What to Do When a Loved One Passes Away
When you lose someone, the last thing you want is to think about the practicalities, but there are some essential steps you must take to safeguard the estate and ensure that it is passed down as smoothly as possible.
When you’re first bereaved, the days up to the funeral tend to pass in a shocked blur. But soon, it becomes clear that the practicalities have to be dealt with, and that can feel like an overwhelming challenge, particularly when you’re grieving.
It really helps if, instead of viewing it as one enormous problem, you approach it as a collection of smaller, more manageable, challenges you can overcome one at a time. So, to help you to cope with putting your loved one’s affairs in order, here’s a guide to main issues to address.
1.Paying for their funeral
You don't necessarily need to dip into your own resources or run up a large credit card bill to get the funeral bill paid. If you take the funeral bill and the death certificate to the local branch of the deceased’s bank, they will arrange for the bill to be settled by a direct payment from the deceased’s bank account to the funeral director.
2.Make sure their house is secure
Unfortunately, death notices in the local paper can be a honey pot for burglars. If there’s enough information to tell a burglar the location of a house that’s now unoccupied as a result of someone passing away, the risk of a break-in increases greatly. So, do make sure the house is adequately secured.
Are the doors and windows capable of being locked? Is there an alarm and do you have the codes to set it properly? Get into the habit of visiting the house 2-3 times a week to make sure all is well. Ask a helpful neighbour to keep an eye on the house, and to ring you if they see anything suspicious. Make sure the house insurance is in place. You must tell the insurer if the house is vacant.
3.Find out if they left a Will
Carry out a careful search to see if they made a Will. Whether they left a Will or not is a fundamental question, which determines who will inherit the estate and who is responsible for administering it.
They may have their original Will at home, or they may only have a copy because the original is in storage with their solicitor or estate planner. If there is a Will, it is important to retrieve the original. A copy simply won’t do. It’s only in the rarest of circumstances that the Probate office will accept a copy instead of the original, because you must prove that the original hasn’t been deliberately destroyed by your loved one as a way of revoking it.
Where there isn't a Will, you need to consider who is the next of kin according to the Intestacy Rules. Not only is that person, or group of people, the main or sole inheritor of your loved one’s assets, but they are also officially the Administrator of the estate.
4.Make sense of their papers
Gather together all relevant documents you can find about the following: -
- Bank accounts, savings, private pensions and investments;
- Outstanding loans, credit agreements and credit cards;
- Utilities – gas & electricity, phone & broadband, water, council tax
- Taxes and state benefits;
- Insurance – house and car;
- Vehicle registration documents.
Find the contact details of the bereavement departments of all these institutions. This information is readily available online. Then notify them all that your loved one has passed away. You can do this by phone or email in most cases. They will update their records, making you the main point of contact. Some will ask to see the death certificate, so make sure you have a few spare copes on hand.
Banks, building societies and investment houses will send you an up to date balance, together with details of what they require from you to release the funds. Some may simply want you to fill in a form and show them a copy of the death certificate and/or Will. Some will need you to apply for Probate.
Lenders and credit card companies usually have specialist departments who will let you know how much is owed. They won’t usually insist on immediate payment, but they will expect the balance to be cleared when estate funds are available. You’ll probably receive a call or letter from them every couple of months to see how you're getting on with the estate.
Utility companies will send you a bill as at the date of death. They are generally quite helpful about waiting until funds have been freed up from the estate.
The same is true of buildings & contents insurers. They will often keep the house covered for the time being, on the proviso that all premiums are paid as soon as funds are available from the estate. It is important that the house insurer is told as soon as possible if the house is now unoccupied, because this may change their underwriting criteria.
Water companies and local authorities usually have generous policies in place, so that council tax and water rates are not payable for a certain period after the death if the house is unoccupied.
When you registered the death, all government departments were automatically informed, because there is a very helpful Tell Us Once system in place.
If your loved one owed money, perhaps in taxes or overpaid benefits, you will shortly get a letter about that. If there is some pension or benefit money still due to your loved one, the Department of Work & Pensions will send you a claim form.
The DVLA will have noted that your loved one has passed away, but you will still need to send in the vehicle registration document when you sell a vehicle or transfer ownership of it according to the Will.
5.Get on the Same Page as Other Family Members
Bereavement can sometimes bring out the worst in even the nicest people. Emotional vulnerability can sometimes cause a family member to think less clearly than usual, to be thinner skinned, or to fly off the handle in situations they would normally respond to calmly. It’s painfully easy for conflict to flare up and quickly escalate out of control.
Be aware of this and cut each other and yourself some slack. Forgive and understand each other and yourself if things get heated. Take a time out and come back to the conversation later when there’s some calm. If you can find a way to work together as a family, the process will be so much easier.
Sometimes, the Executor named in the Will – or the next of kin with the job of Administrator where there isn't a Will – feels unequal to the task, perhaps due to age, illness or sheer geographical distance. In that case, a replacement can be appointed, but it’s an issue that’s best agreed upon as a family.
The Will may include a “chattels clause” asking that that personal belongings are distributed among family and friends as the Executor thinks appropriate. This is a sensitive task to address, and it’s helpful to have a round table discussion about this as a family, to try and reach agreement about who should receive what items.
By far the most volatile flashpoint for conflict is when the Will disinherits someone or is unequal in benefiting a class of relatives – such as when some of the children of the family are getting more than others. This can quickly solidify into an entrenched quarrel that can end up in the courts, costing many thousands in legal fees and permanently rupturing family relationships. In such a situation, seek help as soon as possible. See a solicitor for advice about whether the Will is at risk of being contested. Give serious consideration to bringing in a mediator as soon as possible, to support you all in negotiating a solution. This can save thousands in legal fees and months or years in delays.
6.Bring in the Professionals Where Appropriate
Clearing out the house contents and carrying out a deep clean and essential repair work is back-breaking work, at a time when you’ve got quite enough on your plate. So, think about using a professional house clearance service and paid cleaners.
Most of the legal arrangements you can easily attend to yourself, but if you must apply for Probate, or pay Inheritance Tax, think about enlisting the support of a solicitor for those tasks. What a solicitor can accomplish for you in a couple of hours might take a herculean effort for you to learn from scratch and do yourself. Solicitors are duty bound to give you complete transparency regarding their fees, so you can tell your solicitor exactly what you want done and can expect a clear quotation for the cost, before you decide whether to go ahead.
Safeguarding Your Business Legacy
Let’s explore four key strategies that every business owner should consider safeguarding their business legacy.Read more...
The Essential Guide to Estate Planning for Private Landlords
The rewards of property investing can be generous, but the challenges are undeniable. Let's look at the bigger picture.Read more...
Blended Families and Inheritance: Balancing Your Spouse’s Security and Your Children’s Legacy
Being part of a blended family can be such a joy and can also raise important considerations for the future.Read more...
Protecting Your Children’s Inheritance from Care Costs
Life is full of uncertainties, and as responsible parents and grandparents, it's only natural to worry about what the future holds for your loved ones.Read more...
A Guest Blog from Canada
Brian from Canada tells his story of the difficulties he had with his late father's estate due to poor estate planning. It shows that the risks - and the ways to prevent them - are remarkably similar on both sides of the Atlantic.Read more...
Vlog: Powers of Attorney Explained
A simple video introduction to Powers of Attorney, what they do for you and what your rights and your Attorney's responsibilities are.Read more...
Vlog: How to Divorce-Proof your Children’s Inheritance
A simple video tutorial addressing a concern held by many parents of adult children.Read more...
Take me to Court (as your barrister of course!)
Barrister Raj Kanda tells us how a revolution in legal services means you can access his help directly.Read more...
Why Trusts are your Best Friend
A short video blog explaining why trusts are a user-friendly and economical part of your overall estate planRead more...
Shielding your Buy to Let Portfolio from Inheritance Tax
This is a quick video introduction to seven ideas you can explore to manage your exposure to Inheritance Tax if you're a buy-to let investorRead more...
Estate Planning Video Tutorial for Buy to Let Investors
This short video introduces you to the main points you need to consider if you are responsible for a buy to let portfolioRead more...
Video Blog - How to Protect your House from Care Fees
This is the biggest issue for more mature parents whose kids have flown the nest - how can we save the kids' inheritance from being wiped out by care fees?Read more...
Video Blog: How to Pay for a Funeral Without Going Into Debt
It's a terrible time when you've just been bereaved, and the last thing you need is practical worries about paying for the funeral.Read more...
A Scary Story! Video Blog
My video explaining how a simple keystroke error almost cost someone their £100k+ inheritance … and what easy action you can take to safeguard yourself against such a thing happening to you.Read more...
Older Childless People “Dangerously Unsupported”
More than a million childless people aged 65 or above are living with dangerously inadequate levels of support, suffering isolation and lack of access to formal care - and that number is expected to double by 2030.Read more...
Taking the Long View
You need to make an estate plan to truly future-proof your family. Here's why, and how to go about it.Read more...
Brexit Turmoil Delivers Reprieve for Bereaved Families
At last, a tiny bright spot amongst the relentless Brexit related misery.Read more...
£110,000 for seven years of care
A court has awarded £110,000 to a granddaughter who provided devoted live-in care for her grandmother for seven years.Read more...
What to Do When a Loved One Passes Away
When you lose someone, the last thing you want is to think about the practicalities, but there are some essential steps you must take to safeguard the estate and ensure that it is passed down as smoothly as possible.Read more...
Estate Planning Essentials for Same-Sex Couples
How to avoid the four most common estate planning pitfalls that can affect same-sex couples.Read more...
D’Oh! Five Ways to Seriously Mess Up Your Estate Plan
If financial security and peace of mind for your nearest and dearest is your priority, it’s essential that you maintain a valid and up to date estate plan.Read more...
Talking About Estate Planning with your Parents
Have your Mum & Dad made their estate plan yet? Should you be concerned?Read more...
What About Your Digital legacy?
How to plan for what will happen to all your online accounts after you’ve gone.Read more...
Don’t let your business get clobbered!
It’s your responsibility to safeguard your business. Here’s how to do it in three easy steps.Read more...
Cost of Care Rises by 10% in Just One Year
The cost of a place in a care home is rising at its fastest rate ever, while pension incomes have little hope of keeping pace.Read more...
Hats off to the “Parentsioners”!
Look around, and you’ll notice you're surrounded by people who quietly go about their daily business of achieving seemingly impossible feats of hard work and organisation. You might be looking at just such a person in the mirror.Read more...
Contested Will Saga Ends in Prison Sentence
A retired window cleaner, who was left £280,000 in the will of a customer, was jailed for failing to hand back the money when ordered.Read more...
Will Inheritance Tax be Simplified?
The Office for Tax Simplification is reviewing the complex Inheritance Tax system. Does this mean there will there be less tax to pay?Read more...
Daughters try to block father’s marriage
Court of Protection forced to decide whether daughters can lawfully block their father’s marriage to his partner of 20 years.Read more...
Three Brothers in Court Battle Over their Mother’s Legacy
The three Heath brothers have already incurred £50,000 in court costs because they didn't have the awkward family conversation about inheritance.Read more...
We Need to Talk About Inheritance
With inherited wealth set to double in the next 20 years, it’s time to get over the awkwardness and have the conversation now.Read more...
Inheritance Tax Bonanza for HMRC
A 23% spike in Inheritance Tax receipts is being blamed on frozen allowances, rising house prices and more aggressive tax collection.Read more...
Dementia Tax – Some Good News?
Cautious optimism as Health Secretary vows to bring forward plans to make paying for care fairer.Read more...
The Tragic Case of “Mr Y”
52-year-old "Mr Y" is being kept alive in a coma while the Official Solicitor defends legal principles.Read more...
Can the Government be Trusted on the Dementia Tax?
Little has been said about the cost of care since the 2017 Dementia Tax controversy. But the few hints dropped by the government have both insulted and threatened parents of adult children.Read more...
Power of Attorney Refunds Available
If you paid £110 to register your Lasting Power of Attorney between 1st April 2013 and 31st March 2017, you are entitled to a refund of up to £54.Read more...
Case Study: Jim and Jean’s Story
Jim and Jean have two grown-up children with complex disabilities. Here’s how their estate plan met their needs.Read more...
The £50million Final Salary Pension Transfer Boom
Here’s why so many savers are moving away from their final salary pension schemes? And why your pension capital should be a key consideration in your estate plan.Read more...
Just how risky are Lasting Powers of Attorney?
An invaluable tool? Or a passport to financial abuse?Read more...
Case Study: Guy and Steve Safeguard their BusinessRead more...
Sheila Kitzinger’s Good Death
Sheila Kitzinger, a passionate advocate for the rights of expectant mothers, pioneered the use of birth plans. And she brought the same control and empowerment to planning her own final days.Read more...
We’re Not Getting Any Older
Life expectancy at age 64 has all but ground to halt, due to the austerity years and a surge in dementia. What can you do for yourself while we wait for a cure?Read more...
Lynda Bellingham’s Sons Betrayed, as Feared
The late Lynda Bellingham’s lack of a proper estate plan risked leaving her sons with nothing – now her widower has done exactly what she least wanted him to do.Read more...
Probate: What’s it all about?
If you are dealing for the first time with the estate of someone who has died, you must quickly get to grips with some probably unfamiliar concepts. This is a short introduction to the issues you may have to deal with.Read more...
Redefining old age?
Seismic demographic changes mean we must re-think what it means to be “old”, says one of the UK’s leading social scientists.Read more...
Case Study: Ray & Joyce
How this retired couple made sure most of their main asset would be inherited by their children – and not the council.Read more...
Business Property Relief
If you are a business owner, it’s likely that your business is one of your main assets. You may want to pass your business to the next generation as a going concern, or you may want your dependants to benefit from the value of the business after you’ve gone.Read more...
Seven Inheritance Tax Tips for Buy to Let Investors
If you’ve invested in buy-to-let, you’ve probably done so with the intention of creating a steady income for yourself, together with capital to hand on to the next generation when you’re gone. But unfortunately, wealth tied up in residential lettings often comes with a significant Inheritance Tax burden.Read more...
The Residence Nil Rate Band
A guide to making the most of the new Inheritance Tax allowance.Read more...
Case Study: Tony and Diane’s Story
How Tony and Diane secured an Inheritance-Tax-free legacy for their daughter and planned a secure retirement for themselves.Read more...
What’s all this fuss about The Dementia Tax?
It’s odd that there has been so much vociferous debate about “the dementia tax”, as if this is an outrageous new concept proposed by a rapacious government. The truth is that people with dementia have been robbed of their legacy for decades to pay for their care.Read more...
Separating Elderly Couples in Care is Inhumane
It's scary that Social Care leaders actually had to be told at a recent conference that separating elderly couples in care is inhumane.Read more...
Inheritance Tax Planning with Enterprise Investment Schemes
Not keen on the government gate-crashing your funeral to demand yet more tax? An Enterprise Investment Scheme may be a useful addition to your estate planning toolkit.Read more...
Sons’ Inheritance Blown on Legal Fees
Two brothers have wasted their entire inheritance on a doomed court battle to contest their late father’s will.Read more...
Helping your Parents to Cope
The Guardian newspaper recently published a helpful group discussion, in which readers shared their own experiences of what has worked for them in offering a helping hand when a parent is finding it all too much.Read more...
The Supreme Court’s Decision in Heather Ilott’s case.
The 2015 Court of Appeal Decision in Heather Ilott’s case has been overturned. The Court of Appeal’s 2015 award of £163,000 has been reduced to £50,000.Read more...
Charitable Legacies - a Win-Win
Leaving a charitable legacy in your Will makes you feel good AND gets you an Inheritance Tax discount – what’s not to love?Read more...
Our friend died without saying she’d left us £110k
The rate at which estates go unclaimed has risen two and a half times in the last five years, according to government figures recently released.Read more...
Who gets the kids if something happens to us?
It’s a horrible thought, isn’t it? Nobody wants to imagine their beloved child being orphaned, but thinking about the unthinkable, and making proper plans, is a vital parental responsibility.Read more...
Is Your Child’s Inheritance Divorce-Proof?
Doreen Crowther may lose her house because her inheritance wasn't divorce-proofed.Read more...
Planning for the Cost of Care
Will poor health in later life put your home at risk?Read more...
Status Quo Rocker Rick Parfitt Disinherited his Wife
The late Status Quo star Rick Parfitt disinherited his wife in the final days before he died, it has emerged. But all is not as it seems.Read more...
My Health Scare - and why I’m so glad I made an Estate Plan
My New Year was overshadowed by a major health scare – but my estate plan assured me that, whatever might happen, my clients and loved ones are protectedRead more...
Your New Year’s Resolution?
If you haven't made your will yet, you risk leaving a mess behind for the people you love.Read more...
George Michael’s Estate Plan
Much missed pop legend provides for his sisters, god-children and favourite charities in his WillRead more...
Our 2017 Continuing Professional Development Programme
Our 2017 Estate Planning Training Programme for Accountants and Financial Services ProfessionalsRead more...
How a £2000 Inheritance Transformed 40,000 lives
Vashti Seth started a charity with a legacy from her dadRead more...
The £72million House Heist
Councils’ £72million raid on older people’s houses to pay for careRead more...
Royle Family’s Caroline Aherne Accidentally Left Her Mum with a £71,000 Inheritance Tax Bill
Inheritance Tax stress for Caroline Aherne's bereaved MumRead more...
“Get a Job!”: Disinherited Daughter’s Court Battle Ends in Humiliation
Danielle Ames loses her fight with her stepmother for a share in her late father’s fortuneRead more...
Danae Brook’s Story: A Blended Family Blighted by Intestacy
How Danae’s husband’s intestacy left this blended family in chaos.Read more...
The Truth about Deliberate Deprivation of Capital
Thinking about making a significant gift to your children? Worried that the council might snatch back the gift if you later go into a care home? Here’s what you need to know.Read more...
Disinherited Daughter v Stepmother
Disinherited Danielle Ames in Court Battle with her Stepmother over her "Idolised" Late Father's FortuneRead more...
Is the Traditional Marriage an Endangered Species?
In a major cultural shift, married couples are now in the minority as most couples choose to cohabit. Is this the beginning of the end for traditional marriage?Read more...
Video Blog - Inheritance Tax and You
Will my estate be affected by Inheritance Tax?Read more...
The Hurt and Rejection of Daisy Goodwin
It's every parent's responsibility to talk to their children about the legacy they might leaveRead more...
Trusts to Manage Inheritance Tax – One Rule for The Duke of Westminster and One for the Rest of Us?
The toxic urban myth that Inheritance Tax is for "the little people".Read more...
Toby Wales’s Story
The power of wills to transform lives for the better.Read more...
Heartache and Chaos from a Lost Will
Alison Shields tells of the distressing consequences of her father's lost will.Read more...
Father’s fear of making a will left his young daughter penniless
How Katy Young was accidentally disinherited by her father's fear of making a will.Read more...
Property tycoon sued beyond the grave.
Ex-civil partner of deceased millionairess in court bid for larger settlementRead more...
Stepfamilies & Blended Families Estate and Legacy Planning
A video guide for people who have stepfamilies or blended familiesRead more...
Frugal Bachelor Leaves Surprise Legacy of £1.5million to his Local Hospital
Heartwarming Generosity of Peter GibbonsRead more...
Case Study - How Dervla’s Inheritance Tax Planning Saved £120k
In today’s climate, “fail to plan” means “plan to pay lots of Inheritance Tax”Read more...
Video Blog - Estate Planning Tips for Business Owners
A Video Guide to Keeping your Business ResilientRead more...
Angela Rippon – a Happy Singleton Putting her Affairs in Order
In advance of the BBC documentary "The Truth About Dementia", Angela Rippon shares her concerns.Read more...
“Do Not Resuscitate” – Could this Happen to You Without your Consent?
The NHS knows that it's happening - and why it's happening - but won't be doing anything about it anytime soon. Here's how to protect yourself and your family.Read more...
The 8 Vital Questions You Should Answer Before You Make a Will or Estate Plan
How to choose an estate plan that's fit for purpose and within your budgetRead more...
Estate Planning Tips for Happy Singletons
This is an estate planning guide for single people - what you, as a happy singleton, can do to plan a secure future and a meaningful legacy.Read more...
Oxo Mum’s Family Torn Asunder by a Badly Made Will
How poor estate planning has left the late Loose Women star’s sons powerless – and possibly penniless.Read more...
Case Study - Bill and Anne, Buy to Let Investors
How we helped a couple ensure a secure future for theselves, their family and their buy to let portfolioRead more...
Estate Planning Considerations for Buy to Let Investors
This is the first in a two-part series that looks at the estate planning concerns of buy to let investors - and some of the many available solutions.Read more...
Come Live with Me and Be my Love ....
Five practical tips for living together securelyRead more...
Colin and Eleanor’s Story - Peace of Mind for Four Generations
This is the story of Colin and Eleanor, great-grandparents who wanted the peace of mind of knowing their assets were protected for the four generations of their family, and that their own personal wishes were respected no matter whatRead more...
Soaring Probate Fees - a Stealth Tax
The Ministry of Justice has announced a fee scale that increases the cost of probate by up to 130 times the present fee. Here are some ways of managing the cost of leaving a legacy for your family, so their inheritance is maximised.Read more...
Joy Williams’ Legal Battle - And Her Lessons for Couples Living Together
Joy Williams has won an exhausting, four-year court battle to save her home – but it could all have been avoidedRead more...
How a £90 Will Cost a Daughter Half a House
Ebenezer Aregbesola used a low-cost will-writing service to prepare his will - consequently a crucial loophole was missed, which robbed his daughter of her inheritance.Read more...
Making Your Child’s Inheritance Divorce-Proof
Marriage isn't always forever - is there a way to protect your child's inheritance from the consequences of a divorce?Read more...
Subscribe for Updates & Information
"I am a retired divorcee with a complicated family situation. Allowing my estate to be distributed in line with to the intestacy rules when I am gone would not have been a fair reflection of my wishes, so I knew it was vital that I make a will. I wanted to ensure that particular members of my family were provided for. I also have a child who is self-employed, and I was worried about providing for her in case her business failed and her inheritance was seized by the Insolvency Service. Will Written have created an estate plan for me that places my assets into a trust when I am gone, so that the trustees can manage my assets and keep them in the family."