There are 3 things you must do in the first few days after someone dies.
Get a medical certificate from a GP or hospital doctor. You’ll need this
to register the death.
Register the death within 5 days with the local Registry Office. You’ll
then get the documents you need for the funeral.
Arrange the funeral - you can use a funeral director or arrange it
When someone dies, you may be able to apply for a ‘grant of
representation’. This gives you the legal right to deal with the
person’s property, money and possessions (their ‘estate’). The right to
deal with the estate of someone who’s died is called ‘probate’.
You can apply yourself or use a solicitor.
Most cases follow the same basic process.
Check if there’s a will - this normally states who sorts out the estate;
if there’s no will the next of kin can apply.
Apply to get a ‘grant of representation’ - this gives you the legal
right to access things like the person’s bank account.
Pay Inheritance Tax - this is only paid if the estate’s worth over
£325,000 and is part of applying for a grant of representation - once
you’ve paid any tax due, you can collect the assets.
Collect the assets - e.g. money from the sale of the person’s property.
Pay any debts - e.g. unpaid utilities bills.
Distribute the estate - this means giving any property, money or
possessions to the people entitled to it (‘beneficiaries’).
When a grant of representation may not be needed
You don’t normally need a grant if the estate either:-
passes to the surviving spouse/civil partner because it was held in
joint names – e.g. a savings account
doesn’t include land, property or shares
You should contact the organisation holding the money - e.g. the bank or
building society. They may ask for proof of death - e.g. the death
certificate after the death has been registered.
Each financial institution has its own rules - you may still need to
apply for a grant.
2. If the person left a will
You can apply for a grant of representation if you’re the ‘executor’ of
the will - the person named to deal with the estate. If more than one
executor is named in the will, the probate application form and guidance
notes explain what to do.
You should contact your local Probate Registry if either:-
The Probate Registry will explain what you need to do. An executor
doesn’t necessarily get any of the estate.
3. If the person didn't leave a will
The person’s next of kin - e.g. the spouse (or civil partner) or
children - can usually apply for a grant of representation. The law
decides who inherits the estate if there’s no will (see Intestacy)
Partners and ex-partners
If you’re the partner of the person who’s died but weren’t married to
them (or in a civil partnership) you can’t apply. You’re also not
automatically entitled to get any of your partner’s estate. You should
get legal advice to find out about your rights.
If the person was separated but not yet divorced (or had their civil
partnership dissolved), their spouse (or civil partner) would inherit
some or all of the estate - and must apply for the grant.
4. Joint property and bank accounts
Joint bank and savings accounts
If you have a joint account with the person, what’s in it automatically
passes to you. You don’t need a grant of representation.
What happens to the person’s property depends on how it was owned. If
the property was:-
held under ‘joint tenancy’ - the surviving owner inherits the whole
owned as a ‘tenancy in common’ - the person’s will (or the law if
there’s no will) states who inherits their share
owned outright by the person - the terms of their will(s) state who
inherits (or the law if there’s no will)
Contact the mortgage company, the Land Registry or get legal advice if
you’re unsure of how a property is owned.
5. Applying for a Grant of Representation
You can apply for a Grant of Representation yourself or use a solicitor.
There are 4 steps.
Complete a probate application form.
Complete an Inheritance Tax form.
Send your application.
Swear an oath.
Complete a probate application form
You can either:-
Probate and Inheritance Tax helpline
Telephone: 0300 123 1072
Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm
Complete an Inheritance Tax form
You must also work out how much the estate is worth. Depending on its
value, there may be tax to pay - called Inheritance Tax. You must
complete an Inheritance Tax form - even if you think no tax is owed.
If there is tax to pay, you normally have to pay at least some of it
before a grant of representation is issued to you.
Send your application
Send your application to your local probate office. You should include:-
the probate application form PA1
the Inheritance Tax form
an official copy of the death certificate
the original will and 3 copies - and any codicils (additions or
amendments to it)
the application fee of £105 - a cheque made payable to HM Courts &
Tribunals Service (there’s no fee if the estate is under £5,000)
You can pay for extra copies of the grant (£1 each) - this means you can
send them to different organisations at the same time.
Swear an oath
The probate office will send you an oath and details of how to arrange
an appointment. You’ll need to swear the oath at either:-
The oath is a promise that the information you’ve given is true to the
best of your knowledge.
You should get the grant through the post within 10 working days of
swearing the oath.
If it’s not possible to issue a grant, the Probate Service will explain
why in writing.
6. Once the grant's been issued
Contact organisations to get hold of the person’s assets
You should send a copy of the grant to relevant organisations (e.g. the
person’s bank). They should then ‘release’ the assets so you can
transfer them into the executorship account.
If the person had a pension, contact the organisation - a surviving
spouse (or civil partner) may be entitled to money from it.
Pay any debts or outstanding payments
Once you’ve contacted all the organisations, pay off any debts the
person had. This could include:-
As the executor or administrator you have a legal responsibility to pay
off any debts or outstanding payments before distributing the estate.
You can use money from the estate to pay any solicitor’s fees as part of
the probate process.
Distribute the estate
Once all debts and taxes have been paid, you can distribute the estate
After this you should prepare the estate accounts. These must be
approved and signed, by both you and the main beneficiaries.
Beneficiaries may have to pay Income Tax if the assets they inherit
generate income for them.
7. If you inherit property. You have responsibilities if you inherit
Selling the property
You may have to pay Capital Gains Tax if you sell inherited assets which
have gone up in value since the person died. This includes inherited
Get advice from the Capital Gains Tax helpline.
Capital Gains Tax helpline
0300 200 3300
Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm
Saturday, 8am to 4pm
If another owner is still living there
If another owner is still living there you need to agree with them
Their right to remain may be stated in the will, if there is one.