I am often asked the question ‘What do my Executors need to do when I die?’
The first step is that someone must register the death. The Registrar will then provide copies of the Death Certificate. I would advise asking for a few copies (5 or 6 at least).
The funeral must also be organised. Some people pay for a funeral plan in advance. So, it is a good idea to check with their Solicitor or look through their important papers to see if this has been done.
A lot of organisations need to be informed of a death. The ‘Tell Us Once’ service is an excellent way of dealing with this. By filling in a short form either on paper on online, you can inform HMRC, the Passport Office, the Pensions Office and DVLA of the death. The local council is also informed so that Council Tax and Housing Benefit may be cancelled and the deceased’s name removed from the electoral role.
If the deceased left a Will, the estate will be much easier to deal with. The Executor(s) will need to identify the beneficiaries and also work out the value of the estate and, if applicable, pay Inheritance Tax that is due. If there is no Will, an ‘Administrator’ may need to be appointed, which is usually a relative.
In some cases, particularly if the estate is relatively small (usually worth less than £5,000) and contains no shares or property, there may be no need to apply for a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration. If you are not sure, take legal advice.
Applying for a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration can be obtained within a few months. The Executor/Administrator can then pay any debts of the deceased, access and close bank accounts, sell property and other assets and then distribute the estate among the beneficiaries according to the terms of the Will.
Of course, there are sometimes complications or a Will may be contested. If there are problems, it is crucial to seek legal advice as soon as possible.
What if you believe you are a beneficiary and you have not received something? Once a Grant of Probate has been granted, you can obtain a copy of the Grant and Will from the Probate Registry.
If the Executors/Administrators take a long time to deal with the estate, you may be able to take action to force them to deal with the matter quickly and provide you with an account of the estate.
As I mention above, if there is no Will, matters are likely to be more complicated as the estate will need to be dealt with according to the rules of intestacy.