What to do when someone dies

We know how difficult it is to lose a loved one and understand that dealing with their estate can be a difficult and an often daunting task. Our probate team addresses some of the common questions...


A loved one has died. What do I do next?


Following the death of a loved one the first practical steps will be to arrange the registration of the death with the local registrar and to deal with any funeral arrangements. It is important to establish whether your loved one had a will in place as funeral wishes can sometimes be contained within the will. Other matters to consider are whether the deceased had any assets in the estate that need securing immediately, such as a property. In the case of property insurance, it is important to update the insurance provider to inform them of the death and to advise, if relevant, if the property is now unoccupied.


Who is the right person to deal with the estate?


If the deceased left a valid will appointing an executor, the executor named will be the person responsible for dealing with the estate. In the event that the deceased did not leave a will (or left a will without a valid executor named) then who will be responsible to act as Personal Representative will be dealt with under the Rule of Intestacy. Under these rules, the person and/or people who stand to benefit under the Rules of Intestacy would have priority to act as the Personal Representative for example.


What is a Grant of Representation?


A Grant of Representation is an umbrella term and covers both a Grant of Probate (where there is a will) and Grant of Letters of Administration (where there is no will). A Grant of Representation is an order issued by the Probate Registry of the High Court and which confirms or confers the authority of the person who is acting in the administration of the estate. A Grant of Representation is needed to deal with the assets of the estate, including the encashment of bank accounts and the transfer of sale of any property.


Do I need a Grant of Representation?


Whether or not a Grant of Representation is needed will depend on the assets in the estate. Typically, if the estate is small and contains only bank accounts with less than £10,000 then a Grant of Representation may not be required. However, a Grant of Representation will be required if assets typically exceed £10,000 (this will depend on the individual financial institution) or where property and/or land need to be dealt with. No financial institution isobliged to release money without site of a Grant of Representation. It is therefore important to check with each institution as to their requirements.


What if there is no will?


If there is no will then a Grant of Letters of Administration needs to be applied for. They will allow an authorised person to deal with the estate, much like an executor would deal with the estate if the deceased left a will. The person who takes out a Grant of Letters of Administration is typically called the Personal Representative. If there is no valid will in place, an order of priority will apply to who can act as Personal Representative. This includes:

  • The Spouse or Civil Partner of the deceased
  • A child of the deceased
  • The grandchild of the deceased
  • Parent of the deceased
  • Brother or Sister of the deceased
  • Niece or Nephew of the deceased


What if I cannot find the will?


It is important to carry out a thorough search of the deceased’s paperwork to see if they were holding their own original will. It is also recommended that you contact any local firms with whom the deceased had dealings or with whom you believe the deceased may have dealt with. Banks have historically held wills and it is worth checking with them to see if they are holding an original will.

It is also possible to carry out a will search via Certainty, the national will register who will contact local firms to request that a search of their records is carried out. There is a charge for this service.

If all searches indicate that the deceased did not leave a will, then the rules above will apply.


What is needed to obtain a Grant of Representation?


The Personal Representative of the estate will need to gather in the information as to the assets and liabilities of the estate. This will include the valuation of any land/houses, cars, savings, investments, life policies, business interests etc. Liabilities would include a mortgage, outstanding bills and also the funeral expenses. Once this information has been gathered , it is necessary to complete HM Revenue & Custom forms to account for any inheritance tax that may be payable or, in the case of excepted estates, to complete the paperwork confirming that no inheritance tax is payable.

Once these forms have been completed, an application can be made to the Probate Registry for the Grant of Probate along with the relevant probate application paperwork.


How long does it take to obtain a Grant of Representation?


The circumstances of each person are unique so it is very difficult to predict how long it will take to obtain a Grant of Representation to an estate. In the case of straightforward estates where no inheritance tax is payable, the information gathering process could typically take 2-3 months and, following this, the application could then be made to the Probate Registry. At the time of writing (August 2021)the Probate Registry are currently taking between 6-10 weeks to issue the Grant of Representation.

In more complex estates where inheritance tax is payable, it can take several months to collate the necessary information and to arrange payment of inheritance tax. Only once this is done can the application be submitted to the Probate Registry.


All the deceased’s assets were held jointly. Do I need to obtain a Grant of Representation?


If the deceased was a joint owner of a bank account or the joint owner of property held as joint tenants, then the asset passes to the surviving joint holder automatically. In this instance, it may not be necessary to obtain a Grant of Representation.


Do I need to instruct a solicitor to deal with the estate on my behalf?


There is no requirement for the Personal Representatives to instruct a probate lawyer however, using a specialist lawyer ensures that matters are dealt with correctly and that the Personal Representative is discharging their duties in full. Instructing a lawyer to act on your behalf can also make things easier and will reduce stress at what is already a very difficult time.

For more information or to discuss your requirements with a member of the team please email individuals@rdplaw.co.uk or call 01633 413500.