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Losing a loved one

View profile for Charlotte Harris
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Losing a loved one

When a loved one passes away, it is a very difficult and upsetting time for friends and family. Coping with the loss of a loved one can be overwhelming, but there are some things that have to be done as soon as possible. 

Firstly, not many people are aware that a death must be registered within five days after the date of the death. The death must be registered at the registry office and can usually be registered by a relative, someone who was present at the death or someone who is responsible for arranging the funeral. The registrar will ask for information about the time and place of death and personal information about the person who has passed away. 

As soon as the person registering the death has signed the register, the registrar will then issue a certified copy death certificate. It is useful to ask the registrar for multiple copies of the death certificate as it is likely you will need to send the death certificates to companies such as banks, pension providers or shares. There is a small cost for obtaining several death certificates but this can be claimed back from the estate if needs be.

Most local councils offer a service called “tell us once” on behalf of Department for Work and Pensions. This can be an extremely useful service as it notifies many government organisations at once and saves the bereaved person writing to multiple companies.

If the person who has passed away owned a private property, it is crucial that you check the property is secure by checking that the windows and doors are locked and wherever possible, check the alarm is activated. It is also extremely important that the insurers of the property are notified straight away that the home owner has passed away and you should take the necessary steps to ensure that home and contents cover is in place.

When arranging the funeral for the person who has passed away, it may be beneficial to check if they left a Will. More often than not, a Will can refer to funeral wishes. Whilst this is not legally binding in the Will, it acts as a guidance for the executors as to what kind of funeral they want; cremation or burial for example. This can give the funeral arranger an idea of the type of funeral they wanted.

If you are unable to locate a Will in the property of the person who passed away, it may be worth contacting banks or local solicitors who may be storing the original Will. Solicitors will only release the original Will to the executors named in the Will. If you are unable to trace the Will, a solicitor will be able to assist you in locating the original by carrying out a certainty search. Certainty is a national Will database. It is important to state that not all Wills are registered on the database – only if the testator requests it. However, Certainty not only searches for registered Wills but also has the ability to search nationally for Wills that have not been registered.

It is also important to try and trace a Will as it will name executors who are responsible for dealing with the administration of the estate.

A solicitor will be able to explain the law on what happens if someone dies without making a will which is known as dying intestate and is subject to intestacy law.

If you are concerned about paying for the funeral, you can take the funeral invoice to the bank of the deceased and ask if there are sufficient funds in their account to pay it. If you are on certain benefits, you could also apply to DWP for a funeral expenses payment to assist in paying for some of the funeral. However you should bear in mind that there are certain criteria that you have to fulfil before being entitled to make a claim for this payment.

Once the funeral has taken place, it is advisable to search the property for any financial information about the person who has died. Things to be looking out for are items such as bank statements, property deeds, mortgage statements, credit card statements and share certificates amongst other things.

If you are instructing a solicitor to deal with the administration of the estate, it will be important to bring any information you can find about the deceased’s financial affairs to the initial appointment together with the death certificate and funeral costs.

Going through a bereavement is a truly distressing time. The probate department at Stephensons have a wealth of experience in dealing with probate and are here to assist in any way possible and to try and relieve you of the stresses and heartache of dealing with the administration of an estate. If you would like to make an enquiry, please do not hesitate to contact our specialist team on 0175 321 6399.

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