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Wills & Probate / When Someone Dies
There are 3 things you must do in the first few days after someone dies.
- Get a medical certificate - you’ll get this from a doctor (GP or at a hospital)
and you need one to register the death.
- Register the death within 5 days of the death - you’ll then get the
documents you need for the funeral.
- Arrange the funeral - you can use a funeral director or do it yourself.
When someone dies, you may be able to apply for a ‘grant of representation’. This gives you the legal right to deal with the person’s property, money and possessions (their ‘estate’). The right to deal with the estate of someone who’s died is called ‘probate’. You can apply yourself or use a solicitor.
Most cases follow the same basic process.
- Check if there’s a will - this normally states who sorts out the estate; if there’s no will the next of kin can apply.
- Apply to get a ‘grant of representation’ - this gives you the legal right to access things like the person’s bank account.
- Pay Inheritance Tax - this is only paid if the estate’s worth over £325,000 and is part of applying for a grant of representation - once you’ve paid any tax due, you can collect the assets.
- Collect the assets - eg money from the sale of the person’s property.
- Pay any debts - eg unpaid utilities bills.
- Distribute the estate - this means giving any property, money or possessions to the people entitled to it (‘beneficiaries’).
You don’t normally need a grant if the estate either:
- passes to the surviving spouse/civil partner because it was held in joint names – eg a savings account
- doesn’t include land, property or shares
You should contact the organisation holding the money - eg the bank or building society. They may ask for proof of death - eg the death certificate after the death has been registered. Each financial institution has its own rules - you may still need to apply for a grant.
If the person left a will
You can apply for a grant of representation if you’re the ‘executor’ of the will - the person named to deal with the estate. If more than one executor is named in the will, the probate application form and guidance notes explain what to do.
You should contact your local Probate Registry if either:
- no executor is named in the will
- none of the named executors are willing or able to apply
If the person didn't leave a will
The person’s next of kin - eg the spouse (or civil partner) or children - can usually apply for a grant of representation. The law decides who inherits the estate if there’s no will.
If you’re the partner of the person who’s died but weren’t married to them (or in a civil partnership) you can’t apply.You should get legal advice to find out about your rights. If the person was separated but not yet divorced (or had their civil partnership dissolved), their spouse (or civil partner) would inherit some or all of the estate - and must apply for the grant.