Cute piggybank image to reflect the law type Probate and Estate Administration

What should I do when someone dies?

Guidance on the important steps that need to be taken

Dealing with someone’s affairs when they have died

What to do when someone dies?

Register the death within 5 days (8 days in Scotland) - this includes weekends and bank holidays.

You’ll get a ‘certificate for a burial’ to give to the funeral director, or an application for cremation which you need to complete and give to the crematorium.

You must do one of these before the funeral can take place.


Who notifies the bank when someone has died?

This and other notifications are generally the job of an executor.


Does a Will have to be read when someone dies?

We no longer have the Victorian tradition of a solicitor reading the will to the family.  A will does not have to be read out.  It must be submitted to the Probate Registry to get the grant of probate.


Applying for Probate

Applying for the legal right to deal with someone’s property, money and possessions (their ‘estate’) when they die is called ‘applying for probate’.

You’ll get a document that allows you to start dealing with the estate. If the person left a will, you’ll get either:

  • a ‘grant of probate’
  • ‘letters of administration with will annexed’ (if the will does not name an executor or the named executor is unable to apply)

If the person did not leave a will, you’ll get ‘letters of administration’.


When probate is not needed

You may not need probate if the person who died:

  • had jointly owned land, property, shares or money - these will automatically pass to the surviving owners
  • only had savings or premium bonds

Contact each asset holder (for example a bank or mortgage company) to find out if you’ll need probate to get access to their assets. Every organisation has its own rules.


Who can apply?

Only certain people can apply for probate to deal with the estate of someone who died. It depends on whether the person who died left a will.

A will states what should happen to a person’s property and belongings (‘estate’) after they die. It’s usually valid if it’s been signed by the person who made it and 2 witnesses.


If there’s a will

You can apply for probate if you’re named in the will, or in an update to the will (a ‘codicil’), as an ‘executor’.

You’ll need the original will and any updates to apply for probate. These must be original documents, not photocopies.


If the person did not leave a will

The ‘administrator’ deals with the estate.

You can apply to become the estate’s administrator if you are 18 or over and you are the most ‘entitled’ inheritor of the deceased’s estate. This is usually the deceased’s closest living relative.

Relatives are the most entitled inheritors in the following order:

·        husband, wife or civil partner (including if they were separated)

·        children (including legally adopted children but not step-children)

·        grandchildren

·        great-grandchildren

·        parents

·        brothers and sisters

·        nieces and nephews

·        half-brothers and half-sisters

·        half-nieces and half-nephews (the children of the half-brothers and half-sisters of the deceased)

·        grandparents

·        aunts and uncles

·        cousins

·        half-aunts and half-uncles (the half-brothers and half-sisters of the deceased’s parent)

·        half-cousins (the children of the half-brothers and half-sisters of the deceased’s parent)

You’ll receive ‘letters of administration’ to prove you have the legal right to deal with the estate.