23 January 2019

What you need to do first when someone dies

By Miranda Marshall, Director, Hayes + Storr.

I am often asked what needs to be done as a first step when a family member or loved one dies.

Obviously, it depends on the person’s circumstances as to what are the top priorities, but it goes without saying that the first thing that needs attention is the funeral. The funeral director will deal with the arrangements, but it is worth checking the Will to see if there are any specific funeral wishes. This can be as simple as a preference for burial or cremation but often there is more detail such as where the funeral should take place, a form of service, choice of hymns and music, where the remains are to scattered or interred, and sometimes very individual requests.

The death must be registered before the funeral can take place. This is usually done by a close family member at a registry office of the Norfolk County Council. There are, of course, rules. You will need to give details of their place and date of birth, their occupation and all the names, by which they (and their widow or deceased spouse) have been known.

It is important to make sure that the house is secure and insured. Sadly, burglaries do take place so it can also be a good idea to take items of sentimental or financial value elsewhere for safekeeping. Often elderly people under-insure their house and its contents, so do check the level of cover. Sometimes the security arrangements are insufficient to meet the insurance company’s requirements, so do not overlook this. After 60 days most insurance companies impose conditions and restrict cover on empty properties. If this is a worry, we can undertake property checks and have useful local reliable contacts and knowledge.

There are then the practical matters to deal with such as ensuring that household bills continue to be paid and that the house is kept warm enough so the pipes do not freeze and burst or other problems arise.

If the person has left a Will, the solicitors holding it will need to see the death certificate and have the written authority of all the executors to release it or copies of it.  An executor’s authority arises from the will and so exists immediately from death. A Grant of Probate is often needed to “prove” that the executor(s) have the legal power to administer the estate.

If a person has died without a Will they are “intestate” and no one has authority to deal with anything until the Grant of Letters of Administration is issued by the probate court. However, the practicality must prevail and arrangements can usually be made to keep things ticking over until either the grant issues or the nearest family members entitled under the intestacy rules get matters moving.

Probate solicitors are here to help when somebody passes away. Their experience is not just in dealing with and advising on the legal process but also the practical and family side of matters.

This article aims to supply general information, but it is not intended to constitute advice. Every effort is made to ensure that the law referred to is correct at the date of publication and to avoid any statement which may mislead. However, no duty of care is assumed to any person and no liability is accepted for any omission or inaccuracy. Always seek our specific advice.

If you would like further advice on this matter please contact Miranda on 01328 710210. If you require advice on any other legal matter call 01328 863231 or email law@hayes-storr.com.

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