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Practical advice if you’re faced with a family bereavement

Practical advice if you’re faced with a family bereavement

Unfortunately many of us, at some point in time, will find ourselves with the responsibility of dealing with someone’s estate. It can seem quite daunting the first time we have to deal with matters such as sorting through papers and contacting organisations, such as banks and building societies, insurers or utility providers, following the death of a close friend or family member.  Should you find yourself in this position some things to think about and deal with include:

  1. Register the death

A death requires to be formally registered. This is done by making an appointment to attend the Local Council’s registration office. A list of the contact details for all of the offices in Scotland can be found here. Such an appointment can only take place when you have the medical certificate relating to the death. Therefore, if a post mortem is required, the death cannot be registered until this has taken place and a medical certificate has been issued.  

If you have them, you should also take the deceased’s birth certificate, any marriage or civil partnership certificates, their National Insurance Number, passport, and details of any funds they received from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) with you to the appointment at the Registrars. These documents will enable you to use the “Tell us once” system, which notifies multiple government agencies of the death without you having to contact each department individually.

At your appointment you will be given an abbreviated death certificate, along with a certificate that enables a cremation/burial to take place. Full death certificates can be obtained for a small fee – we would advise that you purchase at least one full certificate.

  1. Arrange the funeral

The deceased may have left instructions as to which undertaker they would prefer you use. However, if they have not, the funeral can be arranged with the undertaker of your choice. The undertaker will require to see the certificate issued from the registration office relating to the burial/cremation.  Whilst you can make contact with the undertaker and start dealing with the funeral arrangements prior to registering the death, the funeral cannot proceed until the death has been registered and the certificate enabling the burial/cremation to take place has been issued by the registrars office. As such, the funeral arrangements may not be able to be confirmed until the certificate has been obtained.

If the deceased has arranged their funeral prior to their death, dealing with the funeral arrangements should be straightforward.  

If the deceased has not advised you of their funeral wishes, you may wish to look out their Will (if they had one), as this may specify their funeral wishes. This can be located using our tips below.

  1. Locate Will (if there is one)

A Will is the document put in place by the deceased stating how they wish their assets to be distributed after they die. It is therefore important that this is located.  It may be the deceased kept a copy of their Will at home, which will provide details of where the original is held. This will also confirm who the deceased appointed as their Executors – the person(s) responsible for administering the estate.  

If you cannot find a copy of a Will in the deceased’s house, and do not know which firm of solicitors they might have used during their life, it would be advisable to contact local firms of solicitors to query if they have the Will.  The solicitor will normally only discuss the details of the Will however with the person who has been named as Executor.  

If the deceased died without having a Will in place, a solicitor can assist and provide advice on the application to the Sheriff Court to have an Executor appointed.

  1. Gather information

If you require assistance to deal with the affairs of someone who has passed away, you should phone a solicitor to arrange an appointment. 

You should then begin to check through the deceased’s papers to try and locate information on any assets they owned at their death. Often this information will be found by locating bank statements and other letters in the deceased’s home. You should bring details of everything you find to your appointment with the solicitor.  Banks statements will likely disclose if the deceased had any direct debits, enabling you to contact any utility providers and inform them of the death. Many of the large companies, including banks and utility providers, have dedicated teams to handle queries following a bereavement.   

If the deceased owned their home, it is important that the buildings and contents insurer is contacted to enable cover to continue.

The above information is however only a starting point for dealing with an estate. Should you find yourself having to administer an estate and requiring assistance, please contact one of our offices to arrange an appointment to meet with one of our Private Client team.

Rachel High is a Senior Solicitor in our Private Client team. Should you require any further information on Wills or succession planning, please contact Rachel on 01382 229111 or email or alternatively contact any member of the Private Client team

Posted by Rachel High

Senior Solicitor

Services associated with this entry

Executry and Estates Wills and Will Writing

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