- What is bereavement?
Bereavement is the term used to describe the state of loss when someone close to you has died. Everyone experiences bereavement in a unique way, though there are emotions which are common to many people.
Call us on 0800 024 6121, if you need advice or support on issues relating to your bereavement or use our live chat function.
- What must I do if someone dies?
The first steps after someone dies can seem overwhelming but the National Bereavement Service is here for you every step of the way.
- What is probate and how long does it take?
Probate is the process of proving the will is valid and dealing with the estate of the person who died. It is also used for when there is no will and the estate is administered according to the Rules of Intestacy.
The probate process can take a few months, and in some cases, up to a year or more. The typical time frame for simple estates is between six and nine months. However, more complicated estates can take years to be resolved.
The timing of many of the steps involved in probate is not under the control of the person dealing with the estate but is due to the many third parties involved such as financial institutions, the DWP and probate registries.
- Do I need a solicitor?
For a simple estate, it’s not essential to have a solicitor. However, if the estate is large or complex in nature, we recommend taking legal advice.
Property, business and farm ownership, several bequests to charity, complex or acrimonious family relationships, are all factors which may make using a legal service to administer the estate advisable.
For a simple estate, it’s often possible to carry out most of the work yourself but you can use a solicitor for the key legal steps.
Call us for free* on 0800 024 6121 to discuss your options and what may best suit the circumstances of the estate you are dealing with.
- What is a coroner?
The coroner is an independent judicial office holder, appointed by the Crown, whose role it is to investigate unexplained or unnatural deaths. Coroners usually have a legal background but will also be familiar with medical terminology. They also investigate deaths in certain specific circumstances, such as those in custody and overseas, where the body is brought back to England and Wales.
In Scotland, there are no longer coroners. Deaths requiring judicial examination are reported to the procurator fiscal and are dealt with by fatal accident inquiries conducted by the sheriff for the area.
- Can I challenge a will?
- There are a few circumstances in which you can challenge the provisions made in a will. This is usually where the law would consider it unreasonable for you not to be provided for in the will, for example, if you were financially dependent on the person who died.
You may also suspect that the will itself is not valid because the person who wrote it was not fully mentally competent or was inappropriately influenced at the time the will was written. You must seek help from a solicitor at the earliest possible opportunity as there is only a limited time frame in which a will can be challenged.
- I think the circumstances of the death are suspicious. What must I do?
In the first instance, you should contact the Police. If the death has already been reported to a coroner or procurator fiscal, you may contact their office directly. You must be able to explain very clearly why you feel the death was not natural as this is obviously a very serious allegation to make.
- The Executor(s) named in the will have died / do not want to carry out their role, or the person who is entitled to act as Administrator in an intestate estate is not able to do the work. What do we do?
These are common situations, and it is possible for people to be appointed to act instead of the named Executors and for someone else to be appointed as the personal representative of the nearest next-of-kin in an intestate estate. It does mean more legal forms will have to be completed before the administration of the estate can start.
- Can I sort out the personal possessions of someone who has died before we have probate?
Provided the personal possessions of the person who died are not of high value, they can usually be distributed according to the provisions of the will or at the discretion of the Executor or Administrator if there is no specific provision in the will.
An amount should be included in the application for probate to cover these belongings. If in doubt as to the value of items e.g. vintage / antique furniture, jewellery, collections of stamps or other memorabilia and specialist tools, then formal valuations should be obtained. This may not be necessary if insurance valuations are available.
Valuable items should not be distributed until after a Grant of Probate / Administration has been issued.
- Can I put a property on the market?
Property belonging to someone who has died cannot be sold until after a Grant of Probate or Administration has been issued.
It’s possible to place a property on the market, but it may be advisable to wait until a grant has been issued because of the unpredictability of timing of the probate process.
- What about insurances?
Insurance taken out by the person who died usually becomes invalid on the date of their death. Contact the insurance company to transfer the policy to the person dealing with the estate. The insurance company may have certain conditions for insuring a property that is to be left empty, relating to utilities and heating.