What happens when someone dies

When a person dies, somebody has to deal with their estate, often referred to as estate administration. This involves dealing with money, property and possessions owned by them, by collecting and realising assets, paying any debts and inheritance tax due and dividing the estate amongst the various people entitled to receive them, either by the will or under the intestacy rules.

If the value of the deceased person's assets is very small, some building society, bank accounts and national savings products can be dealt with quickly and efficiently by letting them have a copy of the death certificate.

For all other assets it is necessary to obtain a document called a grant of representation from a division of the court known as the probate registry. The grant of representation confirms that the persons named in the grant are legally entitled to deal with the estate of the deceased, pay any expenses and taxes due and distribute the balance of funds to the people who are entitled to it.

The two most common grants of representation are the grant of probate and the grant of letters of administration.

Grant of probate

A grant of probate is issued to the executors named in a will. The executors are the people appointed by the deceased to deal with their assets and carry out the terms of their will.

Grant of letters of administration

A grant of letters of administration is issued where there is no will or where the executors named in the will are not able to act. There is a special order of priority as to who can take out a grant of letters of administration and it is usually the closest blood relative.

How do I access a deceased person’s funds?

All finances, assets and property in an estate will remain “frozen” until the probate registry (the court that deals with a deceased person’s affairs) gives the authority to deal with the assets either to the individuals nominated in the will (the “executors”) or the person entitled to act under the intestacy rules (the “administrator”). 

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A personal representative is the term given to the individuals who have the authority to deal with the estate and, where a will has been left, this is known as “obtaining probate”.

The personal representative will have many acts to carry out and our probate lawyers can help to provide practical guidance on how to deal with these things. The usual tasks that will need to be dealt with include:

  • Determining the size of the estate for probate and tax purposes.
  • Settling the debts and liabilities of the estate, including paying any inheritance tax if applicable.
  • Preparing an application to the probate registry for probate to be obtained.
  • Lodging a copy of the probate with the relevant organisations to collect money due to the estate and settle any outstanding debts.
  • Transferring or selling shares, property or land owned by the deceased.
  • Distributing the assets of the estate to the legally entitled beneficiaries.

Our estate administration lawyers have extensive knowledge of administering estates and any trusts created by wills or the intestacy rules.

We recognise that cost issues are important to you and we are transparent about our fees. Before any work is undertaken we will outline what we propose to do on your behalf and provide you with written confirmation of our estimated total fees. We will also keep you updated as the matter progresses. Our charges are primarily based on the time involved and may also reflect the value and complexity of the estate.

Convenient meetings

We can meet you at either our Salisbury, Southampton or Poole office

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Meet the team

First person - Wills, trusts and probate

Karen Perugini

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