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Partner and Head of Family Law, Rugby
What do I do when someone dies?
Firstly, I am sorry that you are having to read this. Whether you have just lost a loved one or you are preparing for the worst, bereavement is a terrible thing to have to endure.
The most important things…
When dealing with a loved one passing away, there are some things which are time-sensitive and others which are not.
Your top priority should be registering the person’s death. This is usually done through the registry office most local to where the deceased passed away. Current Covid-19 restrictions have meant that appointments are now usually taking place by telephone, which can be a good thing if you live far away from the deceased. In normal times, you would have to travel to the registry office in person.
The next most important thing to do is deal with the person’s property, if they have one. Ensure that the property is secure and tell the insurer that the property is now unoccupied. This may have an effect on the premium payable, but if you don’t inform the insurer then there is a risk that the policy will be void. You will normally be obliged to check on the property at regular intervals (often every 14 days) to ensure it is still safe and secure.
The third thing to do is plan the funeral. Sometimes the person will have made a funeral plan which means that most or all of the service has already been planned and/or paid for. If there is no funeral plan in place then it is useful to review the Will (if there is one) as sometimes they contain an expression of funeral wishes.
If you think cost is going to be a real problem then you can approach your local authority to discuss the alternative options available for the funeral.
Some things are not time sensitive
Often people have no idea where to start in dealing with the estate administration. That is entirely understandable as it can be a long process.
The first thing to determine is whether or not the deceased held a Will. If you think they did, you can speak to local solicitors or Will writers to try and find out who drafted it. If you think they made a homemade Will then have a look in safe places in their residence.
If there is no Will then you should seek legal advice, as unfortunately in this situation the law determines both who can administer the estate, and also who the beneficiaries are.
The next thing to think about is whether a grant of representation is needed. To do this, you will need details of the deceased’s assets and liabilities at the date of their death.
Finally, you need to think about any inheritance tax which might be payable. This can be complex in some cases and so you might wish to seek professional advice on the potential tax liability and any reliefs that you can make use of.
If you would like advice on how to deal with an estate, or if you would like assistance in administering an estate, please call the Wills, Trusts and Probate team on 01788 557722 and we can arrange an appointment with a solicitor in either our Rugby, Banbury or Bicester office.