What to do when someone has died

Here is some help with commonly-encountered practical issues post-death of a loved one.

How we can help you at this difficult time

We know that while coping with the death of someone close to you isn’t easy, sorting out their financial affairs can make things harder still.  You’re not alone.

We are here – in Elgin and Forres, Moray – to provide practical help with the things you need to do, such as closing accounts, cancelling credit cards and, if you need it, help with obtaining Confirmation.

Step by step we will take you through what you need to know, what you have to do and, more importantly, how to do it.

We have also included information about how to get in touch with other organisations and groups that may be able to help and support you in other ways.

My relative has just died: what do I do?

In Scotland you must register the death within 8 days.

Who should register the death?

The death may be registered by:

· any relative (this includes the spouse or civil partner of the person who died or a relative by marriage or civil partnership);

· any person present at the death;

· the Executor or other legal representative;

· the occupier of the premises where the death took place; or, if there is no such person,

· any other person possessing the information needed for registration.

Where should the death be registered?

Deaths may be registered by any Registrar in Scotland.

What information do I need to register a death?

· Medical certificate of death (Form 11)

· Any certificate or document relating to any pension, benefits, or allowances which the person was receiving from public funds.

· NHS medical card, if available.

· The person’s birth and marriage or civil partnership certificates, if available.

Things to tell the Registrar:

  • The full name, occupation and postal address of the person and his or her date and country of birth.
  • If the person was: married or a civil partner; widowed or a surviving civil partner; divorced or his or her civil partnership was dissolved or annulled, tell the Registrar the full name and occupation of the husband, wife or civil partner.  If the person had been married or in a civil partnership more than once, you should also give the registrar details of previous spouses and civil partners.
  • If the person was married or a civil partner at the date of death, tell the registrar the date of birth of the surviving widow, widower or civil partner.
  • The full name and occupation of the dead person’s father and the full name and maiden surname of his or her mother.
  • Whether the person was in receipt of a pension or an allowance from public funds.
  • The name and address of the person’s NHS doctor.

Ask the registrar if they offer the government’s “Tell Us Once” service, this allows you to arrange the deceased’s governmental affairs – settling things like pensions, taxes, council benefits and passport – all at the same time.

Obtaining the Will

A Will contains the wishes of a person who has died, in particular, about who they want to inherit their estate. Sometimes, wills include special instructions about the funeral.

You’ll need to find the last known signed and witnessed version of the will. If you can’t locate a will at the deceased person’s home, their solicitor or bank may have it.

A will usually names one or more executors who are responsible for making sure the wishes of the person who dies are carried out.

If there is no Will …

If someone dies without making a will or the will cannot be located, the deceased’s estate is distributed according to the laws of intestacy.

Arranging the funeral

You may already know what sort of funeral the person wanted or there may be instructions in the Will or other papers.

If not, the Executor or nearest relative normally decides what should happen.

Most people choose to use a funeral director who will help with the necessary decisions and arrangements.

Funerals can be expensive and may need to be paid for immediately.  Usually the assets of the person who has died are frozen until the estate is settled.  However, if there are sufficient funds we can liaise with the deceased’s bank or building society for access to arrange payment.

Contacting relevant parties

As well as letting family and friends know about your loss, you’ll need to inform organisations such as banks and building societies, utility companies and the Department of Work and Pensions.  There are some legal documents, such as passports, driving licences and benefit books, which will need to be located and returned.

Dealing with the estate

After someone dies, their estate is shared out according to the instructions given in the Will.  If there is no Will, the laws of intestacy must be followed.

If you are named as the executor in the Will, you can decide whether you want to deal with the estate yourself or appoint a solicitor to do some or all of the work.

If the estate is small and Confirmation isn’t required, the executor may be able to deal with everything within a few weeks. But if Confirmation is required or if the deceased person owned a property, the process may take longer.

You are nominated as an Executor, what does this mean and what do you have to do?

What is an executor?

An executor is a representative of the deceased.  The executor must pay off any debts or taxes from the person’s “estate” and then distribute it to the “beneficiaries” (the people who will benefit or inherit).  An estate is normally made up of someone’s property, money and possessions.

Who becomes an executor?

An executor (or executors) may be named in someone’s Will.  If no executor is named or if there is no will, your solicitor or the sheriff clerk will arrange for the court to appoint an executor called an “Executor Dative”.  An executor dative will normally be the surviving spouse or civil partner.  If there is no such person, another person entitled to inherit from the estate may be able to apply.

What does an executor do?

An executor must:

  • make an inventory (a list) of all the money, furniture, savings and any house or other property belonging to the person who died. This is known collectively as his or her “estate”;
  • pay inheritance tax, if this is due.  You can get further information and advice about inheritance tax from HM Revenue & Customs Charities, Assets and Residence.
  • obtain Confirmation to the estate.
  • distribute the estate to those entitled to it.

Does an executor need a solicitor?

It is possible for you, as an executor, to handle an estate without any legal help but you may decide to employ a solicitor to help you.  Even if you decide to do it without handing matters over entirely to a solicitor, you may want to seek advice on specific points from a Citizens’ Advice Bureau or a solicitor.

The executor’s out-of-pocket expenses, including any solicitor’s charges, are met from the deceased’s estate.

Dealing with a large estate or one where a house or other property is involved can often be very complicated and time consuming.  In the event of any mistakes being made, the executor is legally responsible.  If you are in any doubt about your ability as executor to carry out the correct procedures, or if there is any dispute, you are strongly advised to consult a solicitor.

What is Confirmation and why do you need it?

Confirmation is a term used in Scotland when you apply for the right to deal with a deceased person’s affairs.  You might also hear it called ‘administering the estate’.  In England, the equivalent term is “probate”.

Confirmation may be required if the deceased person leaves assets, such as cash, property, or shares, worth more than £5,000 solely in their name.  Confirmation is the legal document which gives the executor authority to receive payments due to the estate and to make payments due on the estate.

Confirmation may not be required in some small estates.

Confirmation can typically take up to 6 months to obtain.

Contact us for further help

If you have a query about anything following the death of a loved one, get in touch with us.

All initial enquiries are free of charge and without obligation.  Call us on 01343 544077 (Elgin) or 01309 672126 (Forres) or complete and submit an online enquiry form by clicking HERE.

You can also use the online form simply to request a call-back from us by phone.