What are the first steps before applying for probate?
After the death, the following steps should be taken before the personal representatives (‘PRs’) apply for the Grant of Probate (the ‘Grant’):
- Secure the property
If the deceased person lived alone, you should ensure their property is secure (and any cash or valuables are locked away or taken into the PRs’ personal possession) before notifying the insurance company of the death and checking any insurance is sufficient and still valid, particularly if the property will be unoccupied.
- Register the death
A family member, a PR or someone who was present at the time the person passed away must register the death within five days at the register office for the area in which the death occurred.
You will need to take the medical certificate of death plus the deceased’s birth certificate, any marriage/civil partnership certificate(s), passport, driving licence and NHS medical card, if available.
Once the registration is complete, you will be given a:
- Certificate for burial or cremation
- Form to send to the Department for Work and Pensions
- Death certificate
In some areas, you can use the ‘Tell Us Once’ service which is free and allows you to report the death to various Government organisations (including the Department for Work and Pensions, Passport Office, Local Council and HM Revenue and Customs) in one go.
- Find out if there’s a Will
If you’re not sure if the deceased had a Will or where it is, a search of the deceased’s property and personal belongings should be undertaken to help find the original, or identify where it may be stored. This is crucial because the Will names the executors and may contain details of the deceased’s funeral wishes.
If the deceased had a solicitor, ask them if they hold the original. Alternatively, the deceased’s bank may have it.
- Arrange the funeral
Whilst the deceased’s family will usually arrange the funeral, the responsibility can sometimes fall on the PRs. This means you should make sure you are aware of all the deceased’s wishes.
Did they want to be buried or cremated?
Did they want to donate organs?
What type of funeral and/or memorial service did they want?
As the person organising the funeral will also be responsible for the funeral costs, you should check to see if the deceased set up a funeral plan, had a life insurance policy, or is due a lump sum payment from a pension scheme.
The deceased’s bank and building society accounts will have been frozen on notification of the death. However, banks and building societies will usually release funds from the deceased’s account to pay for funeral expenses and you should check with them as to their requirements and whether there are sufficient funds available.
Once the above steps have been carried out, the PRs can then focus on applying for probate and administering the estate.
In our next blog we will look at the different stages of the probate process but if you have any questions relating to probate or your own Will or tax planning requirements, please contact Flora Nelmes at email@example.com or call 0207 412 0050.