How to Handle the Estate after a Death

Danielle Houghton

Community Writer

After the death of a loved one close to you, the second hurdle in line you would have to overcome is to deal with their real estate, financial affairs, property and debts. Either you are curious or have been put in a situation to find out how to handle someone’s estate after a death, we are happy to guide you with legit advice through the legal things needed to be done when someone close to you dies.

What is an estate after death? The estate of the one who died includes everything they owned that has value at the time of their death. These include finances, cash, bank accounts, life insurance policies, shares, real estate property, personal possessions, and any money indebted to them.

Whether you need to find what happens to debts and bank accounts when someone dies or how to handle an estate without a will, here are some tips and advice that will be helpful for you now or in the future in managing estate after a death of someone close.

1. Determine the executor or the trustee of the will or apply for an administrator

With the closure of the funeral services, you have to contact the executor of the will of the one who has passed away. Usually, the name of the executor who should undertake to manage the estate is mentioned in the will or announced before writing the will. Given that the deceased has not left any will or a written document, a family member can apply to be an administrator to play the role of the executor which will be permitted with the letter of administration.

For further assistance in understanding the particular law and legal procedure, we advise you to consult a lawyer experienced in trust and estate.

2. Do you need a solicitor for probate?

Even though many law firms and lawyers offer estate administration services, the need for a solicitor arises when the estate owned by the deceased is considered complex.

A good solicitor near you will advise you on the relevant laws that are associated with specific situations such as:

  • The terms or the validity of the will is unclear,
  • The estate is insolvent
  • The part of the estate is passed on to a minor under 18
  • The estate is in a trust
  • The estate includes property located overseas or,
  • The deceased owned a business

As the solicitor fee is determined per hour and depends on the estate value (1% to 5% + VAT), it is better to compare the prices of different solicitors before choosing one.

Finding a suitable solicitor will save you energy and time, and it will ensure all the legal requirements associated with the assets of the deceased are met. The solicitor will help resolve possible family conflicts regarding the distribution of the assets and will intervene when the relationship between the nominated executor and the beneficiaries are not on good terms.

3. Getting the probate grant

Probate is the entire legal process of administering a dead person’s estate. Probate is supervised by the court of law which authenticates the will of the deceased and grants permission to the executor to access their finance and ‘estate’.

Check whether the estate of the deceased requires probate and if it does, the executor has to fill in the probate application form and send the papers to the local Probate Registry. And, the executor has to pay a probate fee of £215 only if the estate is valued at £5,000 or over.

The Probate Registry will call the executor for an interview to verify the provided information of the deceased. The executor can choose to go to a probate solicitor instead of the Probate Registry for an additional fee and the probate is granted usually within ten days of the interview.

Remember that anything of the estate cannot be divided or sold out before receiving the probate. Yet, you are permitted to remove or transfer money without probate to pay for funeral costs, inheritance tax, probate fee and any other expenses related to the funeral or estate administration process.

4. Informing the death to the relevant government and local authorities

The following UK authorities should be informed as soon as the probate is granted. You will be asked to send certified copies of the death certificate for them to proceed with the legal documentation and procedure.

You can inform the HM Revenue and Customs, the Department for Work and Pensions bereavement service, and the Passport Office by dialing their number. To inform the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, you have to write a letter mentioning the death of your loved one, date of their death, their address, date of birth and your relationship with them. Keep in mind to find and inform the local council and the specific benefactors if your loved one was benefitted from any pension benefactor.

5. What happens to debts when you die in the UK?

The money owed by the deceased person, such as the credit card bills, rent, and mortgage payment is covered from their estate once the probate is issued. Only after the debts and taxes of the deceased are paid that the remaining balance will be divided among the beneficiaries mentioned in the will.

The family or the other relatives do not have to pay the balance from their savings accounts if the debts cannot be covered from the estate of the deceased; which means the debt goes unpaid.

6. Joint Bank Accounts

When one account holder of a joint account passes away, the other holder automatically inherits the remaining money and also the remaining debts owed through that account.

7. Joint-owned Property

Only when both the deceased and the other party were beneficial tenants can the surviving party automatically inherit the property. If they were tenants in a common property agreement, the surviving party would have to go for probate.

8. Mortgaged Property

A mortgage is a temporary transfer of property or real estate to secure a loan of money. The heir is asked to take over the mortgage or pay the total amount immediately when its owner dies. The heir can take care of the mortgage payment after selling the land or property as well.

Remember to get necessary legal advice regarding the real estate law, estate administration and all associated legal procedures from a reputed lawyer or a professional solicitor to avoid confusion and possible errors in dealing with the estate of your loved one.