form, order for burial or certificate for cremation to the funeral director when arranging the funeral. It is common to include funeral wishes in a will, and so it is advisable to check the deceased’s will to see if any instructions were left.

Securing the House

If the deceased owned or rented a property, you will need to ensure the property is secure and you may need to remove any valuable items. If no-one else will be living at the property, you will need to notify the building insurance providers to ensure the buildings insurance is not invalidated. If you are the executor or personal representative of the deceased and the property is not insured, you should arrange a suitable insurance policy to ensure that the estate does not suffer any loss.

Unfortunately it can be difficult to find insurance companies that will insure unoccupied property. If you have difficulty, please contact us and we can provide you with details of insurance brokers who may be able to arrange insurance for you.

Administering the Estate

After the death has been registered and the funeral arranged the executors named in the will should start to administer the estate.

Administering the estate may involve obtaining a Grant of Probate (where there is a will) or a Grant of Letters of Administration (where there is no will – also known as “intestacy”). As part of this process the executors or personal representatives will need to provide certain information to HM Revenue & Customs and are primarily responsible for paying any Inheritance Tax on the estate.

Who Does What?

The family will usually deal with registering the death and arranging the funeral. If there are no family members available, this will often be done by a friend or the deceased’s solicitor.

The executors (where there is a will) or beneficiaries (where there is no will) will deal with the administration of the estate. The executors will often instruct solicitors to help with the administration of the estate.

We are here to help

When someone dies, most people want the stresses of dealing with financial and administrative matters to be taken away by someone who is expert in how these processes work. The Wright Hassall team are probate experts and have supported families dealing with estate ranging from a couple of assets to multi-million pound portfolios.

We can help with:

  • Obtaining a Grant of Probate or Grant of Letters of Administration
  • Advising you on your duties and responsibilities as an executor
  • Helping you to deal with beneficiaries
  • Producing the necessary financial information
  • Assisting in completing the necessary Inheritance Tax forms.

We never lose sight that this is an emotional time for you, sometimes accompanies with financial worries. We are happy to meet with you to help you decide what support you need. You can choose how you would prefer to deal with us – we are happy to meet with you at our offices or at your home or alternatively we can discuss matters with you by telephone, in writing or by e-mail. If you would like our Estate Administration Questionnaire (setting out the information we need to deal with the administration of the estate) please contact a member of our team.

About the authors

Rachael Kell Associate, Probate Manager

Rachael deals with the administration of individuals' estates acting on behalf of private executors or Wright Hassall as executor, or on behalf of administrators for intestate estates.

Rachel Collett Legal Executive

Rachel works in the wills, trusts and tax team and deals with estate administration on both taxable and non-taxable estates. She also deals with registration of powers of attorney.