When someone dies what should you do?

Probate is the term used for the legal process in dealing with the estate of someone who has died.  It is the responsibility of the persons named in the will (ie the executors). If there is no will, the person is deemed to have died intestate (ie without a will) and so it will be the responsibility of the people who have a legal right under the rules of intestacy.

When someone dies what should you do?

At this most difficult time, there are a host of things you will need to do immediately some of these are:

  • Register the death at the Registrars of Births and Deaths, which should normally be registered by the registrar within five days. (If a coroner is involved in the registration process, the registration can sometimes be delayed. NB: You should obtain a number of copies of the death certificate for the various financial institutions you will need to contact
  • Plan the funeral and check if a pre-paid funeral plan has been arranged by contacting a funeral director
  • Locate the Will and check if it contains any funeral wishes and contact the executors if you are not appointed
  • Secure the deceased’s house, valuables and documents, especially if the house is left unoccupied
  • Check if there is insurance cover for the house and contents and notify the insurers;
  • Arrange a redirection of post
  • Inform the car insurers
  • Collect personal documents belonging to the deceased and organise a list of the deceased’s assets and liabilities and check if they made any lifetime gifts of cash or other assets
  • Register the death certificate with the various financial institutions
  • Arrange to pay the funeral expenses
  • Contact the deceased’s utility accounts for household bills, including council tax, gas, electricity and telephone services

The Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration

After the funeral, you will need to turn your attention to the estate which the person has left behind. You may need to apply for a Grant of Representation (Grant of Probate, if there is a valid will or Letters of Administration, if there isn’t).

The Executors or Administrators (the personal representatives) will need to make an application to the Probate Court.  SFE members can assist you in making the application and will be able to complete the necessary tax forms that are required, depending on the value of the estate.  They can also advise you on complex estates and the various issues around tax, including inheritance tax, income tax and capital gains tax.

How long can Probate take?

It is often much more straightforward and less stressful to get a lawyer to do this for you. It can be a lengthy and complex process, with long tax forms to complete. The whole process can take up to 12 months.

To be able to apply for a Grant of Probate, your lawyer or the personal representatives will need to produce a schedule of all the estate’s assets and liabilities, complete the Inland Revenue Account form, either an IHT400 or an IHT205 and lodge this with within one year of the death.

They will also need to pay any inheritance tax due and get a receipt from HMRC.

They will then need to apply for a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration. This usually takes

two to three weeks from the date of lodging the documents with the Probate Registry.

What happens after Probate is granted?

Once the Grant of Representation is obtained the personal representatives need to carry out the following duties:


  • Register the grant with the various financial institutions
  • Collect in the estate assets and pay any debts and administration expenses
  • Complete tax returns for the income and capital gains for the deceased up to the date of death and for the administration period until the estate is finalised
  • Place notices to creditors by putting a statutory advertisement (under the Trustee Act 1925 for England) in The Gazette and a local paper to protect the executor from being liable for any disclosed debts and wait for two months and one day before distributing the estate in case a creditor contacts the executors
  • Check there have been no claims against the estate during the six months following the issue of the Grant
  • Decide whether to encash assets or transfer them to beneficiaries, collect in bank account balances, sell or transfer stocks and shares and encash policies
  • Decide whether to sell the house or transfer it to the beneficiaries
  • Prepare accounts to account to the beneficiaries under the Will or those inheriting on intestacy for all the estate assets, debts and expenses and calculate their entitlements and get their approval to the accounts
  • Trace and identify beneficiaries
  • Pay legacies usually within one year of death and distribute the remaining estate and obtain receipts from each beneficiary

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