How to deal with the death of a loved one
Winter should be a time for family and friends, but for many it turns into a nightmare.
We recently wrote a blog about how deaths in winter are on the rise. The winter of 2017-2018 saw a perfect storm of cold conditions and NHS woes, amounting to 50,100 excess winter deaths in England and Wales.
This was the highest number of deaths since the winter of 1975-76, figures from the Office for National Statistics show. The NHS is gearing up for more of the same for 2018-19.
Christmas and winter should be a time spent with family and friends, rather than grieving, but the unfortunate fact is that winter can be hard for many, especially those who are elderly and vulnerable.
This is why, if the worst should happen, it is important to know what your next steps are from a legal point of view. The first time people often hear the word “probate” is after losing a loved one, so learning and understanding probate beforehand can ease some of the pressure when the time comes around.
What is Probate?
Probate is the legal process for dealing with the estate of someone who has died. An estate, in this case, relates to the money and property of the deceased.
If the deceased left a will, they should have specified an executor or executors. These are people who are expected to “execute” the will. An executor has the responsibility to carry out the deceased’s wishes, as written down in their will.
In many cases, family and/or friends will be the executor/s of the will. However, people may appoint professional executors (e.g. a solicitor).
If there is no executor named in the will, or there is no will, someone must become the administrator of the estate.
In order to start the process, you will need to note down a few things in relation to your loved one.
Your loved one’s documents:
- Certified copies of the decedent’s death certificate
- Original Will
- Insurance policies
- List of assets (house, car, jewellery, etc.)
- Bank/investment/annuity account numbers and statements
- Paperwork regarding pension plans and retirement accounts
- National Insurance number/card
- Credit card numbers and statements
- Title or Deeds to any property
- Stock certificates
- Tax return from the previous year
List of property:
- Property, including business-related or holiday
- Stocks and bonds
- Bank accounts
- Retirement accounts
- Contents of safe deposit box, including jewellery
My loved one didn’t make a will
Research reveals nearly half of Britons over 55 do not have a will, so it is quite possible that your loved one died without one, leaving them intestate. The intestacy rules are the principles laid down by law which stipulate how the estate is to be administered if there is no will.
First, an application must be made to the Probate Registry for a Grant of Letters of Administration. This document gives the person named the authority to administer the deceased person’s Estate. This person is known as an administrator.
The rules of intestacy follow a hierarchy of who should benefit from the estate. This order is as follows:
- Spouse or civil partner
- Brothers and sisters
- Uncles and aunts
The highest existing and surviving relative will take priority. Clearly, this may not be an ideal situation for the deceased, which is why would highly advise you and your loved ones to make a will this winter.
The Process of Probate
The process of probate can differ depending on how complex the case is. However, generally speaking, it will follow certain steps. These are:
- Locate the Will
- Contact a probate solicitor
- Establish deceased’s assets
- Initiate Probate
- Manage the Estate
- Perform an Inventory
- Liquidate Assets
- Pay Debts
- Prepare Estate Accounts
- Distribute Assets, notify Heirs, Beneficiaries, and Creditors
- Close the Estate
While the process can be straightforward in simple cases, these steps can often be hard to undertake if a professional probate solicitor has not been contacted to help.
How can Percy Hughes & Roberts help?
At Percy Hughes & Roberts Solicitors, we have a team of dedicated probate solicitors who are ready to help you resolve your query or issue relating to the death of a loved one and the process of probate, as quickly and effectively as possible.
If you need assistance with obtaining a grant of probate or letter of administration, or simply want advice on dealing with the Probate Registry, our wills, trusts and probate solicitors have a wealth of experience. They can help you through what can be a difficult time, dealing with estate and trust property and complex estates.
Contact Percy Hughes & Roberts
To speak to a wills and probate solicitor for advice, contact Percy Hughes & Roberts for a no-obligation phone consultation today. We provide ourselves on offering expert advice that's easy to understand, and we will be with you through every step of the legal process.