My Uncle, who lived alone, has just died, what do I do next?

This is obviously a common situation which raises certain urgent issues.
1. Make sure the house is secure. If there were a number of carers from an agency visiting the house did they have keys? If yes, then you may wish to consider changing the locks.
If the house has window locks then lock them. Insurers will insist upon this.
2. As a matter of urgency look for an insurance policy in respect of buildings and contents. If you can’t find a paper version there may be reference to a policy in your uncle’s computer. Or you could go back through the last year of bank statements looking for payments to insurance companies. At this stage you may need to instruct a solicitor to find out as financial institutions may not be prepared to give you information.
3. The house may not have been insured. Emmersons Solicitors Probate Department has dealt with a number of cases recently where this was the case. Some older people may overlook this especially if they are in ill health.
4. If there is an insurance policy in place then inform the insurer immediately. Some companies will allow the policy to continue until renewal time. However, they will place conditions upon the policy. Eg. That the property must be visited weekly, or that the water is switched off. Some companies will refuse to renew the policy once it has expired. You need confirmation of the position in writing.
5. If there is no insurance or the existing company will not allow a policy to continue then you will need an Empty Property Policy. They can be quite difficult to purchase. Most solicitors deal with specialist insurers in this regard.
6. Is there a funeral plan? This will be linked to one company. If you use another company for the funeral then the plan is wasted.
7. Freeze all bank accounts. If you need money for the funeral and there are sufficient funds in your relative’s bank account then the bank will release money directly to a funeral director. At Emmersons we regularly arrange for this to happen.
8. Check damp garages and outhouses for paperwork. You would be surprised at how many people keep the deeds to their house in the garage! I always advise my clients that we can store their deeds free of charge.
9. Is there a will? If you cannot find one in the house then contact your uncle’s last known solicitor. Many people do not keep a copy of their will in their home. If this applies to you then obtain a copy from your solicitor and advise your relatives which solicitor is storing the original.

As you can see there is a lot to do very quickly. Some people are happy to sort out all of the above without help. However, should you find the task too daunting then ask a solicitor for help.

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