Even when one has time to prepare oneself mentally for the passing of a loved one, the event itself is emotionally traumatic. But despite having to deal with grief, there is a great deal of business to be done, and the fact that the deceased may not have left all the information you need in apple-pie order doesn’t make the process any easier. Before you get down to asking technical questions like “But what exactly is probate?” there are some basics to cover. These practical tips will help you to take the necessary steps to set the process of settling an estate in motion.
Before you can do anything else, you need to ensure that the death has been registered and that you have a death certificate. By law, registration of a death must occur within five days of the deceased’s passing, unless you live in Scotland, where you have eight days in which to act. In order to register a death, you will need documentation from a doctor or coroner. A delay on the part of doctors or coroners in issuing this is the only accepted excuse for late registration of a death.
In order to carry out the deceased’s wishes and to ensure that the correct person is tasked with doing so, you will need to track down the will. The first step in doing so is rather laborious: sorting through all the paperwork you can find stored in the deceased’s home. While you’re about it, you can sort documents into categories that will make it easier to evaluate them for relevance later. You’re looking for the will itself, a copy of the will, or correspondence with a lawyer in relation to the will.
Do go through all documents even if you think you’ve found the last will. Sometimes people change their wills and the new one will replace any older versions. If all else fails, check with local solicitors, and failing success there, consult the National Will Register.
Once you have found the will, read it to discover who has been appointed as executor. This is the person who will be in charge of carrying out the wishes expressed in the will, and they will need all the paperwork relevant to the estate that you can find. If you’ve been appointed as an executor and lack confidence in complying with the many duties and responsibilities this entails, consider working with legal professionals who can guide you through the process or be appointed to act on your behalf.
While sorting through the deceased’s papers, you should have found evidence of insurance policies. Life insurance and funeral plans are of particular interest. After all, funerals are costly, and financial help will take a lot of worry off your shoulders.
Examine insurance policies carefully and ensure that the relevant policy documents are handed over to the stipulated beneficiaries.
You should never withdraw money from a deceased person’s bank account after their death unless it is in a joint bank account. If you are uncertain as to whether you have the right to access funds, discuss this with the bank.
If you are the executor, it will be your duty to settle the deceased person’s debts and to distribute the remaining assets in accordance with the will. However, until the necessary formalities are in place, you won’t be able to access assets, so be sure to notify all creditors as well as making arrangements for the deceased person’s bank account to be frozen.
Settling up a deceased person’s estate can be an incredibly time-consuming and complex process. Unless you have a great deal of experience in acting as an executor, or the deceased has a very small and simple estate to wind up, it would be advisable to obtain assistance from professionals with experience in this field. In this case, all you need to do is oversee everything from that point onward, and it is very likely that concluding all business related to the deceased’s estate will progress smoothly with little intervention on your part.