Checklist steps

1. When someone has died

Report the death

If the person died at home, you should contact their GP, who will visit the home and certify the death by issuing a medical certificate of the cause of death.

If the death was in a hospital or care home, a doctor or administrative staff will give you a medical certificate that shows the cause of death.

Useful links

Register the death

The registration of the death is the formal record of the death, and is usually the responsibility of a family member. Otherwise, it should be done by someone who was present at the death, or the occupier of the premises where the death took place, or the person arranging the funeral (though not the funeral director).

All deaths need to be registered by the Registrar of Births, Marriages and Deaths in the district where the death happened. You’ll need to register the death within five days (eight days in Scotland). If a coroner is involved in the registration process, the registration may be delayed.

Find a register office in England and Wales

Before you can register the death, you’ll need either:

  • a medical certificate from the GP or hospital doctor
  • permission from the coroner that you can register the death, if the death was reported to a coroner (Procurator Fiscal in Scotland)

The registration process will depend on the nature and location of the death.

Once you have registered the death, the registrar will give you a certificate for burial and cremation, which allows this to go ahead. A funeral director will ask for a copy of this certificate.

Useful links

Tell government organisations about the death

The registrar will give you a form to be sent to the Department for Work and Pensions (or the Social Security Agency in Northern Ireland), which will allow the person’s pension and other benefits to be dealt with. You’ll be assigned a unique reference number, and they may mention the Tell Us Once online service.

You'll also need to inform banks, utility companies, landlords and mortgage lenders.

Useful links

Make arrangements for the funeral

A funeral can usually only take place after the death is registered. Executors named in the deceased’s will (or if there’s no will, nearest relatives) are usually responsible for arranging the funeral. If there are no relatives or friends to arrange a funeral, the local authority or health authority will arrange it.

The costs for this can be recouped from the estate, although if there aren’t the funds, relatives would usually meet the cost.

If you’re getting certain benefits, you can apply for a funeral payment from the government to help you to pay for the funeral. The payment will be deducted from any money you get from the deceased’s estate.

If a pre-paid funeral plan hasn’t been arranged, you may wish to contact a funeral director, though you can arrange a funeral yourself.

The funeral director will need to know some personal details about the deceased, and whether they left a written record, or told family or friends what arrangements they would prefer.

A written record is often included as part of the deceased’s will, so it’s important to find this before finalising any arrangements.

Useful links

Find the will

If you’re dealing with the estate, you’ll need to confirm if the person who has died:

  • wrote a will
  • if it’s the last will
  • where the will is located

You may wish to check their former home for the will. Note any correspondence that they had with a law firm or banks where they held accounts. You will need to provide a death certificate, and be able to prove your entitlement to discuss a will before any information is released.

If you don’t know where the deceased’s will is, or if you’ve found a will but think there’s a newer version, you can carry out a will search, or your solicitor can. The will may contain specific directions about funeral wishes.

Useful links

Get certified copies of the death certificate

Once you have registered the death, you will receive the death certificate, which is a copy of the entry made by the registrar in the death register.

The death certificate is usually requested by banks and other institutions. You can buy as many copies of this document as you need, usually one per institution. Most organisations will not accept a photocopy as evidence of a death.

Useful links

2. Find the will

Find and read the will, if there is one, and confirm its validity

If the person who has died wrote a will, this needs to be consulted. Whoever is appointed in the will to act as the executors of the estate have the legal responsibility to carry out the wishes expressed in it.

Usually, a copy of the will is stored with other vital documents in a secure place. In many cases, the original will is kept with the solicitor who wrote it on behalf of the deceased.

If you don’t know where the deceased’s will is, or if you have found a will, but think there is a newer version, you or the solicitor can carry out a will search. The will may contain specific directions about their funeral wishes.

If there is a will, and the validity of it has been confirmed, take copies of it without removing any fastenings or compromising its original authenticity. Don’t write on it or amend it in any way, and don't attach paperclips or notes of any kind, as this may invalidate the will.

If there is no will, the closest relatives of the deceased are expected to apply for the role of administrator. The law sets out the order of priority for who is considered next of kin.

Useful links

Contact those who are entitled to administer the estate

When someone dies, the personal representative (PR) is responsible for administering the deceased's estate. More than one PR can administer the estate, but only one will receive the grant of representation.

If the PR is named in the will, they are called the executor. If there is no will, or they are not named in the will, they are referred to as the administrator.

If you have not been named as a PR, contact who has. If you are acting as a PR, you will be entitled to administer the deceased’s estate.

The PR of the will is responsible for:

  • making endeavours to prove that a known will is the last will, or that no other will exists
  • applying for a grant of probate
  • placing a deceased estates notice in The Gazette (as appropriate)
  • establishing the total assets of the deceased
  • paying any tax owed, such as inheritance tax
  • paying the deceased’s debts
  • distributing assets to beneficiaries, in accordance with the will
Useful links

Find all documents relating to the deceased’s life and organise a list of their assets and liabilities

  • Gather the person’s papers, so you have a clear picture of their financial affairs and everything that makes up their estate.
  • Make a list of their assets and investments, as well as any debts they owed.
  • Find out the final value of each asset. This list may include share certificates, bonds, bank accounts, pensions, cars, motorcycles, jewellery, furniture and collectibles.
  • If the deceased was employed at the date of death, you should also contact their employer, stating your position. Ask for a final assessment of outstanding wages, enclosing a copy of the death certificate.
  • If you have completed a list of debts, you will need to find out the final value of each debt. If the funeral has not already been paid for by a pre-paid plan, you should include funeral expenses as a debt.
  • If they had accounts in place with service providers, these should be cancelled, provided they are in a sole name. Household bills such as water, gas, electricity and phone will need to be settled or transferred to the spouse or civil partner’s new sole account.
  • If the deceased paid council tax, or if there is a mortgage on the deceased’s property, you should contact the appropriate authorities, if you haven’t already.
  • You will also need to write to the companies asking for a final statement of accounts, if they have credit card bills, overdraft and loan agreements.
  • Each debt should be entered into the probate forms as debts of the estate, and settled out of the deceased’s estate when probate has been received.
Useful links

Tell asset and liability holders about the death

When registering a death with asset and liability holders, you should ask them to confirm the estimated value of each asset (eg shares, or a house) and liability (eg loans, unpaid bills) at the date of death.

You should also ask them about the income levels received during the last tax year leading up to the date of death.

Useful links

3. Deal with the estate

Open a bank account on behalf of the estate

You may wish to open an bank account on behalf of the estate. Money will then be paid into this account as funds of the estate are released.

You’ll then be able to write cheques for the probate application forms and pay liabilities and debts where necessary.

Only when the grant of representation has been issued will the bank and other institutions transfer money from the deceased’s bank account into the personal representative’s account.

Inheritance tax and valuing the estate

Assess the estate

As part of applying for probate, you need to value the money, property and possessions (estate) of the person who’s died. Depending on the complexity of the estate, you may wish to use a solicitor, or another person licensed to provide probate services, to complete inheritance tax accounts and apply for probate.

It’s the responsibility of the executor or personal representative to assess the estate, complete the appropriate IHT forms, and pay any IHT due. The process of valuing the estate can take six to nine months, or longer if the estate is large or complex.

Start reporting the value in detail to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). You’ll find out whether you can report everything online or if you’ll need a paper form by following the steps here.

Useful links

Pay inheritance tax

Inheritance tax will need to be paid before the grant of probate has been received and before it has been possible to draw in all the assets of the estate.

There are various ways to pay inheritance tax due on an estate, including paying on account or paying in instalments. For a complete list of payment methods, please see this Gov.uk guide.

It is important to ensure that inheritance tax is paid no later than six months from the end of the month in which the deceased died. Interest will be charged on unpaid tax after that date.

Useful links

4. Apply for probate

Find out if you need to apply for probate

Applying for the legal right to deal with someone’s property, money and possessions (their estate) when they die is called applying for probate.

You usually need probate or letters of administration to deal with an estate if it includes property such as a flat or a house. You may not need probate if the person who died:

  • had jointly owned land, property, shares or money (these will automatically pass to the surviving owners)
  • only had savings or premium bonds

You must have already applied for inheritance tax before using the probate service. If there’s tax to pay, you normally have to pay at least some of it before you’ll gain probate.

If you’re an executor, you can apply for probate yourself, or you can use a solicitor or another person licensed to provide probate services.

If there’s no will, you can apply for letters of administration. You follow the same steps as applying for probate, but you can only apply by post.

Current probate fees can be found here.

You can apply for probate online via Gov.uk, or by post

Apply for probate online

You can use this service if you’re the executor and you:

  • have the original will
  • have the original death certificate or an interim death certificate from the coroner
  • have already reported the estate’s value

The person who died must have lived in England or Wales most of the time. If you use the online service you can upload your documents online. The documents required are:

  • the original will and any additions to it (‘codicils’)
  • the death certificate or an interim death certificate from the coroner

You’ll need to send the original will by post after you submit your online application. No additional copies of the will are required.

If you are applying online, you can pay the probate fee online using a credit or debit card.

If you are applying by post, you will be required to send a cheque or postal order along with your application.

Go to the step-by-step guidance page on Gov.uk and complete the eligibility section to be directed to the right channel, according to your circumstances.

If you are applying for probate by post, use these application forms:

In the event of death without a will (dying intestate), complex estates, or where the deceased has assets abroad, you should seek legal assistance.

Submit or send completed forms with the original will and the death certificate.

Useful links

Receive the grant of probate and send to asset-holders

You’ll receive the grant of probate (or letters of administration) within 20 days of sending in your original documents.

Once you have been granted probate and have paid any inheritance tax due, you can start to collect the money from the estate. You can then pay any debts owed by the estate and distribute the estate according to the will or the rules of intestacy.

This should be straightforward, as you should already have valuations for everything you need to sell. All the asset holders should also be prepared to release funds on receipt of a copy of probate.

Useful links

5. Placing a deceased estates notice

Placing a deceased estates notice for creditors and claimants

After you’ve received grant of probate, it’s recommended that you put a statutory advertisement (under the Confirmation of Executors (Scotland) Act 1823, the England and Wales Trustee Act 1925, and the Trustee Act (Northern Ireland) 1958) in The Gazette and a local newspaper.

Placing a deceased estates notice ensures that sufficient effort has been made to locate creditors before distributing the estate to beneficiaries. This protects the executor or trustee from being liable from any unidentified creditors.

If you don’t place a notice, and a creditor comes forward after the estate has been distributed, you may have some personal liability for an unidentified debt. You can find the legislation at legislation.gov.uk.

Section 27 of the Trustee Act 1925 sets out a minimum of two months from the date of publication during which creditors should contact executors. If the estate includes a property, a notice should also be put in to a newspaper local to the property. The Gazette also offers a newspaper notice placement service, which can be ordered with your deceased estate notice.

Placing a notice in The Gazette is required by the majority of missing will insurance providers.

If you want your address to remain private

The Gazette offers a forwarding service which replaces your address (which would otherwise be publicly and permanently available on the notice) with The Gazette's postal box, so we can forward all correspondence to you while your address stays private.

Send a copy of the grant to all asset holders and request payment of all funds

The grant gives you the authority to collect all of the estate’s assets. You should contact all relevant organisations and send them a copy of the grant.

The organisation should, on receiving the grant, release the assets, so you can transfer them into the account that you have set up.

It’s important that this is done on a well-informed basis, regarding which is the deceased’s last will, or being able to show that sufficient steps have been taken to prove that the deceased did not leave a will.

Missing will insurance may be considered as a level of protection when seeking to distribute the estate.

6. Finalising the estate

Pay all creditors

After you have placed a notice in The Gazette, and claimed the estate’s assets, you should pay off any debts.

There is a set order of priority for payment:

  • funeral expenses, if not previously paid
  • taxes that are due
  • creditors, such as loans, mortgages, and outstanding debts
  • beneficiaries, if there is a will, and there are no creditors to make a claim against the estate

When paying off debts such as credit card loans or household bills, remember to ask for a full and final receipt of settlement, which will be needed for your final accounts.

Once all debts and taxes have been paid, you can distribute the estate as detailed in the will or according to the law, if there is no will.

Complete stock and share transfer forms and draft an assent for the property

If the person who died owned stocks and shares, you’ll need to contact the registrar of the share company and ask them for confirmation that the certificates you have found are valid. You will be asked for a copy of the death certificate.

Receive an estimate of the share value or a formal valuation, in the case of the estate being over the inheritance tax threshold. Complete the stock and share transfer forms as provided by the registrar of the respective company.

You should also draft an assent for the property.

Once the accounts have been approved, pay all beneficiaries and distribute all legacies

After all assets have been claimed, and all debts and taxes have been paid, you should prepare the final estate accounts. These must be approved and signed by you and the main beneficiaries.

The financial information that you have collated throughout the entire probate process needs to be put into an organised report.

This report must be approved by all of the personal representatives, if there is more than one.

The final accounts should consist of a summary of:

  • the assets at the date of death
  • the liabilities at the date of death
  • the income received during the period of administration
  • the changes in asset value (ie an increase in a property price)
  • administrative expenses incurred during the period of administration
  • the distribution of legacies and the residue to beneficiaries

After all assets have been claimed and all debts and taxes have been paid, you should finalise the estate accounts and prepare to pay the beneficiaries.

The finalised accounts must be approved and signed, by both you and the main beneficiaries. You should send a copy of the accounts to each of the main beneficiaries for their approval. Ask them to sign and return them to you.

When the accounts have been agreed, any remaining money in the personal representative’s bank account can now be distributed, and the account can be closed.