Instructing a Solicitor when somebody dies

by Tony Lilleystone, Legal Manager
Tuesday 6th of March 2012 04:04:56 PM

Dealing with the death of a close family member can be a very harrowing experience so it is hard to get into the right frame of mind and deal with the administrative things that need to be addressed when someone passes away. That said, it is very important to act quickly and to start the probate process as soon as possible.

If your father passes away you should consider  the following matters:

Register the death

This will usually be at the hospital where a Registrar will confirm the death.

Obtain the Death Certificate

You may wish to obtain a few copies since they will need to be sent to various companies and organisations

Value the Estate

If the Estate is worth £5,000 or more, a Grant of Probate is generally required.

Check to see if there was a Will

You must ensure the will was valid – i.e. that it was executed properly and your father had capacity and intention when making the will.

Did the Will name Executors?
The deceased will usually have named at least one Executor in the Will. If not, the Probate Registry will appoint an Executor.

If there was no Will, who are the closest surviving family members who would be eligible to apply for Letters of Administration?
If there was no Will your dad will have died ‘Intestate’. This means that his assets (if he had any) will be distributed under the strict laws of Intestacy.

The people who can apply to administer the Estate of your father are known as ‘Administrators’ and there is a defined order in terms of the family members who can apply. The surviving spouse first, and then children have priority.

Collate all assets
Make a note of all assets and gather together bank statements, property title deeds, original share certificates, life insurance policies etc..

Collate debts owed by the deceased, eg, mortgage, credit cards, loans
Write to banks, credit card companies, share holding companies, loan companies etc. sending them a copy of the death. It is very important to notify the relevant companies of the death as quickly as possibly by sending them the death certificate. In the case of loans any interest is often frozen once they are notified of the death.

Notify Utility companies of the death

The accounts can then be frozen. If you have instructed a Solicitor you can provide the utility company with your solicitor’s details for them to correspond amongst themselves. (This can be done in the case of both debts and assets also).

Obtain a receipt for funeral costs
Funeral costs must be inserted in the Inheritance tax return – the IHT 205 or IHT 400. These costs are deducted from the estate.

Did your father make any gifts to anyone when he was alive?

There are very strict rules about this. Click here to read about making gifts and what is and is not included in the Estate.

Value his personal belongings
The tax return, IHT 205 or 400, both ask you to provide a figure for personal items owned by the deceased. These include cars, jewellery, valuable paintings, books or musical instruments.

Instruct a Solicitor to assist with applying for Probate or consider making a personal application 

By instructing a Lawyer or Solicitor to assist with applying for Probate, much of the stress and hassle is taken away. The solicitor will write to all the relevant companies in relation to debts and assets and even the utility companies. They will assist you with applying for the Grant of Probate and complete all the necessary tax forms. Once Probate is granted your solicitor can distribute the estate and finalise the estate accounts. It is important to consider instructing a solicitor to assist with probate where there are complications, eg, there are assets held abroad, Intestacy, domiciled abroad, etc., and also, where there is a large estate.

If you wish to apply for Probate yourself, you can do so by completing form PA1 and the relevant tax return and submitting them to the local Probate Registry Office. Click here for a list of Probate Registry Offices. Fees are approximately £94 and you should apply for a few official copies, which are £1 each.