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What to do when someone dies

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For most people it will be their first time when dealing with an “estate”. This can be challenging particularly when presented with a range of legal terms and procedures at what can be an emotionally distressing time. So what should you do when faced with this situation?

  • Register the death: With the “Registrar of Deaths”. Use of the government’s “Tell us once” facility is an efficient way to communicate with a number of government departments.
  • Locate any Will: Usually with the deceased’s solicitor or bank or within their own papers. The Will appoints “executor(s)” to ensure the deceased wishes are observed, as stipulated in the Will. If there is no Will “administrators” are appointed by the Court and the “rules of intestacy” are followed (the law dictates who benefits, how and to what degree, for the estates where the deceased left no valid Will).
  • Arrange the funeral: Are there any specific wishes in this regard by the deceased?
  • Gather the details of the estate – Ascertain the value of any liabilities and assets (professional valuations for items over £500 are usually suggested, although this is not mandatory). Had the deceased made any gifts during their lifetime? These may need to be disclosed.
  • Make a return of capital assets to HMRC: Done by the executors (or administrators) and is required to for the purposes of Inheritance Tax (IHT). The government website ( can be helpful, particularly with completing the required documentation.
  • Apply for “Probate” (authority to act on behalf of the estate): Banks will usually arrange for the funeral account to be paid from the deceased’s account before probate. If there is any property left unoccupied, steps should be taken to ensure its security and insurance.
  • Obtain a “Grant of Probate”: When the Probate Court receives confirmation that any IHT has been paid this will be issued. Financial institutions may allow release of the deceased’s funds to pay any IHT due, but sometimes a loan may have to be arranged.
  • Register the Grant of Probate: With the holders of the deceased’s assets. For a small charge the Probate Court will issue certified copies of the Grant of Probate, which can prove very useful.
  • Settle liabilities.
  • Distribute assets: To the beneficiaries (sometimes called “legatees”) in accordance with provisions in the Will, where applicable and after making a reserve to cover any remaining costs and expenses. The executors or administrators should prepare a statement of account showing how they have dealt with the estate (any residuary beneficiaries are entitled to a copy of this) and obtain receipts from beneficiaries for the distributions made.

The above is only a basic sequence of events for relatively simple estates. For anything more complicated professional assistance is recommended to ensure the correct procedures are followed and the law adhered to.

Dying without a Will can mean unnecessary complications for your family at what can be a very stressful time. Furthermore, an estate is then allocated in accordance with the rules of intestacy, which may well not be what you wanted. Help your family now by getting your estate planning in good order; undertake regular reviews to ensure this will always be the case. In a future article I will explain why IHT is sometimes called a “voluntary” tax – good financial planning can eliminate potential IHT liabilities.

Author: Paul Newton FPFS, CertPFS (DM), STEP Affiliate, a Chartered Financial Planner for Castlegate Financial Management Limited, a firm of Independent Financial Advisers, authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). 8 Castlegate Grantham Lincolnshire. 01476 591022. Probate services are not regulated by the FCA.

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