Probate Advice: What action should you take when someone dies?

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Losing a family member, friend or loved one is extremely distressing and people are often are unsure as to what practical action they need to take at this time.

The information below has been put together by Bennett Griffin’s specialist Probate team as to the first steps to take following the death of a family member or loved one:-

1.Register the death

Either family or the executor of the estate (see below) should obtain the doctors / hospital certificate and contact the local registrar’s office.

You will need to know as much information about the deceased as possible – full name and maiden name, date and place of birth, occupation, spouse’s name and occupation.

Official copies of the original death certificate at this stage cost £4 – order as many as you may need in order to be able to provide one to each asset holder as photocopies are not allowed– 10 should cover this for most estates.

You will also be given details of the ‘Tell Us Once’ service and the reference to quote when contacting them by telephone or online. This is a service which will inform various government departments such as the Department for Work & Pensions that the individual as passed away.

2. Trace the Will

A persons Will confirms who is the executor of the estate (the appointed representative who will deal with matters),  in law the ‘next of kin’ has no legal standing and therefore the next of kin does not automatically have the right to deal with the deceased assets and belongings .

The Will may also include the funeral wishes of the deceased which you will need for the next stage below.

If the Will was prepared by a professional firm such as a Solicitor, the Will is likely to be held by them. The executor will be able to collect this and should retain the original document in a safe place. The original Will will be needed to obtain the legal document required to deal with the estate which is call the Grant of Probate.

If there is no Will different provisions apply and further information in relation to this is given below.

3. Arrange the funeral

Take the registrars certificate to the chosen funeral directors. Either the family or executor can organise the funeral and make sure to inform friends and other interested parties of the details.

Payment of the funeral account takes place from the estate although Banks / Building Societies will pay this direct from the deceased’s accounts prior to obtaining Probate if there are sufficient funds.

4. Secure the Property and Contents

Ensure that the doors and windows to the property are locked and ideally remove any items of value to a safe place. If you are the executor, ascertain that there is current household insurance cover in place and inform the company of the situation – if you do not, the cover may not be valid. The executor has a duty to safeguard the assets.


At this stage, if you are appointed as the executor, you should consider if you are happy to continue acting in this capacity as this is a position of responsibility that can be both time consuming and complex.

A firm of Solicitors, such as Bennett Griffin, can assist an executor as much or as little as they like in order to assist them in their estate administration duties. We can offer a fixed price interview in order to discuss the estate and what will be involved in, for example, obtaining the Grant of Probate. You can then make an informed decision as to what extent you wish to be involved and if the assistance of a professional is required.

And finally, if there is no will

The family of the deceased may need the advice of a Solicitor to ascertain who is entitled to the estate. This can be complicated and can require the services of an expert who researches family trees. Should you be in this position Bennett Griffin can help guide you in this situation or handle matters in their entirety. Please do not hesitate to contact one of our experts and we will discuss how we can help.

Should you require any further information about estate administration or obtaining the Grant of Probate or any other related matters please contact our team on 01903 229999, visit the probate page of our website or have a look at the individual profiles of our experienced probate team.  

The information contained in this article is for general guidance only and is not intended to be legal advice. Professional advice should always be taken on the application of the law in any particular situation.