After the death of a loved one, dealing with the legalities and finances of an estate can feel a little overwhelming. Luckily some services and resources do exist to make tying up loose ends a bit simpler. Here are a few of the key steps, plus some tips to help along the way:
Register the death
It’s a legal requirement for a death to be registered within 5 days (8 days in Scotland) unless there’s an inquest which delays matters. To do this you will need to contact the Registrar of Births and Deaths. They will provide a death certificate (copies are around £11 each) and you’ll need this to notify any financial institutions. You may need more than one certificate depending on how many companies you’re dealing with, although some do accept scanned or certified copies. You can find details of your local Registrar’s office at www.gov.uk/register-offices
Check the National Will Register
If a family member dies and you are unaware if they had a will, or if it is the latest version, you can check by contacting the National Will Register www.nationalwillregister.co.uk
Will you need to pay inheritance tax?
The estate would usually be exempt if it’s under the £325,000 threshold, or if everything over the threshold was left to a spouse, civil partner or charity. There are other caveats, so it’s best to refer to Government advice here if you think it will affect you.
Bank statements can reveal useful information
You’ll want to understand what needs dealing with after someone has died (and how big the estate is for inheritance tax reasons). As well as checking filing for letters and bills it could also be worthwhile looking at bank statements over the last few months.
Doing this will help you to identify payments made to companies like creditors, utilities or investments which will need to be contacted. But with people increasingly managing their lives online, the services listed below could prove useful too.
Apply for probate or appoint a specialist to handle it
The legal right to deal with someone’s property, possessions and money after they die, is called probate. If the person left a will, you can apply for a grant of probate, or if they didn’t leave a will, you’d apply for a letter of administration.
Probate isn’t always needed. For example, anything jointly owned will pass automatically to the surviving owners. Or if the deceased only held savings or premium bonds, then again it might not be necessary. Every organisation has its own rules around probate so it’s best to check. Find a useful Government guide on applying for probate, including who can apply here: www.gov.uk/applying-for-probate/apply-for-probate
Death Notification Service
More people in the UK could benefit from the free and publicly available Death Notification Service. Its online portal: www.deathnotificationservice.co.uk/ allows you to notify the vast majority of UK banks and building societies (financial institutions) of a person's death, at the same time, and can eliminate hours of painful phone conversations. Plus the service is starting to cover other areas like insurance providers and utilities (but this isn’t comprehensive just yet).
Government: Tell Us Once
Tell Us Once will notify a number of Government organisations of a person’s death. This includes HMRC, The Department of Work and Pensions, The Passport Office and local councils, saving you having to go through the emotion of many telephone calls or letters. The Registrar may be able to help with this when you register the death.
Could they have held shares?
If you think the deceased might have held shares or have unclaimed funds, then a good starting point is to contact the UK’s three main share registrars: EQ (Equiniti), Link and Computershare.
It’s best to supply as much information as possible to help locate the asset. This could include details of the company/companies they may have held shares in, their current and any previous addresses and any previous names. You can find more information on reporting a bereavement to EQ plus access a detailed bereavement guide.
Know the funeral options available
A lavish ceremony isn’t right for everyone based on their circumstances or wishes. Unfortunately cheaper options aren’t always widely advertised, but it’s worth knowing that they do exist.
For instance, a direct cremation which would take place early in the morning, is a considerably cheaper alternative. Whilst this doesn’t come with a service, you could arrange a personal ceremony with the ashes and may find this preferable in the current pandemic.
Also eco-burials which don’t typically feature a tombstone, can cost less than a traditional burial and for some are more in line with personal values.
If you need help in paying for a funeral you can find advice at www.gov.uk/funeral-payments