If you have just lost a relative you may be feeling overwhelmed and unable to work out what to do next. In practical terms you should see if your relative had a pre-paid funeral plan. This is very important because such plans can only be used with the company from whom they were purchased. You need to avoid using the ‘wrong’ funeral parlour which would mean in effect having to pay a second time.At Emmersons Solicitors we ask our clients, when they make a will with us, if they have a pre-paid funeral plan. If they do we keep a record of the same. If you can’t find a plan in the home of your relative have they advised their solicitor that they have one? If you are reading this and you have such a plan have you advised your relatives or friends about it, could they find it easily when needed? If there is not a plan in existence then any funeral director will need to know that they are going to be paid.
At Emmersons, if we have evidence that there is money available in your relative’s estate, we will contact the funeral director and confirm this. We will arrange for the invoice to be sent to us if we are instructed to deal with the estate. Then we will apply directly to the bank for a cheque to be made payable to the funeral director. We find that for many clients this takes away the worry of how to pay for a funeral.
Another issue that will require your urgent attention is in relation to empty home insurance. If your relative lived alone then their home will now be empty. Their insurer needs to be contacted and advised of this. Some insurers will allow the insurance to continue in the name of the estate. Others will require window locks on all windows and five lever mortice locks on doors. Some will refuse to continue the insurance as they will see it as too risky. You must not overlook this.
We have had cases where property has been set on fire whilst empty or has flooded. This will obviously affect the sale price. Have you told your relatives the name of your insurer? Could they easily locate your insurance policy? If a property is empty you should also consider turning off the water. Some insurers will insist upon this. Who has keys to the property? Were there carers holding keys? If you are not sure that you can locate all keys you should consider changing the locks on an urgent basis.
The estate now technically owns all of your relative’s assets until such time as it is distributed, usually after a grant of probate. Therefore you must protect all assets within the estate. This includes jewellery, cash and antiques. You will need to register the death at your local civic centre
or town hall. You will find the Registrars Department to be very helpful. It is often possible to book an appointment. They will hand you forms so that the death can be registered once with all relevant government departments. You should order about five death certificates.
Financial institutions will need to see an original rather than a photocopy. You will also need to arrange the funeral. Did your relative let you know their wishes? If you didn’t have a discussion about this it may be included within their will.
At Emmersons Solicitors we ask all of our clients if they would like to include their funeral instructions within their will. About half choose to do so. It is important if you have particular wishes that you let your relatives or friends know what those wishes are even if included in your will. Sometimes a funeral has already taken place before we are contacted by relatives. If there is to be a burial in a family plot you will need to locate the paperwork relating to this. Again this information may be held by the family solicitor. The above issues are the most important that need to be addressed following the death of a relative or close friend. They will be dealt with within the first two weeks. Obtaining probate is the second part of the process. This obviously takes longer, usually between four to six months.
At Emmersons Solicitors our Private Client team are able to help you by offering you expert help and by taking away further worry and stress. Whilst this is not the most joyful of topics, I hope that it gives you food for thought in relation to your own affairs. If you are faced with the death of a loved one then hopefully this information is of some practical help. If you do need advice then please don’t hesitate to contact us on 0191 2846989.