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A Practical Guide For When Someone Dies

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We know that when a loved one passes away, it is natural to feel overwhelmed and unsure about what action needs to be taken. So what does need to be done?

Within the first few days, it is imperative that you deal with the following matters: –

  • Ensure that the property and possessions have been secured;
  • Register the death;
  • Make enquiries as to the existence of a Will; and
  • Start arranging the funeral.

Secure The Property And Possessions

When considering what makes up a person’s Estate, the property comes to mind first. As such, it is vital that the same is protected. When you first attend the property, check through the documentation held by the person who died to find any home insurance policies. If the property is now unoccupied, make sure that you inform the insurance company as this could invalidate the policy. The insurance company may wish to place endorsements on the policy and compliance with the same will ensure that the property is still fully insured.

It would be beneficial for you to do the same with any insurance companies who hold policies for cars/campervans/boats and other valuable property held by the person who died.

It is also important to make sure that all of the doors and windows are secured and not broken which will assist in making sure there is no way for anyone to make entry to the property without authorised access. We would recommend that any paperwork which refers to the bank accounts or other assets held by the person who died is kept in a safe place.

Registering The Death

It is important to remember that a death must be registered within 5 days.

When a person dies, a doctor issues a medical certificate confirming the cause of death. The death must then be registered on the register for births, deaths and marriages. So, who can register the death?

If the death occurred at a hospital or a nursing or residential home: –

  • A relative;
  • Someone who was present at the death but who is not a relative;
  • An official from the hospital;
  • Someone representing the building where the death occurred (i.e. the manager of a residential home); or
  • Anyone who has taken responsibility for arranging the funeral.

If the death did not occur at a hospital or a nursing or residential home: –

  • A relative;
  • Anyone present at the death; or
  • Anyone who has taken responsibility for arranging the funeral.

If possible, a relative should register the death but the registrar does allow non-relatives to assist if there is no one who is able to register the death.

Once registered, you will receive a Death Certificate which will assist in dealing with the Estate of the person who died. It may be that the death is referred to the coroner or an inquest is being held to determine the cause of death. If this is the case, a death certificate will not be issued, but you will receive a “Coroner’s Certificate of the Fact of Death” which can be used in the interim.

Is There A Will?

It is important to know whether the person who died held a Will or not. If they did, then it must be found as soon as possible as there may be funeral instructions detailed within the Will.

If someone has had their Will prepared by a Solicitor then there may be a copy at the home of the person who died, with the original usually stored at the Solicitor’s office. You should contact the bank and the Solicitor of the person who died as these are the most likely places that the original document will be kept. You can also conduct a Certainty Will Search which is a database for Wills that have been registered by local Solicitors.

If there is a Will, then the person who died has likely died Testate. This means that their Executors must act in accordance with the terms of the Will. If there is no Will, then the person who died has died Intestate and as such the Rules of Intestacy will apply.

Arranging The Funeral

You must confirm when registering the death whether the person who died will be buried or cremated. Once this has been decided then the certificate for burial or cremation must be given to the Funeral Director, who will discuss with you all of the arrangements which must be made.

The costs of the funeral are often considered to be the ‘first debt of the Estate’ and as such if you are committing to arranging the funeral then you are also committing to pay for the same. However, the costs for the funeral do come from the Estate, so you can be reimbursed later. If you do not have the money to pay for the funeral outright, you should consider the following: –

  • Did the person who died have a pre-paid funeral plan? Look through all of the paperwork to see if you can find any documentation and contact the Provider and follow any advice given by them;
  • Did the person who died have any life insurance or pensions that will pay out quickly in order to cover the costs of the funeral? You should always discuss this with a Solicitor before taking any action as there may be more tax-efficient ways of using the funds;
  • Contact the banks or building societies who held accounts for the person who died. They do often freeze the accounts once they have been notified of the death, but they will usually release funds to pay for the funeral; and
  • You may be able to make a claim the “Funeral Expenses Payment” from the government if you receive certain benefits. If you are arranging for the funeral of your husband or wife, you may be able to claim the “Bereavement Support Payment” if you fit certain criteria.

You do not need to follow the order of the above points, but we would recommend that all points are dealt with within the first few days of the death.

We can assist in all of the above matters as well as Inheritance Tax on the Estate and completion of Inheritance Tax forms/dealing with HMRC.

If you need assistance in respect of any of the matters raised in this article, please call 0800 088 6004.

Kayleigh Brown


Kayleigh Brown

Senior Associate

Kayleigh qualified as a Solicitor in 2019 and works within the Private Client team at our office in Leicester. She has over 4 years of experience advising clients on Wills, LPAs, Probate, Estate Administration and a range of Tax and Trust issues.