When the worst happens to a loved one, it can be a deeply emotional time and challenging to comprehend what to do next. Makemweawill.com have compiled this guide to provide an overview of key aspects that you may wish to take into consideration. It’s worth bearing in mind that everyone’s personal circumstances are slightly different but we hope this provides you with a starting point at what is undoubtedly a very difficult time.
The immediate arrangements:
There are a number of formalities that will need to be promptly dealt with;
- Obtain a death certificate – A GP or a hospital will be able to provide this and you need one to register the death
- Register the death – This should be completed within 5 days of the death and will enable you to then obtain the required documents for the funeral
- Arrange the funeral – You may choose to use the services of a funeral director or make the arrangements yourself
In the circumstances where the death has been reported to a Coroner, you cannot register the death until the coroner gives permission. You can go to any register office but if you use the one in the area where the person died, you’ll be given the documents you’ll need on the day. You can register the death if you’re a relative, someone present at the death, an administrator from the hospital or the person making the arrangements with the funeral directors.
What do you need to do to register the death:
You need to take the medical certificate showing the cause of death (signed by a doctor) with you. If available (but don’t worry if not) also take the persons:
- Birth certificate
- Council tax bill
- Driving licence
- Marriage of civil partnership certificate
- NHS medical card
- Proof of address (utility bill)
You’ll need to tell the registrar:
- The persons full name at the time of death
- Any names previously used eg maiden name
- The persons date and place of birth
- Their last address
- Their occupation
- The full name, date of birth and occupation of a surviving or late spouse or civil partner
- Whether they were getting a state pension or any benefits
You should also take supporting documents that show your name and address (e.g. a utility bill) but you can still register a death without them.
Documents you’ll get:
When you register a death, you’ll receive:
- A certificate for Burial or Cremation (the ‘green form’) which gives permission for burial or an application for cremetion
- A Certificate of Registration of Death (form BD8). You may need to fill this out and return it if the person was getting a state pension or benefits (the form will come with a pre-paid envelope so you know where to send it)
Most councils run a service called Tell Us Once. This reports a death to most government organisations in one go. The registrar will explain your options for using Tell Us Once and gives you a unique reference number to use the service. Tell Us Once will notify:
- HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to deal with tax and cancel benefits
- Department of Work & Pensions (DWP) to cancel benefits
- Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) to cancel a driving licence
- Passport Office to cancel a passport
- The Local Council to cancel housing benefit, council tax benefit, inform council housing services and remove the person from the electoral register
Arrange the Funeral:
Funeral Directors should list all costs in their quote which may include Funeral Director fees, 3rd party costs (i.e. crematorium or cemetery fees), local authority burial fees etc.The funeral can be paid;From a financial plan the person had e.g. a Guaranteed Funeral Plan or Insurance Policy
- Probate & Letters of Administration
- From money from the persons estate (e.g. savings). Getting access to this is called applying for a Grant of Representation, also often called applying for Probate from the Probate Registry).
- By you or other family members or friends
Paying for a funeral:
The funeral can usually only take place after the death has been registered. If you choose to use a Funeral Director, it’s worth obtaining more than one quote to compare costs. You should choose a Funeral Director who is a member of an industry body such as the National Federation of Funeral Directors (NFFD) who have codes of practice they must abide by. Some local councils may run their own funeral services and The British Humanist Association can also help with non-religious funerals.
Probate & Letters of Administration
If you are named in someone’s Will as an Executor, you probably have to apply for Probate. This is a legal document which gives you the authority to share out the estate of the person who has died according to the instructions in the Will. You do not always need Probate to be able to deal with the estate.
In some circumstances, someone who wants to deal with the estate of someone who has died will have to apply for Letters of Administration, rather than Probate. This person is called an Administrator.
You have to apply for Letters of Administration if:
- there is no Will
- a Will is not valid
- there are no Executors named in the Will
- the Executors cannot or are unwilling to act
- If there is no valid Will, and you are the next-of-kin, you can apply to be an Administrator in a strict order of priority:
- – the person who died left all of their estate to you in the Will, and if the Executors are not named, or cannot or are unwilling to act.
There are strict rules about who can be an Administrator. If there is a valid Will, you can apply for Letters of Administration if:
- you are the married partner or civil partner of the person who has died
- you are the child of the person who has died
- you are the grandchild of the person who has died
- you are the parent of the person who has died
- you are the brother or sister of the person who has died
- you are the nephew or niece of the person who has died
- you are another relative of the person who has died.
An unmarried partner, or same-sex partner who has not registered a civil partnership and who has not been named in a Will as an Executor will not usually be able to act as an Administrator.
Do you always need Probate or Letters of Administration?
You usually need Probate or Letters of Administration to deal with an estate if it includes property such as a flat or a house. Some Estates may be classed as ‘exempt’ and you can check the criteria here:
The time to get Probate or Letters of Administration varies according to the circumstances. It may only take three to five weeks if there are no complications or errors within the submitted information. However, in more complicated cases, it may take much longer.
Couples may jointly own their home. There are two different ways of jointly owning a home. These are beneficial joint tenancies and tenancies in common.
If the partners were beneficial joint tenants at the time of the death, the surviving partner will automatically inherit the other partner’s share of the property. There is no need for Probate or Letters of Administration unless there are other assets that are not jointly owned.
However, if the partners are tenants in common, the surviving partner does not automatically inherit the other person’s share. Probate or Letters of Administration will be needed so the personal representative can pass it to whoever will inherit the share of the property, according to the Will or the rules of intestacy. The property might also have a mortgage.
If there is a mortgage on the property
If the property is to be inherited by someone and there is still an outstanding mortgage on it, the mortgage company will either require the mortgage to be paid immediately, or ask the person who inherits the property to take over the mortgage.
If there is a mortgage on the property, there might be a life insurance policy, an endowment policy, or mortgage protection policy which will pay the outstanding mortgage if the person with the mortgage dies. In this case, you should write to the Provider, asking for a final statement. If the property is to be sold, the mortgage will be paid out of the sale of the property.
Joint Bank Accounts
Couples may also have joint bank or building society accounts. If one dies, all the money will go to the surviving partner without the need for Probate or Letters of Administration. The bank may need to see the death certificate in order to transfer the money to the other joint owner.
Probate or Letters of Administration may still be needed if there are other assets that are not jointly owned.
The estate may be made up of a relatively small amount of money held:
– in a bank or building society account
– in a pension fund
– by an insurance company.
If, after the Funeral expenses have been paid, the amount of money held by the organisation is under a certain amount, they might be prepared to release it to you without you having to apply for Probate or Letters of Administration. This certain amount may vary from one organisation to another, so you will need to check with each one.
Some banks and building societies will release quite large amounts without the need for Probate or Letters of Administration. Also some banks and building societies will release money needed to pay for a Funeral, Probate fees and inheritance tax but nothing else until you have been granted Probate or Letters of Administration.
This depends entirely on the policy of the organisation in question. They do not have to release anything, however small the amount of money. If the organisation refuses to release money without Probate or Letters of Administration, you must apply for Probate or Letters of Administration even if it is not otherwise needed.
Do you need a solicitor?
Many Executors and Administrators act without a Solicitor. However, if the estate is complicated, it is best to get legal advice which will be for a Fee. These legal fees can be paid for from the estate. You should always get legal advice if, for example:
– the terms of a Will are not clear
– part of the estate is to pass to children under the age of 18
– the person who died has left money or property in a Trust
– the person who died owned land or property abroad
– the person who died owned a business
– anyone is likely to dispute the Will.
If there are any problems with the way that Executors or Administrators deal with the estate, for example, if there is unreasonable delay or if the Executors or Administrators misuse their legal powers, you will need legal advice.
How to apply for Probate or Letters of Administration
To apply for Probate or Letters of Administration, you need to fill in a number of Forms. You always need to fill in form PA1. This form asks for details about the person who has died, their surviving relatives, the personal representative and some details about the Will, if there is one.
You will also need to fill in other Forms depending on what is in the estate and how much it is worth. You can get an application pack from any local Probate Registry or by telephoning the HMRC Probate and Inheritance Tax Helpline on 0845 302 0900. You can get contact details of the nearest Probate Registry from the helpline number or on the HM Courts and Tribunals Service website at www.hmcourts-service.gov.uk.
The Forms and Leaflets are also available on the internet. PA1 can be found on HM Courts and Tribunals Service website at www.hmcourts-service.gov.uk. Other Forms are available from HMRC website at www.hmrc.gov.uk.
You will have to go for an interview at a Probate Registry when you have sent in the Forms, so return the Forms to the Probate Registry where you would like to go for the interview. With the Forms, you also have to send:
– the original Will (if there is one)
– the Death Certificate
Make sure you keep copies of the Forms you have filled in.
The Probate Fee
The Fee for applying for Probate or Letters of Administration depends on the value of the estate. There is no Fee where the value of the estate is less than £5,000. The Fee for an estate valued at £5,000 or more is £105. You can apply to pay a reduced Fee, or no Fee, if you are on a low income or face financial hardship. Apply on Form EX160 which you can get from the website of Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service. Go to www.hmcourts-service.gov.uk.
Going to the interview at the Probate Registry
When they have checked your Forms, the Probate Registry will contact you, giving a date and time when you have to go for an interview at the Probate Registry.
You need to take all relevant documents and letters with you, for example, bank books, share certificates and details of any debts of the person who has died. You also need to take comprehensive proof of your identity and address with you, for example, your passport or driving licence.
The Probate Registry will have transferred all the details onto the official legal papers by the time of the interview. You should read these very carefully and check all the details. You are legally responsible for making sure the documents are correct and you have to confirm on Oath that the details are accurate.
If it is inconvenient for you to go to a Probate Registry you may be able to confirm the Oath at a local Solicitor’s office that offers a ‘Commissioner for Oaths’ Service. There will be a charge for this. If you want to do this you should write ‘Solicitor’s office’ in the box labelled ‘interview venue’ on the PA1 form. This option is not available in all cases.
Whether or not Probate or Letters of Administration is needed, you have to inform HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) of the death, in case inheritance tax is payable.
Inheritance tax may have to be paid if the estate is valued at more than £325,000. There are some exceptions to this rule, for example, if the husband, wife or civil partner inherits the estate.
If inheritance tax has to be paid, some of the tax must be paid before Probate or Letters of Administration is granted – not sent to you. Once Probate or Letters of Administration has been has been granted, the final tax bill will be sorted out.
After Probate or Letters of Administration has been granted
After the interview, you will get a letter saying how much inheritance tax is still left to pay. Once this has been paid, Probate or Letters of Administration will be sent to you in the post. It includes details of the gross and net estate, that is, the value of the estate before and after debts have been deducted.
A photocopy of the Will, stamped to prove it is an official copy, is also sent. Both the Probate/Letters of Administration and the Will are public documents and can be examined by anyone who wants to see them. Always ask for enough copies to send to the various organisations to collect the assets.
Once you have got Probate or Letters of Administration, you can begin to deal with the estate and share out the property following the details in the most recent Will.
Beneficial Trust & Will Co – Estate Administration Services
Beneficial Trust & Will Co, our founding organisation, can provide assistance and guidance on what to do when someone dies. At such a difficult time it can be overwhelming for those that are left behind to deal with the legal processes that need to be conducted in order to settle the deceased’s estate.
You can expect to receive comprehensive support from Beneficial Trust & Will Co regarding;
– Establishing the existence and validity of a will
– Requirements for statutory notices and the Probate process
– Collecting and collating the deceased assets
– Paying off the deceased persons debts and liabilities
– Establishing beneficiaries and inheritance rights
– Distribution of property and assets to the correct beneficiaries at the correct time
– Estate accounts (including tax calculations).
The BTWC Ltd full Estate Administration service is available at a minimum fee of £1000 (ex VAT & disbursements) for estates of less than £100k or 1.25% of the gross value of the estate (ex VAT & disbursements). All legal services are conducted by our SRA regulated and fully approved legal partners.