When someone dies, the decisions to be made and the action to be taken can be confusing. Dealing with the loss of a relative or a friend can be a difficult time and most people are unsure what action to take.
At Williamsons we are here to help and give advice to anyone who requires our assistance. Read our more frequently asked questions below and get in touch today to see how we can help.
Registering the death
It is important to register the death at a Registry office within five days of the death. Therefore we recommend that you telephone the local Registry office to make an appointment as soon as possible.
Once the registrar is satisfied with all of the information provided, the person registering the death will be given the opportunity to review the information entered by the registrar before signing the register. The person registering the death will then be given copies of the death certificate and all the documentation required to complete funeral arrangements.
If the deceased had any assets of particular value, for example a house, it is advisable to ensure that such assets are secure. If a house is unoccupied it is important to ensure that it remains insured and therefore you should notify the insurance company of the death as soon as possible. The insurance company may place extra conditions on the policy (for example the property may have to be inspected once a week). It is important to check what the conditions are and ensure that they are followed. It may also be necessary to consider removing items of particular value and placing them somewhere safe until the estate can be administered.
Before any action is taken in respect of the administration of the estate of the deceased it is important to establish who has the legal right to administer the estate. If the deceased left a valid Will, the Will usually states who is to act as Executor. In such circumstances the Executors named in the Will have the legal authority to administer the estate. If the people named do not wish to administer the estate or it would be inconvenient for them to do so alternative arrangements can be made. In addition, it is important to establish whether or not a valid Will has been left, as the Will determines how the deceased’s assets are to be distributed. If a valid Will has been left, the people who administer the estate have a legal duty to follow the terms of the Will. If the deceased did not leave a valid Will the legal rules known as the Intestacy Rules will decide who is responsible for administering the deceased’s estate and how the deceased’s assets are to be distributed. It is possible for the deceased to leave a valid Will that does not appoint an Executor (for example if the Executor named in the Will has died). There are legal rules that decide who is to be appointed when this happens. In such circumstances the person administering the estate will be known as the Administrator (not an Executor). The general term for someone entitled to deal with the administration of the deceased’s estate (either as an Executor or Administrator) is the Personal Representative. There are numerous legal requirements which must be fulfilled for a Will to be valid. The legal rules which determine who is responsible for administering the estate, if there is no valid appointment by Will, this can be complex. Therefore if advice is required in this respect we would recommend that you make an appointment with us to discuss matters further.
When arranging a funeral it is advisable to establish whether or not the deceased left a Will first. If they did, it is common for such a document to include requests for their funeral arrangements.
Please note that if you instruct a funeral director to arrange the funeral you will be responsible for paying their costs. It is therefore important to establish whether the deceased left sufficient funds to pay the funeral director’s bill before arrangements are made. Some people pay money into certain schemes or pay for their funeral in advance so this should be checked.
If the deceased has insufficient funds to meet the costs of the funeral the local council or health authority will sometimes contribute. In addition it may be possible to obtain some assistance in the form of a Social Fund Funeral Payment. However if arrangements are made with a funeral director before funding is checked it should be noted that ultimately the funeral director will require payment to be made by the person who arranged the funeral.
If the deceased left money in their bank accounts most banks will release money to pay for the funeral upon receipt of a copy of the death certificate and the funeral directors bill.
If you are the person legally entitled to administer the estate (either as an Executor or an Administrator), you may need to obtain a Grant of Representation before you can begin to deal with the financial affairs of the deceased.
The Grant of Representation is the document issued by the Probate Registry to the person legally entitled to deal with the administration of the estate of the deceased. It is not always necessary to obtain a Grant of Representation. Whether or not one is required will depend upon the value of the assets of the deceased and whether or not assets were owned jointly with another person as joint tenants. If advice is required as to whether or not a Grant of Representation is required please contact us for assistance.
The Grant of Representation is the general term used to describe the different types of grant which can be issued by the Probate Registry. The 3 specific types of grant which can be issued are;
- Grant of Probate – this is issued when the person applying to the Probate Registry is named as an executor in the Will of the deceased
- Grant of Letters of Administration (with Will annexed) – this is issued when the deceased left a valid Will but the Executors named in the Will cannot or do not wish to act
- Grant of Letters of Administration – this is issued when the deceased did not leave a valid Will.
The administration of an estate can be a daunting task. It is not always necessary to use a Solicitor but we would recommend that you at least make initial enquiries with us to ensure that matters are dealt with correctly.
Williamsons offer a free initial appointment. During the appointment we can provide you with general advice as to the matters which will have to be dealt with. Thereafter you will be able to make a decision as to whether or not you consider it necessary to appoint Williamsons to assist you through the process.