The estate

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How do you sort out the estate of the deceased?

When a person dies, somebody has to sort out his or her estate. Their estate includes their money, property and the possessions they've left. If you are the person doing this you collect in all the money, pay any debts and share out the estate to those people entitled to it.

You can pay a solicitor to sort out the estate for you. You may already have a solicitor your family uses. If not, you will need to choose one. Ask friends for recommendations and, when you contact them, please ensure that you ask about their charges.

How can you get help to cancel Council services?

The Registrar who registers the death informs certain departments in the council that this person has died. These departments include the Council Tax Office and the Electoral Register. If the deceased died outside of their own district of residence, then you will need to contact their Local Authority and inform them of the death.

How do you apply for probate?

In order to sort out the deceased's estate, you may need to apply for probate. The Probate Office will give you a grant of probate if the person left a will, or will grant letters of administration if there isn't a will. Your local Probate Registry will send you the forms you need with notes and guidance on what you have to do.

What does a grant of probate, or letter of administration, allow you to do?

A grant of probate is a legal document which allows the people named in it to collect and distribute the estate of the deceased. You can show it to organisations that hold these assets, such as banks or building societies. Probate is the process of officially proving that a will is valid, but the following information applies equally where the deceased died without leaving a will, in which case the grant is called a letter of administration.

Is a grant of probate needed in all cases?

Not always. It may be necessary to obtain a grant of probate where a home is held in joint names and is passing by survivorship to the other joint owner where a joint bank or building society account is held. Production of a death certificate may be sufficient for the monies to be transferred to the joint holder and certain institutions may release monies without a grant being produced if the amount held by the deceased was small. You will need to apply to the institutions to see if they will release monies without a grant.

Staff at probate registries will offer procedural guidance on how to obtain a grant. They cannot provide legal advice.

You should remember that if the deceased owned a vehicle then it is possible that there is no longer insurance cover for it to be driven. Many policies state that a vehicle may be driven by someone else with the owner's permission but as soon as the owner dies any such permission may cease. It is best to contact the car insurance company before anyone drives the vehicle to make sure that they are insured.

What do you do if there is no will?

If someone dies without making a will, they are said to have died 'intestate'. If this happens the law sets out who should deal with the deceased's affairs and who should inherit their estate. This information covers England and Wales only.

When there is no will, dealing with the estate can be complicated. It can also take a long time, often months or even years in very complex cases.

Contact for Bereavement Service