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What to do when a loved one dies

by Tracey Heath

Published on 16th February 2020

When a loved one dies, not only do you have to cope with the inevitable grief but there are many practical, and immediate, steps that must be taken. Just when you are feeling at your lowest, you have to navigate procedures that you may never have faced before.

what to do when a loved one dies

At Optimum, we specialise in estate planning, will writing and lasting powers of attorney and because of this some of the clients we see have recently lost a loved one, so we help guide them through some of the steps that need to be taken.

We hope that, should you find yourself in the situation of needing advice, the following will be a useful checklist.

Ten steps to take when someone dies

  1. Obtain a medical certificate from a doctor, which will confirm the cause of death. If the person died at home, you should call a GP. If they passed away in hospital or a care home, this will be taken care of for you.
  2. Let all the their close relatives know and also inform (if relevant) an employer or landlord.
  3. If the person lived alone, ensure their property is securely locked and cancel deliveries, such as milk or newspapers. If the person owned a property, inform the buildings and contents insurer of their death, to make sure that the insurance is still valid and property protected.
  4. Once you have a medical certificate, you will need to register the death which you can do with the nearest registrar, by appointment. You will need to take with you some documentation, proving who the person is. This could include a birth or marriage certificate, passport, driving licence, proof of address on a utility bill, Blue Badge etc. During your appointment, you will be given information about local bereavement services. You will be given a death certificate and it is wise to pay for several additional copies (we would suggest at least four or five) as original death certificates are required by, for example, banks when they are informed of a death.
  5. Register the death with the ‘tell us once’ service. This is run by the Department for Work and Pensions, which will cascade the information to other authorities, such as the local council.
  6. Inform relevant organisations, such as the person’s bank, building society, or mortgage lender. Make a list, and make notes as you go about who you have informed and when.
  7. Choose a funeral director and make arrangements for a funeral.
  8. Check to see if the person has left a will. They may have included details of whether they wish to be buried or cremated, as well as details of how they want their assets distributed. You should seek the advice of a solicitor regarding the will, to ensure it is valid and that it is adhered to.
  9. Cancel or transfer contracts, such as with broadband/telephone providers, gas, water and electricity companies.
  10. Find out whether you need to carry out probate. Probate is not necessary for smaller estates. You can apply for probate if you are named as the executor in the will. If there is no will (and the person has died intestate) you may apply instead to be the estate’s ‘administrator’ if you are the person’s spouse, civil partner or child. Again, it is advisable to consult a solicitor who deals with wills and probate.

One final suggestion: keep a notepad and pen handy to jot things down. This might include information that a doctor or hospital staff give you, or the registrar mentions, or perhaps queries from friends and relatives. It’s very easy to forgot things when you are going through a bereavement so an aide-memoire could prove useful.

If you have yet to make a will, or need a will revised, or you need some help and advice with the procedures surround probate, please get in touch with our legal team who will be delighted to help.

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