Probate lawyers are urging the government to introduce reforms to make it easier for families to access the ‘digital assets’ of deceased relatives. A new report carried out by STEP – the professional body for inheritance planning advisers – highlights the extent of the distress caused by being cut off from digital assets when family members
What to Do When Someone Has Died
Unless we have been through it before, most of us don’t know what we are supposed to do from a legal point of view when someone close to us has died.
Talk to one of our friendly and experienced team on 01582 514000
Our Private Client department can assist you to make sure you are doing the right thing by the beneficiaries of the deceased’s estate and that you are complying with HMRC.
One of our experienced solicitors can guide you through the first steps when someone dies and answer any questions you may have. We have been in this situation many times and understand how difficult it can be to know what to do first.
What are the first steps when someone has died?
1. Register the death
The person arranging the funeral, the Executor/s or someone present at the death are all examples of people entitled to register the death. You will need to make an appointment at your local registry office and you will need to take the doctors medical certificate with you as well as basic information about the deceased. You can purchase as many copies of the death certificate as you want at the appointment. We recommend that you obtain several.
2. Arrange the funeral
After you have registered the death you will be given a form to pass on to your chosen funeral directors. You should make an appointment with the funeral directors to discuss your requirements and to set a date for the funeral service.
3. Locate the original will
If you believe the deceased made a will, then a physical search of the paperwork held by the deceased may reveal a copy or the original. If a copy is found, it will often contain a clue where the original might be found, such as the name of the firm of solicitors who drafted it. If a will is not found, it is worth contacting the local solicitors and will writers to see if they are holding a will for the deceased. It is possible to pay for a national search and in this respect, the following link may be useful. https://www.nationalwillregister.co.uk/aboutwillsearch.aspx
4. Seek legal advice
We suggest that at this stage you seek legal advice as the following issues will need to be addressed;
- If no will is found, the Intestacy Rules will need to be applied to work out who the beneficiaries are and who is entitled to deal with the estate.
- If a will has been found, it will name Executors who are the people entitled to deal with the estate. Advice may be required as to the interpretation of the will particularly if it contains trusts or names Executors or beneficiaries have predeceased the deceased, are missing or have lost mental capacity.
- If there is a disgruntled family member who may bring a claim, the Executors need to know the correct protocol to follow.
- If a Grant of Probate is required then an HMRC Inheritance Tax form needs to be completed. As the HMRC can (and do) fine individuals for failing to take proper care in completing tax forms, this is one area where expert advice is highly recommended. At Machins, we make sure you are claiming all possible tax exemptions available to the estate including post-death tax planning.
If you are an Executor or Personal Representative you will be responsible for;
- paying the deceased’s liabilities
- informing third parties of the death
- collecting in the assets (e.g closing bank accounts, transferring or selling property)
- paying the legacies to the beneficiaries
- completing IHT and Self Assessment tax forms for the deceased
- keeping estate accounts and making them available to the residuary beneficiaries
At Machins, we can give you peace of mind by advising you on what steps you should be taking and assisting you in taking them.
Related Resources (View more resources)
Presentation slides from the webinar ‘Understanding inheritance and property – how to avoid disputes and claims’ which took place on Wednesday 7th July 2021.
Learn why you should write a will with Edward Gill and Radha Chauhan.
Presentation slides from the webinar ‘Wills and inheritance tax planning – putting the right protection in place’ which took place on Wednesday 2nd June 2021