Who do I notify first when somebody dies?
When someone dies it can be a very difficult and confusing time and you cannot be expected to do everything right away.
In the first five days it is important that you do the following:
- Notify the deceased’s family Doctor.
- Contact a Funeral Director to commence funeral arrangements (you will need to check any Will for any special requests or Pre-Paid Funeral arrangements which may have already been made).
- Register the death at The Registry Office. This page will tell you where you need to register a death in Hampshire and Southampton.
- advise any departments who may have been making payments to the deceased, such as Tax Credits, benefits, pensions etc. Use the Tell Us Once Service/
As soon as possible you should:
- Contact the Executors of any Will to enable them to start the process of obtaining Probate. Call me if you want economical professional help.
- If there is no Will the you should decide who will apply to sort out the deceased’s affairs and apply for Letters of Administration. The closest relatives are normally entitled to act.
You will also need to contact relatives and people close to the deceased for a full list of who to contact go to http://www.direct.gov.uk/ select Government Citizens and Rights – then Death and Bereavement and What to Do After A Death.
If the person who has died leaves a will.
In this case one or more ‘executors’ may be named in the will to deal with the person’s affairs after their death. The executor applies for a ‘grant of probate’ from a section of the court knows as the probate registry. The grant is a legal document which confirms that the executor has the authority to deal with the deceased person’s assets (property, money and possessions). They can use it to show they have the right to access funds, sort out finances, and collect and share out the deceased person’s assets as set out in the will.
If the person who has died didn’t leave a will
If there is no will, a close relative of the deceased can apply to the probate registry to deal with the estate. In this case they apply for a ‘grant of letters of administration’. If the grant is given, they are known as ‘administrators’ of the estate. Like the grant of probate, the grant of letters of administration is a legal document which confirms the administrator’s authority to deal with the deceased person’s assets.
If someone dies without making a will, they are said to have died ‘intestate’. If this happens, the law sets out who should deal with the deceased’s affairs and who should inherit their estate (property, personal possessions and money). This information covers England and Wales only.
When someone dies without leaving a will, dealing with their estate can be complicated. It can also take a long time – months or even years in some very complex cases.
Who can deal with the deceased person’s estate?
Usually a close relative like a spouse, child or parent will have the legal right to sort out the estate of the person who has died.
Applying for a Grant of Letters of Administration
In order to be able to administer someone’s estate you normally need to apply to the Probate Registry for a ‘Grant of Letters of Administration’.
On receipt of the grant you become the ‘administrator’ of the estate. The grant provides proof to banks, building societies and other organisations that you have authority to access and distribute funds that were held in the deceased’s name. The overall process is often referred to as ‘obtaining probate’, though technically this term applies where there was a will.
These grants appoint people known as “Personal Representatives “ to administer the deceased persons estate.
When a grant is needed
A grant is almost always needed when the person who dies leaves one or more of the following:
- stocks or shares
- certain insurance policies
- property or land held in their own name or as ‘tenants in common’
In most cases above, the bank or relevant institution will need to see the grant before transferring control of the assets. However if the estate is small some organisations, such as insurance companies and building societies, may release the money to you at their discretion.)
When a grant may not be needed
If the deceased’s estate is below £5,000, and doesn’t contain any land, property or shares, then it may be possible to deal with it without obtaining a grant. Also, a grant might not be needed if the whole of the estate is held in joint names and passes automatically to the surviving joint owner.
In some cases, for example, where the person who benefits is a child, the law states that more than one person must act as the administrator.
To establish whether the assets can be obtained without a grant, the executor or administrator would need to write to each institution informing them of the death and enclosing a photocopy of the death certificate (and will if there is one).
The personal representative won’t be granted probate until some or all of any Inheritance Tax that is due on the estate has been paid.
Applies to England and Wales.
If the person who died lived in Scotland you must apply for a ‘grant of confirmation’