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dealing with bereavement

Dealing with bereavement – Important things to consider

When a spouse, relative or close family friend passes away, many people find that they are overwhelmed.  Therefore, in this article we have set out the key issues that you need to deal with when dealing with bereavement. We hope that you find this helpful at what is undoubtedly a difficult time.

In addition to dealing with feelings of shock, loss and grief, if you are named the executor of the estate there will be many things that you need to take care of such as arranging funeral services, notifying friends and family members and dividing the estate between the beneficiaries of the Will.

The key to success at this difficult time is to have a clear plan for how to take care of all the arrangements and deal with one thing at a time. Read on for more information on how to deal with bereavement and for ways to receive bereavement help and support if you need it.

What are the key areas that you need to deal with?

Broadly the 5 areas that you need to deal with are:

  • notifying the relevant bodies of the death
  • the legal aspects
  • the financial aspects of valuing and distributing the estate
  • the beneficiaries
  • the wider administrative tasks

Before you do read about the important things you may find it useful to watch this short video which talks you through the grief process and provides some helpful advice about dealing with it.

Area 1 – Immediate steps to take when someone has passed away

1 – Register the Death

In order to officially register a death you need to arrange a face to face meeting with your local Registrar.

2 – Notify the authorities

The government’s ‘Tell us Once’ service

Tell us Once is a government service that lets you report a death.  Once you do this a number of government organisations are notified of the death at the same time.

When you come to register the death the registrar will:-

– let you know if the Tell us Once service is available in your area

– give you a telephone number you can call to make the notification

– give you a unique reference number to use in correspondence

Before you use Tell Us Once you will need the following details of the person who died:

  • date of birth
  • National Insurance number
  • driving licence number
  • vehicle registration number
  • passport number

You will also need the following information:

  • details of any benefits or entitlements they were getting, for example State Pension
  • details of any local council services they were getting, for example Blue Badge
  • the name and address of their next of kin
  • the name and address of any surviving spouse or civil partner
  • the name, address and contact details of the person or company dealing with their estate (property, belongings and money), known as their ‘executor’ or ‘administrator’
  • details of any public sector or armed forces pension schemes they were getting or paying in to

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3 – Organise the Funeral

There are lots of things to consider when arranging the funeral such as whether to choose cremation or burial, what type of coffin or urn to opt for, whether you prefer to ask mourners to provide flowers or donations, if the ceremony will be religious and if you want to organise a wake.

People who are struggling with this step may find contacting a bereavement support service to be of help.

4 – Find some bereavement support if you need it

There are several types of bereavement services to take advantage of such as:

  • care for children while all of the arrangements are being made
  • care for pets; and
  • care for disabled dependants or elderly relatives.  

Area 2 – Dealing with the legal issues

There are a number of legal issues that you will need to deal with following someone’s death.   The key areas are:

  • Dealing with the Will
  • Applying for probate
  • Getting the Grant of Probate

1 – The Will

One of the first things that you should do is find a Will.

A valid Will needs to have been written and signed by the deceased person with the date clearly shown.

It also needs to have been signed by two independent witnesses who are not otherwise mentioned in the will as benefiting in any way and in the case that several Wills come to light, the document with the most recent date is the valid Will

If you cannot find a Will, it is important to recheck all of the paperwork of the deceased person carefully as the Will could easily have become mixed up with other types of paperwork.

If no Will can still be located after an extensive search, it is necessary to seek council with the solicitor of the deceased person if they had one and follow their advice. 

You can also search the government’s ‘Find a Will’ or Probate‘ site to see if a a Will has been registered.

2 – Probate

Probate is the legal process involved in dealing with the property, money and possessions of a person who has died.

If the person left a will the executor of the estate can apply for a ‘Grant of Probate’ (more information on this is below) – a legal document which proves they have the authority to manage the estate

If the person didn’t leave a will a close relative of the deceased can apply for a ‘Grant of Letters of Administration’ – this is also referred to as ‘probate’

3 – Applying for the ‘Grant of Probate’

This is a special court order that gives the individual permission to take care of the estate of the deceased person.

In cases where there are complications due to suspicious assets or long standing debts that have yet to be cleared, some of the assets of the decease may have become frozen automatically and a Grant of Probate may be required in order to release these assets.

Here is a useful video that explains more about the legal process that you need to go through.

Area 3 – Dealing with the financial aspects after some has passed away

Following someone’s death, there are a number of financial issues that you need to go through.  These are primarily:

  • Understanding what assets and debts the person had
  • Issuing statutory notices
  • Finalising any tax liabilities
  • Paying any inheritance tax that is due
  • Completing the estate accounts
  • Distributing the estate to the beneficiaries

1 – Valuing the estate and the individual’s assets

In order to work out all the assets that the deceased person possessed at the time of their death, it is necessary to contact all of the financial institutions that the deceased has accounts with.

It may well be the case that old accounts come to light they still contain assets, so it is important to check all paperwork carefully and be prepared to do a little digging to make sure that nothing is overlooked.

2 – The executor for the estate

The executor of the estate needs to collect all the assets and keep careful records of all monies collected and paid during execution.

Therefore, it is a good idea to open a separate bank account for this with your bank or the bank of the deceased person and this can be done very easily by contacting the bank manager.

3 – Debts

In the case of a sudden or unexpected death, it is likely that the deceased person may have different types of debts such as a mortgage, a business loan or credit cards.

It is important to track down all potential debts and take care of them as soon as possible, keeping a careful record that can be referred to later.

4 – Place a statutory notice in the press

In order to make sure that no unexpected beneficiaries of creditors are revealed after the estate has been settled, it is important to issue a statutory notice, which can be published in the local newspaper and the London Gazette with the expense of the advertisement being taken out of the estate.

The statutory notice is designed to reduce the executor’s liability if creditors or beneficiaries come forward at a later date as it can be demonstrated that reasonable notice was given.

5 – The time limit for paying the debts?

Before taking care of any outstanding debts, it is a good idea to wait until all of the statutory notice has expired.

This period expires after two months and one day and ensures that all beneficiaries and creditors have the chance to make themselves known and stake their claim so that there is no confusion further down the line.

6 – Inheritance tax

If the deceased owned their own property and had a significant amount of assets in the form of investments or cash, it may be necessary to pay inheritance tax on the total value of the estate.

There are also other potential taxes to pay such as Income Tax and Capital Gains Tax and as this can be difficult to work out it is a good idea to enlist the services of a professional accountant.

7 – Finalise the tax liabilities

The executor of the will is responsible for making sure that the tax position of the deceased person is fully finalised.

This may well include covering the tax position all the way up to the date of death as well as the entire duration of the administration period and careful records of this should be kept to make sure that the executor of the will does not end up paying for these expenses out of their own pocket.

8 – Complete the Estate Accounts

Estate Accounts are a detailed and complete report of all of the financial information that relates to the estate.

It is important to note that every single penny of the estate needs to be accounted for and represented in a clear way to demonstrate that there are no discrepancies and everything has been taken care of in a fair way.

Although creating estate accounts can be an arduous and rather time consuming task, it is necessary to protect to executor of the will.

If any questions or queries come to light at any point, the executor if the will can produce the estate accounts and in the case of legal action they will be required to submit a copy of the estate accounts to the Court.

9 – Distributing the Estate

There are several checks to perform before the estate can finally be distributed such as making such that all of the expenses and debts have been paid and all the assets have been collected.  If you are satisfied that you have undertaken all that is set out above, you are able to distribute the estate to the beneficiaries.

You should wait a full six months before distributing the estate to make sure that no other details come to light in the meantime and that all duties have been carried out as far as possible.

bereavement support

Area 4 – Dealing with the beneficiaries

If the deceased beneficiary had a child or another type of dependent, their share of the Will is automatically passed on to that person unless otherwise specified in the will.

If there are no immediate dependents and the death took place within the previous 28 days, the share of the will could be added to the estate of the deceased beneficiary.

1 – Missing beneficiaries

It is necessary to show proof that you have made every effort possible to locate missing beneficiaries. If you need to take extra time tracking down missing beneficiaries, Bereavement services can be utilised to help take care of your pets or dependants while you are away.

2 – Beneficiaries under 18?

Unless otherwise stated in the will, the share of any beneficiary who is under the age of eighteen will be held in a trust until their eighteenth birthday.

A suitable Trustee will need to be assigned who will be able to look after the inheritance and distribute it when the beneficiary turns eighteen.

3 – Paying the Beneficiaries

Executors of the will need to make absolutely certain that they have identified all the beneficiaries that are listed and paid any expenses as well as outstanding debts.

It is also essential to make sure that there is enough money left over to pay each of the beneficiaries that amount that is specified and if not, work out the order in which the beneficiaries need to be paid so that the assets are distributed in the correct manner.

4 – Supporting the Beneficiaries

It is important to note that beneficiaries who have inherited a large amount of money may require guidance regarding investment.

In addition to providing assistance in locating a suitable Financial Advisor, certain beneficiaries may require emotional support in this trying time. You can find financial advisors in our independent directory here.

how to deal with bereavement

Area 5 – Deal with any administrative tasks

The main administrative tasks cover cancelling ongoing memberships such as returning library cards, bus passes and cancelling club memberships.

The deceased person’s driving license needs to be returned to the DVLA so that it can be cancelled, while the passport must be sent to the Passport Office along with a special form reporting the death.

1- The final administration tasks?

It is important to get receipts from all of the beneficiaries before closing the executor bank account and tidying up all of the files. It is best to keep all records for a full year in case there are any questions or queries and this is a good time to seek bereavement help to make sure that everything has been correctly executed.

Did you find this article helpful? If so, please share so you can help others.... Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Email this to someone


Did you find this article helpful? If so, please share so you can help others.... Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Email this to someone