Wills & Inheritance Protection

My relative has died, what do I do?

10th July 2023 Tom Couch

Working out what to do when someone you love dies can be incredibly stressful and overwhelming. This guide intends to outline the main initial areas that you will need to cover from the day that your loved one passes away.

The family and friends of the person who has died can usually deal with most of the practical things that need doing immediately after a death. Solicitors normally get involved a little later, when the personal representatives ask for their advice about the estate.

Immediately after death

The things that have to be done immediately after a death can be done in the order in which they appear below, but this is merely a suggested order:

  1. If the deceased own a property, ensure that their home and possessions are secure.
  2. Register their death.
  3. Start arranging their funeral.

The property of the person who has died

Are their home and possessions safe?

If the deceased lived alone, their property should be visited as soon as practically possible to ensure that all doors and windows are locked, routine deliveries are stopped, and valuable items are moved out of sight of passers-by.

Keeping possessions in the house

Everything that is in the deceased’s property should remain there if possible, although, if there are very valuable items and you believe that they are not adequately insured, consider moving them to a more secure place.

Did the deceased have a pet?

If the deceased had a pet, you should make temporary arrangements for it/them to be looked after by a family member or friend. Alternatively, an animal rescue charity may be able to assist.

Insurance

On your first visit to property, check for papers relating to home and contents insurance. Once located, phone the home insurance provider to advise them of the death, making sure that there is adequate home and contents cover in place.

Registering the death

When someone dies, a doctor will issue a medical certificate which states the cause of their death. The death must then be registered at the register office for births, deaths, and marriages for the district where the person died.

When to register the death

A death must be registered within five days after the date of the death.

Who can register the death

If the death was in hospital or in a private home (including a nursing or residential home): If the death was not in a public building or a private home:
A relative. A relative.
Someone who was present at the death but who is not a relative. Anyone present at the death.
Someone representing the “occupier” of the building where the death occurred (for example, the manager of a residential home). Anyone who has taken responsibility for arranging the funeral.
An official from the hospital.
Anyone who has taken responsibility for arranging the funeral.

Certificate for burial or cremation

In addition to issuing an official copy of the register, called a certified copy death certificate, the registrar will also issue a certificate for burial or cremation. This is to be given to the funeral director who is making the funeral arrangements.

Start arranging the funeral

Locating the deceased’s Will

Whilst not essential, it is best practice to clarify whether the deceased created a Will because many people express wishes in their Wills as to what kind of funeral they would have liked.

Once their funeral wishes have been established, the certificate for burial or cremation will need to be given the funeral director. The funeral director will then guide you through the process leading up to the funeral and the burial or cremation.

Paying for the funeral

By taking on the responsibility for arranging the funeral, you are also taking on the responsibility of paying for it.

You will eventually be able to reimburse yourself from the estate of deceased if there is enough money in the estate to cover the funeral expenses, however, there are other suggested steps which you should take before paying for the funeral yourself:

  1. Establish whether the deceased had a pre-paid funeral plan.
  2. Contact the deceased’s bank to see if they would be prepared to release money from their account to pay for the funeral.
  3. Establish whether the deceased had any life insurance or pensions as lump sum payments may be payable very soon after a death.
  4. If you are arranging a funeral for a partner or close relative and you are on a low income, you may qualify for help from the government in paying for it. Note that you may have to repay some or all of it from the estate of the person who has died.

If you require any advice in relation to any of the information outlined above, please telephone or email our Inheritance Protection team on 01983 533938 or Info@biscoes-law.co.uk