What to do in the event of a Death


Whether a person dies with or without a valid Will, there are certain steps that need to be taken early on.  Working out what needs to be done can be overwhelming. Anderson Rowntree Solicitors have developed this simple flowchart and guide to clearly explain what needs to happen first, to make a challenging time just a little easier.

It is important to know that, when someone dies, there is no rush to get everything done straight away. Registering the death and arranging the funeral will be the first steps.  You should also think early on about speaking to a Solicitor for professional help.

There are 3 essential things you must do in the first few days after someone dies.

Register the Death

You should contact the Registry Office to arrange an appointment to register the death. The appointment is likely to take approximately 30 minutes.

You will need to get a medical certificate from the GP or hospital doctor. If the death was expected then this will be relatively straightforward.

The things you need to have available for your appointment at the Registry Office will include:-

  • The medical certificate
  • The person’s full name at the date of death
  • Any previous names used (e.g. maiden name)
  • The person’s date and place of birth (take their birth certificate if it is available)
  • Their last address
  • Their occupation
  • The full name, date of birth and occupation of a surviving or late spouse or civil partner
  • Information relating to State Pension or other local authority benefits
  • Your identification documents, such as driving licence and passport

You should register the death within 5 days. The Death Certificate is usually available immediately following the appointment at the Registry Office.

Arrange the funeral 

Most people use a funeral director, though you can arrange a funeral yourself. It is important that you arrange one through a provider that is part of a reputable National Association that has a code of practice.

Some local Councils and other organisations like the British Humanist Association run their own funeral services, for example for non-religious burials.

If you want to move a body for a funeral abroad, you will need permission from the coroner at least 4 days before you want the body removed.

There are different rules for bringing the person’s remains home from abroad. This depends on whether you bring the body home for burial/cremation or have the person cremated abroad and bring their ashes home.  This will involve consular assistance, as well as your local coroner.

Inform Government services

The Government operates a “Tell Us Once” service to report a death to most government organisations in one go. Once reported, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) should contact you about the tax (in particular Income Tax and Capital Gains Tax), benefits and entitlements of the person who died.

HMRC will work out whether the right amount of Income Tax has been paid by the person who died and to collect or repay any amounts owed. A self-assessment tax return may need to be filled in on behalf of the deceased, especially if the estate continues to receive income.

Inheritance Tax may be due on the person’s estate after they die. This is dealt with entirely separately from the Income Tax and you should consider taking professional advice from your Solicitor in connection with the calculation and payment of Inheritance Tax.

Gather Estate Information and seek professional advice

Typically, it is at this stage when you would meet with your Solicitor for an appointment to discuss the Estate Administration.

At the appointment, the person’s assets and liabilities will be considered so you may wish to collect information, such as bank statements, share certificates and other correspondence and bring it all along to your meeting.

Your Solicitor will discuss with you what the next steps are in connection with the Estate Administration and whether a Grant of Representation will be required.

A Grant of Representation is a legal document that authorises the person/ people named on it to deal with the deceased’s affairs. If there is a Will then the document is usually called a “Grant of Probate” and if there is no Will the document is called a “Grant of Letters of Administration”.

Once the assets and liabilities of the person’s Estate are ascertained, and their date of death values confirmed, the Inheritance Tax Return (or Account) can be completed. An Inheritance Tax Return (or Account) is required, even when there is no Inheritance Tax to pay, if you are applying for a Grant of Representation. Where a full Inheritance Tax Account is required, this must be submitted to HMRC within 12 months of the end of the month of death to avoid penalties.

When there is Inheritance Tax to pay, some or all of it will need to be paid within 6 months of the end of the month of death to avoid interest and penalties.

 Is a Grant of Representation required? Speak to your Solicitor.

When a Grant of Representation is required, you may instruct a Solicitor to obtain this on your behalf. Alternatively, you may choose to make a personal application.

The administration of an Estate can be complex and the work can seem daunting. A qualified Solicitor will be able to deal with all matters arising and explain each stage of the process to you so that you are kept informed throughout. This is important because Estate Administration can take many months or, in some cases, years to finalise.

For more information on our high quality, personalised Estate Administration Services, contact us at any of our three West Sussex offices:

Chichester:   Tel 01243 787899 or email chichester@andersonrowntree.co.uk

Petworth: Tel 01798 342391 or email petworth@andersonrowntree.co.uk

Storrington: Tel 01903 745666 or email storrington@andersonrowntree.co.uk