How to prepare for the death of either yourself or a loved one

Stuart Simpson is head of bereavement services at Equiniti.

When someone close passes away, it is a difficult time for all involved and the emotional impact can be made more difficult by the requirements of managing the affairs of the estate.

Whether you are a family member or the appointed Executor of an Estate, here are some tips to help ease the process.

Notifying organisations of a death

It is a legal requirement to register a death within five days (eight days in Scotland). To do this you will need to contact the Registrar of Births and Deaths. A useful guide of how to notify the Registrar, and the documents you will need, can be found at www.gov.uk/after-a-death.

To ease the process, we recommend that you use the Tell Us Once service if it is available in your area (the service is available through most local authorities and details can be found on the website above). Tell Us Once will save having to make multiple notifications by informing government organisations, including Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC), The Department of Work and Pensions, The Passport office and local councils. 

Next steps

Ensure that any property is secured – Unfortunately insurance policies may no longer be valid if a property is left empty following a death. If a property is left empty, make sure that all gas, water and electricity supplies are turned off and water systems are emptied to avoid damage from leaks, particularly during winter. It is important that you notify the insurance company as soon as possible to allow them to update their records and allow insurance cover to be put in place. 

Arranging the funeral – Check the will or speak with family members to understand if the deceased had any specific wishes. In most cases, the funeral director will be able to arrange the details and provide advice. If the deceased’s estate does not have sufficient money to pay for the funeral, it may be possible to obtain financial support. You should contact your local social security office as soon as possible for more information or go to www.gov.uk/funeral-payments.

Managing the affairs of the estate – It is important to do this in your own time, taking care to ensure all legal responsibilities have been carried out fully, or appoint a professional to assist. Every estate requires an inheritance tax and income tax form to be submitted to HMRC, regardless of whether the estate is taxable or non-taxable.

For more information on tax implications, the executors should seek the advice of an authorised financial adviser, accountant, solicitor or professional estate administrator, as once submitted, the executor is legally responsible for their accuracy. Equiniti Bereavement Services offer Estate Administration Services and details can be found at: www.Shareview.co.uk/Info/BereavementServices

Writing a will

Although preparing for the eventuality of death is difficult to think about and a sensitive subject to discuss with our loved ones, it is a conversation that can make dealing with a bereavement easier for those left behind. It is important any funeral plans and insurance policies are made known to loved ones. These can provide guidance and help remove stress in the days after the event.

Advise a next of kin where to find important documents and information so they can be found easily, and keeping a list of passwords with this information would allow them access to online accounts and to manage your digital legacy.

I recommend preparing a will and to always let your executors know where the will is held. If you die without a will (intestate), there are certain rules that dictate how the money, property or possessions should be allocated, and this may mean that your estate is not distributed in the way that you would have wished.

Once you have written your will, you should review it regularly to make sure it continues to reflect your wishes, and where this is not the case, arrange for it to be updated. We would recommend that you review your will at least every five years and after any major life event, such marriage, separation, divorce, after having a child or moving house. If you are use a solicitor or professional to write your will, ask them to record the will with the National Will Register (www.nationalwillregister.co.uk). This will make it easier for your loved ones to locate the latest will after your death. 

Stuart Simpson is head of bereavement services at Equiniti.

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