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When a person dies, someone needs to ensure that their assets are collected, any debts are settled and the remaining estate is distributed to those who are entitled to it.
First steps when someone dies
- after death has been certified, contact a funeral director to make the necessary arrangements
- once the doctor's cause of death certificate is available make an appointment at the Registry Office where the person died to register the death
- establish whether the person who has died had left a Will. This could be held at home, with the bank, with a solicitor, with a family member
- the Will should be checked to see who the Executors are (the people appointed to deal with the administration of the Estate) and whether any funeral directions have been included. Sometimes funeral wishes are included in a side letter
- the Executors have the responsibility for making the funeral arrangements, although they will usually defer to the family (if family are not the appointed Executors).
Do I need to contact a solicitor?
- if you know that the person who has died had a solicitor, you should check with them to see if they are holding a Will. They may also be holding other documents for safekeeping, such as title deeds, share certificates, insurance policies, etc
- if the Estate is very simple you may be able to deal with it yourself, particularly if there are only a few low value assets
- if the Estate is of a higher value it may be necessary to obtain a Grant of Representation (see below). The Estate may be subject to tax; it may contain a business or a farm; there may be trusts involved. Employing a solicitor will ease the burden at what will be a difficult time.
What is a Grant of Representation?
- when someone dies the death certificate should be registered with all of the asset holders (banks, building societies, insurance companies, etc)
- as soon as the death has been registered any assets that were in the sole name of the person who has died will be frozen (it should be noted that most banks and building societies will release money for the payment of funeral expenses and tax)
- in order to 'unlock' the assets some authority needs to be produced to the asset holder showing that someone has the authority to give instructions to either encash or transfer the asset. This authority takes the form of a Grant of Representation
- if there is a valid Will the appointed Executors will apply to the Probate Registry for a Grant of Probate
- if there is no Will those entitled to apply will apply for a Grant of Letters of Administration
- if there is a Will but no Executors are appointed, for whatever reason, those entitled to apply will apply for a Grant of Letters of Administration with the Will Annexed
What happens after the Grant of Representation has been received?
- the Grant needs to be registered with all of the asset holders and instructions given as to whether the asset is to be encashed or transferred
- once monies have been received the appointed representatives can settle all outstanding debts and any expenses that have arisen during the administration
- any cash gifts or specific gifts (if there is a Will) can be made to the intended beneficiaries
- once the appointed representatives are satisfied that everything has been settled they can distribute the remaining assets in accordance with any Will, or to those entitled by law if there is no Will.