Expert Insights

Expert Insights

What to do when someone dies

The purpose of this information sheet is to provide key guidance and reassurance on what to do when someone dies. Although a few matters require urgent attention (these are listed separately), many can be reviewed after the funeral.

Urgent matters

  • Locate the Will (if there is one) and
    • check if it contains burial/cremation wishes
    • notify the executors of the death, if you are not the (sole) executor. Do all named executors wish to act?  If any wish to renounce, it is essential that they do not get involved in any aspect of the estate administration.  Ask a solicitor for guidance
  • Register the death at the local register office and obtain at least 5 certified copies of the death certificate
  • Arranging the funeral in line with any wishes expressed
  • Use the Tell Us Once Service to notify all relevant government departments
  • Advise any pension providers to prevent overpayments
  • Advise any life offices to see if and how payments under any life policies can be made.  Sometimes payments can be made without the need for a Grant
  • Advise the deceased’s bank
  • Advise any other institution if direct debits might be being paid from the deceased’s account
  • If there is an unoccupied house, advise the insurer and check security is satisfactory
  • If the deceased owned valuable personal effects, make sure these are accounted for and secure.

Other matters

  • Start gathering together all paperwork in connection with the deceased’s assets
  • If not already done so, make contact with your solicitor.  He or she can offer practical advice and support at this stage as well as setting out what steps need to be taken to obtain the grant of probate and administer the estate
  • If you are undertaking the estate administration yourself, you should open a separate executor’s bank account
  • Return passport and driving licence for cancellation
  • If there is an unoccupied house:
    • consider whether the supply of utilities such as gas/electricity, water and telephone are likely to be required.  Notify all utility providers of the death
    • request a refund of the unused TV Licence
    • if appropriate, arrange for the re-direction of post to the executors or their solicitor
  • Notify the Office of the Public Guardian of the death if the deceased made an Enduring or Lasting Power of Attorney
  • Consider advising any clubs, organisations or societies of which the deceased was a member.

Once these immediate practical steps have been taken, the executor(s) will need to obtain the grant of probate and administer the estate.  This can be a complex and lengthy process.  It will include: obtaining full details of all the assets in the estate; completing an inheritance tax return; paying inheritance tax; collecting in the assets; paying off any debts; and distributing the net estate.  Our probate specialists are on hand to assist with all this.

For more information please contact Charles Hutton at or on +44 (0)20 7427 6737.

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