10 Nov 2020

Wills & Probate

Things to do when you lose a loved one

Losing a loved one can be one of the most traumatic experiences you ever have to go through. Whether the loss was expected or a complete shock, it can feel like the bottom has dropped out of your world and facing even the simplest task can feel overwhelming.

We’ve pulled together this step-by-step guide of things that you need to do when you lose a close family member, to help you navigate your way through this incredibly difficult time.

Register their death

This has to be done within five days if you live in England or Wales. You can contact any register office to do this but it will be quicker if you use the one in the area where the person died.

The death should be registered by a relative but if this is not possible, by someone who was there at the time of death, is an administrator from the hospital where the person died or is in charge of making the funeral arrangements.

You’ll be given either a ‘certificate for burial’ to give to the funeral director or an ‘application for cremation’ to complete and give to the crematorium.

Arrange their funeral

You can arrange a funeral yourself but most people use a funeral director. Try to choose one who is a member of either the National Association of Funeral Directors or the National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors, as these organisations both have codes of practice.

Arranging a funeral can be stressful and expensive. Check to see whether your loved one has a pre-paid funeral plan or insurance policy in place to cover the costs. Funerals are usually the time when there is a real outpouring of grief, when the reality of the situation hits the family. However, they can also be a celebration of the person’s life and so be prepared to feel a whole range of emotions through the course of the day. It’s likely that you’ll feel emotionally drained and absolutely exhausted afterwards, after trying to hold it together for friends and family.

Letting everyone know

Obviously, you’ll have let close friends and family know about your loss when it happened but one of the hardest things can be having to let your wider network know and informing all the necessary authorities and organisations. The Government has a useful ‘Tell Us Once’ service which will inform all relevant government departments when someone dies, to save you having to contact multiple people.

You’ll also need to tell banks, utility companies and any other relevant contacts such as landlords or housing associations. It can be helpful to pay for additional copies of the death certificate when you register the death as you may need these to confirm the death with the various organisations you’ll need to contact.

Check if you’re entitled to any bereavement benefits

The last thing you need to be worrying about after just losing a loved one is money so it’s worth finding out if you’re entitled to any financial support. You may be able to get Bereavement Support Payment (BSP) if your husband, wife or civil partner died in the last 21 months. There’s no need to look into this immediately but you must claim within three months of your partner’s death to get the full amount.

Providing you live in the UK and are under State Pension Age, you could be eligible if your partner paid National Insurance contributions for at least 25 weeks in one tax year, or if they died because of an accident at work or a disease caused by work.

Manage your tax, pension and benefits

You’ll also need to deal with your own benefits, pension and taxes as these might change depending on your relationship with the person who has died. If you have lost your spouse or civil partner, your income will probably change, which will result in you having to pay more or less tax. Be sure to tell HMRC about any change in your income.

Deal with their estate

If you’re a close friend or relative of the person who’s died, or an executor of the will, you might have to deal with their estate. Hopefully, they will have left a will, which means you’ll apply for a ‘grant of probate’ but if they didn’t, you may need to apply for ‘letters of administration’. Both of these terms are often referred to as “applying for probate.”

You may not need probate if the person who died only had a small amount of savings/premium bonds, or if they had jointly owned assets as these often automatically pass to the surviving owners.

If you’re an executor, the first thing you’ll need to do is to find the original will to apply for probate. As part of the probate application forms, you will also need to account for the value of the deceased’s estate.

Most people obtain professional help to deal with an application for probate, to ascertain whether inheritance tax is payable and if so, how much. It is also advisable to obtain legal advice regarding the terms of the will and the responsibilities involved in administering an estate. Our expert and friendly team at Harding Evans have years of experience dealing with wills and probate and can answer any questions you may have at this difficult time.

If there was no will left, the law decides who will inherit their estate. It is estimated that over half of adults in the UK risk dying intestate, which means they would have no say in what happens to their property, finances, belongings or dependants when they die, highlighting how vital it is to have a properly written will in place.

Allow yourself time to grieve

As well as the huge turmoil of losing someone you love, as this guide shows, there are a lot of practical tasks that need to be completed too and in among all the stress, it can be easy to forget to look after yourself.

Grief is a natural response to loss but often the pain can be overwhelming. Try to make sure you allow yourself time to grieve and accept what has happened. Everyone experiences grief in different ways so don’t let anyone else tell you how to feel. Talk to friends and family about how you’re feeling and if you need some extra support, there are lots of bereavement support services in your local area that can help you feel less alone.

If you have recently lost a loved one and would like to talk to one of our friendly, sympathetic team at Harding Evans about dealing with their estate, we have years of experience and promise to treat you with empathy and respect. Visit our website at www.hardingevans.com, email hello@hevans.com or call 01633 244233 or 029 2267 6818.

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