What to do when someone dies

Following a bereavement, there are quite a large number of tasks that will need to be completed. The responsibility for these falls to the executors appointed in the person’s Will, or if there is no Will, to their administrators.

An executor or administrator is financially and legally responsible for administering the estate. They are also personally liable if an estate is distributed incorrectly, so it is not a role to be taken lightly. As an executor or administrator, you have the right to instruct a legal professional to administer the estate on your behalf, if you wish. The role is unpaid, but you can be reimbursed for your reasonable expenses in carrying it out.

Even in a relatively straightforward estate, it is important to be aware that probate tends to be a fairly lengthy process. Realistically, one can usually hope to obtain a grant of probate within 3 months, and for the estate to be wound up completely within a year of the death. More complex estates can sometimes take much longer, however.

The steps involved usually broadly include the following: –

  • Register the death
  • Arrange the funeral

If there is a property:

  • Source specialist buildings insurance
  • Arrange postal redirection
  • Arrange property valuation (if applicable)
  • Arrange contents valuation (if applicable)
  • Maintain the property to a high standard


  • Carefully value the assets and any debts
  • Recreate a family tree if needed, especially if there is no Will
  • Complete the relevant inheritance tax forms
  • Calculate and pay the inheritance tax due
  • Apply for the grant of probate/letters of administration
  • Set up any trusts established in the Will
  • Gather in liquid assets once the grant is obtained
  • Settle any debts/liabilities
  • Pay legacies
  • Transfer any property into the names of the beneficiaries/arrange the sale of the property
  • Sell or transfer shares
  • Distribute funds/transfer assets to residuary beneficiaries
  • Obtain confirmation of funds received from beneficiaries
  • Produce estate accounts confirming asset values at the date of death, any income received and the amounts transferred to beneficiaries

Income Tax/Capital Gains Tax:

  • Complete income tax return to date of death
  • Complete income tax return for the post-death period
  • Review the estate to see if any capital gains tax is payable, and if so, settle it

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