What to do when someone dies: their legal affairs | Woollcombe Yonge
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Jan Santillo

Jan Santillo

What to do when someone dies: their legal affairs

The grief you feel when you lose a loved one is overwhelming. On top of this, you could be faced with having to deal with the paperwork and forms to register their death and sort out a loved one’s funeral and legal affairs.

First Steps and their Will

Some of the immediate steps you need to take are to make sure the death is registered and that the loved one’s property is secure. This includes notifying their home insurer to let them know of their passing and if their property is now unoccupied.

At the same time, you will probably be involved in arranging their funeral and checking any instructions as to their wishes.

You might have to begin a search to find out whether your loved one made a Will, or you may know there is a Will in place and you are named as an executor.

The role of an executor can seem daunting and might need a little guidance as to what you need to do to get you started. Or, you could feel you are not able to sort out their legal affairs alone and need some help from the outset. We can tailor our service to your needs.

If your loved one did not make a Will you will need to explore the intestacy provisions as to guidance on the next steps.

Assets and Finances

You will need to start consider the value of your loved one’s estate and begin sorting out their finances.

If it is your spouse who has passed away some assets could pass to you automatically if you held them jointly. Try and keep a record of what has passed to you in case you need it later.

Sometimes banks can release money early without the need for a Grant of Probate. Anything received from the estate should be kept in a separate bank account from your own funds until you are ready to distribute it in accordance with the Will and wishes of your loved one.

Grant of Probate

Depending on their assets, you may need to apply to get a Grant of Probate (or Grant of Letters of Administration if there is no Will). This is a legal document which authorises you to deal with the assets under the estate.

To apply for a Grant of Probate you will need a list of all your loved one’s assets and liabilities as at the date of their death. The forms can sometimes be complicated, and many people feel at this stage that they need a little extra guidance. We can help you fill in the forms to obtain the Grant of Probate so you can continue dealing with the estate. Or you may feel that you wish to pass over the administration of the estate to us completely.


Once the Grant of Probate has been issued, you can then look to start cashing in the assets and paying off any liabilities. This is a difficult stage of the administration and you will need to keep accurate accounts to ensure nothing is missed.

If the estate has limited funds, there is an order of priority to consider before you begin paying liabilities and any money under the estate.

You may also need to consider whether there are any unknown creditors or people who may feel left out of the Will and wish to make a claim against the estate. This can be a stressful and complicated time. We strongly recommend you seek legal advice to make sure you are doing things correctly.

Finally, before making any distribution, you will need to make sure any tax due for the period of administration or up to the date of death has been paid. Although many estates may not need to worry about this as they are below the thresholds for the reporting requirements, it is wise to double check the position so the estate does not receive an unexpected tax bill.

Whether you feel comfortable dealing with the estate but want a little help making the application for the Grant of Probate or whether you wish to seek some help from the outset, we at Woollcombe Yonge understand what a difficult and emotional time this can be and are here to help relieve some of the legal burden.

If you need any help or would like to talk about any legal matter raised in this article, please contact Michelle Crump on 01752 827922 or email mc@wysolicitors.co.uk.

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