Dealing with the death of a loved one is hard enough; it is a shock, often sudden and cannot really be planned for. If you are also the Personal Representative officially dealing with the estate (the property and possessions of the person who has died) as either an executor or an administrator, you are suddenly thrust into an alien situation with unusual and confusing terminology.
Read our guide below for the first practical steps you can take following a death.
Beware of giving too much information in death notices in local papers if the deceased’s property is empty, the ‘obits’ is a common hunting ground for thieves.
If a dependant dies you can take unpaid leave to arrange and attend the funeral. You must notify your employer as soon as possible and the time you take must be ‘reasonable’. Some employers will allow this time off as paid leave, check your contract or office manual/handbook or ask your HR department.
Registering the death should be dealt with by a relative or someone present at the death, but if as the Personal Representative you are going to be arranging the funeral you can also register the death.
The deceased’s Will is often lodged with their solicitor. Check the deceased’s personal effects for a copy Will which should help identify where the original is held or, indeed, the original may be found amongst the personal possessions of the deceased. Only the executors can read the Will at this stage as it is confidential until probate has been granted. If you find a Will, you are able to check it only to establish the identity of the executors and any funeral wishes. If the Will is lodged with a solicitor they are able to tell you who the executors are and any special requirements for the funeral (if noted) but nothing else.
If there is no Will the Personal Representatives are established under legal rules - known as the rules on intestacy—and officially appointed in the Grant of Letters of Administration. A solicitor can help establish if there is no will and explain how the rules of intestacy work.
If the deceased died other than in a residential or nursing home, make sure the deceased’s property is secure as soon as possible and notify the insurance company about the death, checking whether the current insurance is sufficient and valid. Make a full note of the conversation and put this with the insurance certificate.
Make sure any pets are being cared for; check to see if the animals are registered with the RSPCA Home for Life Scheme, or if no friends or family can help contact the local police station.
Any small valuable items should not be left at the property but taken into safe keeping by the personal representatives.
Arrange to empty the fridge of its contents and check with a neighbour if they are happy to put out the deceased's refuse bin for collection, and take it back within the boundary of the property thereafter