Losing a loved one is incredibly difficult. To try to ease the burden, we set out a guide to some of the practical steps you may need to take when someone dies. From registering the death, to dealing with property and possessions.

1. Registering the death

When someone dies, a doctor issues a death certificate. The death must then be recorded on the Register for Births, Deaths and Marriages. This must be done within five days of the date of the death. You can find your local register office online.

In most cases, a relative should register the death. However, there are situations where this will not be possible. Therefore, there are options such as someone present at the death or, if the death was in a hospital, an official from the hospital.

The Registrar will give you various documents:

  • Death certificate: You may need several copies of this to send out when giving notice of death to banks etc.
  • Certificate for burial or cremation: you will need to give this to the funeral director.
  • Form relating to social security benefits: You will need to complete this to let the DWP Bereavement Service know about the death.

Some councils offer a “Tell us once” service. This is a way of letting various government departments know that someone has died by just contacting them once. If this is available in your area, the registrar will speak to you about this.

2. Finding the will

You do not need to find the will before the funeral. However, the person who has died may have set out their wishes for the funeral in their will.

The will may be with the person’s important papers at their home, or with the person’s solicitor or bank. If you do not find a copy, a solicitor will be able to help you by carrying out various searches.

Only the executors of the will have the right to see it. So, if you are not an executor and the will is with a solicitor or bank, they will not be able to give you a copy. They will, however, be able to tell you who the executors are so that you can let them know. The solicitors will also be able to tell you whether the will says anything about the kind of funeral the person wanted.

3. Planning the funeral

Many people leave notes in or with their will, setting out the type of funeral they would like. You are not obliged to follow these wishes, but family and friends usually prefer to do so. Once this decision has been made, you can give the certificate for burial or cremation to the funeral director, who will then guide you through the process.

Who pays for the funeral?

Ordinarily, the person arranging the funeral is responsible for paying for it. Ultimately, you will be able to reimburse yourself from the estate of the person who has died (if there is enough money to cover such funeral expenses). It is also worth looking through the papers of the person who has died to see if they had a pre-paid funeral plan.

4. Telling people about the death

You will need to contact several people about the death. These include:

  • Banks and building societies
  • Employer
  • DVLA (although this may be dealt with if you use the “Tell us once” service)
  • Passport office (again, this will be dealt with if you use the “Tell us once” service)
  • Utility and service providers.

5. Solicitors

You may wish to consider instructing a solicitor to assist with the next stages.

Where the person who has died left a will:

Executors will have been appointed in the will. They do not necessarily need to instruct a solicitor to assist in dealing with the estate. They can do this themselves if the will is well drafted and the property passing under it is straightforward. However, it is worth noting that even the simplest estate can take a considerable time to deal with.

Where the person who has died has not left a will:

In this case, it is advisable for one or more of the person’s closest relatives (e.g. spouse, parent, sibling or child) to contact a solicitor. As explained above, a solicitor will be able to conduct searches to find a will. They will also explain what to do if the person is intestate (has not made a will).

6. Gathering information and documents

The people responsible for the administration of the estate are known as the Personal Representatives. These are the Executors named in the will, or Administrators if the person died intestate. The first job for the Personal Representatives (and solicitors if instructed) is to collate as much information and documentation as possible in relation to the person’s property, assets and debts.

7. Applying for probate or letters of administration

The Personal Representatives may need to apply for probate (or letters of administration if there was no will). This will give them the right to deal with the estate of the person that died.

8. Administering the estate

The process of dealing with the property and assets of the person who died is known as administering the estate. This involves collecting in all of the assets including the money from any bank accounts or other savings and dealing with the sale or otherwise of any property; and then distributing the assets in accordance with the will or the rules of intestacy if there was no will.

At Levi Solicitors LLP, our friendly team are experienced in dealing with estates of all sizes and complexities. We will be as involved as you need us to be. Whether that’s to only apply for probate, deal with everything for you, or anything in between. We will discuss your requirements with you and put together a fixed fee for our services so that you know exactly where you (and the estate) stands.

Contact us for a free initial discussion to see how we can help you.