The will and estate

You will need to find out if the person who died had a will and, if they did, who the executor (also called the personal representative) is. The executor is responsible for paying any debts, taxes and expenses (including funeral expenses) from the dead person’s estate and for sharing out what is left, according to the will. 

There are rules about how the dead person’s estate is divided between the surviving relatives if there is no will. If the dead person had money and possessions but no will, you should apply to the Probate Registry for legal authority to deal with the estate. 

You can employ a solicitor to do this for you, or to give you advice. It helps to get all the documents together and make a list of questions before you see the solicitor, to save time and money. 

The probate and inheritance tax helpline is:

0300 123 1072 

You will need to tell various people and organisations that the person has died. It might help to keep all the personal and financial records such as birth, marriage and death certificates; driver’s licence; passport; insurance policies; and banking and other financial documents together in a folder. Two forms – a list of common organisations to contact (not all will be relevant and you may find others when you go through the dead person’s papers) and a form you could use to send information to them – are included in the Useful Forms page. You may want to photocopy these forms. 

You can also contact the Bereavement Register, which will arrange for the dead person’s name to be taken off mailing lists and databases in the UK, as a free service. This will not stop official mail such as bank statements and tax returns, so you will have to contact the organisations that send these yourself.

Some life insurance policies have an exclusion clause, which states that a claim cannot be made if the person insured dies by suicide within a certain time period after the policy was taken out.

These restrictions are usually in the small print; however, most insurance companies will handle this sensitively.