What to do when someone dies
Feeling confused and alone is natural when losing someone close to you, but sometimes these feelings are exacerbated when it comes to sorting out a loved one’s estate. A Will is such an important, powerful, document which can make the estate administration of the deceased a much smoother, less complex process. Unfortunately however, many people pass away without having a Will, or indeed an up to date Will, (i.e. circumstances may have since changed; marriage, their family extends to include more children, or is reduced due to death or divorce).
What to do when someone dies without a Will (Intestate)
Unfortunately it is a very easy position to leave your loved ones in, no matter how unintentional. A Will is often something on the end of an ever growing ‘To-Do’ list, and as nobody has a crystal ball it is unlikely you will ever know when a Will may be required, which is why a Will should be revisited every couple of years, or as your circumstances change.
If a person dies without a Will, they are deemed to have died intestate, and the estate is therefore administered as per the Intestacy Rules. Family members can often be left to go through a minefield of documents ascertaining information about the deceased’s estate and tracing distant family members. It is important to know that who you consider to be your family is not guaranteed to inherit your estate if you leave no Will or an invalid Will.
For those families dealing with an intestacy, a talk with a local Solicitor is crucial. The person with the responsibility of acting, and indeed inheriting, may be a distant relative.
What to do when someone dies with a Will (Testate)
Wills can be stored anywhere that the client believes to be safe (often found with personal belongings or held by their Solicitor or bank (which should be free)).
It is commonplace for a family member or close friend to have been asked to be the executor (the person who they wish to take responsibility for carrying out instructions) in which case they may know where it is stored.
When found, and established that it is legally binding, the wishes within the Will are carried out by the executor who is responsible for registering the death, arranging the funeral, sorting out the property, possessions, investments, and payment of debts and liabilities. Please take a look at our helpful factsheet for a list of everyone who should be contacted.
The executor is required to contact organisations connected with the estate in order to ascertain the total estate value; property and possessions valuation, outstanding bills and loans, total of monetary assets (savings/ investments/ pensions). Once they have collated this information, they will then need to apply for Grant of Representation (should the estate require this to realise and distribute the estate).
If inheritance tax is payable, the first instalment of tax is paid by the end of the sixth month after the person has died.
Many people prefer to instruct a Solicitor to deal with the estate administration and/or simply obtain the Grant of Representation, nonetheless, an Executor can make a personal application if they feel able and confident to do so.
If the entire estate does not exceed £15-25,000 it may be that a Grant of Representation is not required and the Small Estates process can be used to administer the estate.
If a Grant of Representation is required, then once this has been obtained the Grant will allow executors/administrators or the solicitor acting on their behalf to release the assets and deal with any sale/transfer of property or land, and settle the debts of the estate. A process which can be made longer if being disputed e.g. someone feeling unfairly left out.
Once the assets have been collected in and/or sold and all debts, liabilities and tax has been paid, the estate accounts (a record of the assets collected, interest earned, liabilities paid and the distribution account) will be prepared and approved by the Executors, and, residuary beneficiaries before distribution.
The process can sometimes take longer than otherwise expected and can be very confusing and daunting to someone who has never been an executor/administrator particularly at such an emotional time. For this reason a Solicitor can help.
If you have any questions about what to do when someone dies, please do not hesitate to contact us. Jeffrey Mills Solicitors can help and guide you through the necessary processes.