Losing a family member is a very challenging time for anyone. Not only is there the grief involved, but for close family members of the deceased, there are a number of matters to deal with in the immediate aftermath. In this article, we will take you through the various steps of what must be done when someone dies.


Registering the death


Upon the date of death or finding of the body, the death must be registered within five days. This is usually undertaken by a member of the deceased’s immediate family. This is a very important step as the burial or cremation will not be allowed to go ahead unless the death has been registered.


To do this, you must go to a register office. You can find one by using the following link on the government website: https://www.gov.uk/register-offices


It is best to go to a register office in the area where the person died because there will be a delay to the documents you need if you do not. You will usually need to schedule an appointment at the register office in advance.


The medical certificate certifying the death will be need to be provided to the registrar before a certificate for the burial or cremation of the body. It is also necessary for a certificate for social security benefits to be issued.


The registrar will also explain the Tell Us Once service to you. This reports the death to the majority of government departments when someone dies.


You will also need to contact other organisations such as pension providers, insurance companies, banks, employers, mortgage providers, utility companies etc.


Funeral arrangements


Following the registration of death, funeral arrangements must also be made. These are usually made by a member of the deceased’s immediate family. The person who died may have left instructions in their will with regards to their funeral.


Without clear wishes, the nearest relative or the executor of the will should usually be the one who decides if the body is to be cremated or buried. They will also decide the type of funeral.


Funeral arrangements are payable out of the deceased’s estate. However, this only applies in situations where:


  • They are reasonable in relation to the deceased’s status in life, or;
  • They are authorised under the Will


Identify assets and liabilities


As the person responsible for the estate, the personal representatives of the deceased should also identity the assets and liabilities. They must then send preliminary letters to all of those who are holding assets, claiming debts, or also those who have knowledge of the deceased’s affairs. These include:


  • Banks
  • Building societies
  • Investment managers and stockbrokers
  • National Savings & Investments Accounts
  • National Savings Certificates, Bonds and SAYE contracts
  • Life insurance policies
  • Annuities
  • Deceased’s employer or place of business
  • Private pension
  • State pension
  • Social security benefits
  • Beneficial interests in other trusts or estates
  • Insurance claims
  • HMRC
  • Lifetime transfers
  • Private health insurance
  • Unclaimed Assets Register
  • Liabilities


The letter which is sent should notify the above of the death, including a copy of the death certificate and also request further information.


Securing and protecting assets


Following this step, the Personal Representatives should locate and obtain the deceased’s title deeds or Land Certificates, locate and obtain the deceased’s documents supporting the existence of assets and liabilities. Examples of these include account books, life policies, share certificates, cheque books and credit cards, records of digital assets and crypto-assets, locate all loose cash.


The PRs should also make enquiries regarding whether the deceased owned any foreign assets, or whether a foreign will was made to deal with those assets.


Obtaining the Will


The will must also be obtained. If it cannot be found at the home of the deceased then there are a number of options.


It is advisable to contact any solicitors that the deceased may have dealt with, as well as any other friends and family.


If this proves to be unsuccessful, it is possible to conduct a search of the National Will Register to see if a Will was registered with them. This will cost £126.


When a person dies, their Will plays a vital role in determining who carries out their wishes and how their assets are to be distributed. A Will Search is a necessary step to establish if a Will or later Will exists for the person who has passed away before proceeding with probate. Personal Representatives (an executor or administrator) have the legal authority and responsibility to distribute the estate correctly. They will be held liable should a later Will come to light after the estate has been distributed.


Checking the Will’s validity


Finally, a fundamental step in the immediate aftermath of a close one’s death is to check the validity of the will. Failure to do so means that issues arise which may not allow the Will to be admitted to probate. There are a number of checks which should therefore be made. These include that it:


  • Has been executed in accordance with the appropriate formalities
  • Has not been revoked by operation of law or destruction
  • Has not been altered
  • Was made when the testator was over 18
  • Does not have staple or paperclip marks
  • Does not have any pages missing
  • Is the latest version of the Will


Furthermore, there are a few basic requirements for a valid Will. These include that the testator must:


  • Have the capacity to make a Will
  • Have the intention to make a Will
  • They must also comply with the prescribed formalities for a valid Will


Our thoughts



Dealing with the practical matters of a loved one’s estate can feel overwhelming amidst the grief of loss. It’s completely understandable that sorting through assets and liabilities might not be the first thing on your mind. However, understanding what steps to take immediately following their passing can provide a sense of direction during this tumultuous time.


In addition to the emotional burden, there are also legal obligations that come with managing an estate. One such obligation is the submission of the inheritance tax account by the Personal Representatives within a specific deadline. Failing to meet this deadline can result in penalties, adding further stress to an already challenging situation. In a follow-up article, we’ll delve deeper into these deadlines and the potential consequences of missing them.


If you find yourself needing support during this process, whether it’s guidance on probate matters or assistance with paperwork, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We are here to offer our support and expertise every step of the way.


Have questions? Get in touch today!


Call us on 020 7928 0276, phone calls are operating as usual and we will be taking calls from 9:30am to 6:00pm.


Email us on info@lisaslaw.co.uk.


Use the Ask Lisa function on our website. Simply enter your details and leave a message, we will get right back to you: https://lisaslaw.co.uk/ask-question/


For more updates, follow us on our social media platforms! You can find them all on our Linktree right here.