The death of a loved one is an extremely difficult time. In addition to coping with your grief, there are many practical arrangements that need to be made and, without specialist guidance and support, the situation can easily feel overwhelming.

In this blog, our experienced Estate Administration lawyers set out what you need to do when someone dies and explain how a solicitor can help.

  1. Step one: Registering the death.

After someone has died, the first thing you must do is register the death. This must be done in person by a close relative of the deceased at the local register office in the borough where the person died.

Deaths must usually be registered within five days of the person’s passing, and you must take certain documentation with you to the appointment.

Once you have registered the death, the registrar will provide you with a death certificate and a certificate for cremation or burial, which you will need to show to various other parties when undertaking the estate administration process.

  • Step two: Informing the relevant authorities.

As well as letting the deceased’s friends, family, work colleagues and other personal acquaintances know, you also need to tell the government about the death.

The government runs a service called Tell Us Once, which lets you report a death to most government organisations in one go. These include HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), the Passport Office, and the deceased person’s local council.

You can use Tell Us Once if the person who died was living in England, Scotland, or Wales, including if they died while they were temporarily abroad, for example, on a holiday or business trip.

The registrar you spoke to when registering the death will give you a unique reference number to use the service and you will need to provide various personal details of the deceased, such as their date of death, National Insurance number and the name and address of their next of kin.

You will also have to inform other institutions such as banks, insurance companies, mortgage providers and utility providers about the death.

  • Step three: Locating the deceased’s Will.

A Will is an important legal document that sets out what should happen to someone’s money, property and possessions after their death. It also appoints an executor, who is the individual with the legal authority to administer the estate.

If there is no Will, an administrator will be appointed to administer the estate following the rules of intestacy.

Finding a Will can be difficult. Many people update their Will throughout their lifetime, often without telling anyone or leaving specific directions as to where the most up-to-date version is stored.

Getting in touch with the deceased’s solicitor is often a good first port of call. It is always advisable to use a legal professional to write a Will, as this ensures it is properly drafted to accurately reflect your wishes. Solicitors also securely store Wills for their clients.

  • Step four: Arranging the funeral.

The deceased might have included details about what they would like to happen at their funeral in their Will, which can help you make the necessary arrangements.

If the deceased has left a Will, the executor named in the Will must apply for a grant of probate to administer the estate. 

In cases where there is no Will, an administrator must apply for a grant of letters of administration, which is essentially the same as a grant of probate and gives the legal authority for estate administration.

Executors and administrators are collectively known as personal representatives (PRs).

Probate is the legal right to deal with any money, property, and possessions the deceased had at the time of their death.

It is not always required. For example, if all the property and bank accounts of the person who has died were held jointly with someone who is still living, such as a spouse or civil partner, or if the value of an estate is small (usually under £5,000), it may not be necessary.

However, probate can be complicated and often requires significant time and paperwork. Enlisting the help of an experienced probate solicitor can help.

At Larcomes, our specialist Wills and probate solicitors will guide you through what is involved, drawing on our experience to ensure nothing is overlooked.

Common mistakes involved in probate can include misinterpreting a Will, distributing assets too soon, and valuation mistakes.

Personal representatives can be financially liable for any errors made while administering an estate, so it is crucial to get it right.

To speak with one of our Wills and Probate team please give us a call on 023 9244 8100 or make an online enquiry.

  • Step 6. Administering the estate.

PRs will usually receive a grant of probate or letters of administration giving them the right to administer the estate within 16 weeks of the Probate Registry receiving the application.

The tasks involved in estate administration vary in each case according to the specific assets and their value involved, but usually include preparing Inheritance Tax (IHT) forms, closing bank accounts, selling property, settling debts, and distributing assets among the relevant beneficiaries. 

Estate Administration Solicitors Portsmouth

At Larcomes, we have extensive experience in Wills, probate, and asset management, and our specialist solicitors can advise on all aspects of estate administration.

We also have the expertise to deal with high-value assets including issues such as inheritance tax and trusts.

We are also fully accredited members of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP), a global professional body, comprising lawyers, accountants, trustees and other practitioners that help families plan for their futures and are dedicated to maintaining the highest professional values.

As members of STEP, we adhere to the STEP Code for Will Preparation in England and Wales, a set of ethical principles that demonstrate openly the standard of transparency and service you can expect from a STEP member.

For legal advice from one of our specialist Estate Administration lawyers, please call 023 9224 6666 or make an online enquiry.

Please note that this article is not intended to be legal or professional advice. It is for general guidance only, and updates to the law may have changed since it was published.