How to deal with someone’s affairs when they die

When someone dies the assets they own must be counted up and distributed according to the law. Dealing with someone’s affairs is an unfamiliar situation for most people. There are factors that have to be considered and documents that need to be found in order to make the process run smoothly.

Everything someone owned or owed while they were alive forms their estate, this needs to be dealt with and administered on their death. A good solicitor can help you to navigate the complex legal process and take some of the stress away during what is an already difficult time.

The complexity of the legal process will depend on the value and nature of the person’s estate. The estate usually includes personal possessions, their home or other property, money, vehicles and more.

Initially, you will need to register the person’s death and obtain their death certificate.

Did the person leave a will?

If the person left a will, you will need that before you can move forward with the process as it will outline who is the executor of the person’s estate. An executor deals with the estate and may need to apply for probate.

If the person did not leave a will, you can apply to be an administrator of their estate if you are their next of kin, were married to them or were in a civil partnership with them.

If you need more information about writing a will, take a look at our wills FAQ.

How do I apply for probate?

Probate gives someone the legal right to deal with someone else’s property, money and possessions when they die. Do not make any financial plans or put property on the market until you’ve looked into whether you will need probate.

Before applying for probate you need to estimate the estate’s value by contacting organisations such as banks or utility providers about the person’s assets and debts. Estimating the estate’s value will also help you to work out if you need to pay inheritance tax.

In many cases, you will need to apply for probate to obtain legal authority to manage and distribute an estate.

If the estate doesn’t involve any property, or consists of jointly owned property, and amounts to less that £5000 applying for probate is not usually required. However, you may need to find out if there is a probate threshold for allowing access to certain assets, such as a bank account. This needs to be checked with whoever holds the asset, like a bank.

Who can apply for probate?

Only certain people can apply for probate, this depends on whether or not there is a will.

Executors named in the will can apply for probate. If there is not a will, the closest living relative can apply.

If there is a dispute about who can apply for probate or whether there’s a will, you can challenge an application for probate, also known as ‘enter a caveat’. This must be done by applying online through the government or using a solicitor’s probate services.

Once you have probate, you can then begin administering the will.

Using a solicitor

A solicitor can guide you through the processes necessary for obtaining the documents mentioned above, making it easier for you. They can also offer tailored advice to your specific situation.

They can submit relevant tax forms to HMRC, collect the assets of the estate and make sure the estate is distributed accurately.

We can help you deal with your loved one’s affairs when they die. Our team of experts understand the sensitive and difficult experience and can work with you to ensure the legal process is taken care of.

You can find out more about the team and our services on our Probate, Wills and Trusts page or call us on 01326 316655.