Coronavirus – what to do if a loved one dies

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At this most unusual of times, it is sadly inevitable that we are going to lose loved ones, potentially sooner than expected.

Ashtons Legal are committed to updating clients, current and new, giving guidance on what to do, how to do it and how we can help the families of those directly affected by COVID-19.

There are no two ways about it; when someone dies a lot has to be done. The first things one might think about would be to register the death, organising the funeral, identifying all assets and liabilities that person had and making sure all assets are secure.

If the deceased had a Will it needs to be located. If they didn’t, the estate will need to be dealt with in line with strict rules set down by the government, known as the Rules of Intestacy.

If there is a Will it is likely to name an Executor/s. This is the person/s responsible for dealing with all aspects of the estate. If there is no Will, then the Rules of Intestacy set out who can take on the equivalent role, known as an Administrator. Executors and Administrators are both otherwise known as Personal Representatives.

The Personal Representative/s must then deal with all aspects of the estate administration, which may include applying for a Grant of Probate. This is a legal document which confirms the authority of the Personal Representative/s to deal with everything.

Getting a Grant of Probate means gathering details of all assets and liabilities, obtaining specific and relevant details needed to calculate if Inheritance Tax is payable, then making a tax declaration to HM Revenue & Customs and a court application to the Probate Registry. Be careful! Just because there may be no Inheritance Tax to pay doesn’t mean a Grant of Probate isn’t needed. An estate always has to be dealt with according to the terms of the Will or the Rules of Intestacy.

Other aspects of estate administration that you may have to deal with include, but are not limited to:

  • Paying tax including Inheritance Tax, Income Tax and any outstanding Capital Gains Tax
  • Possible claims against the estate e.g. challenges against the terms of the Will or the impact of the Rules of Intestacy
  • Paying off any debts – The Personal Representative/s need to be aware that they are taking on personal responsibility for any debts of the deceased
  • Selling property or land
  • Keeping detailed accounts showing all money coming in and going out since the date of death;
  • Paying out legacies
  • Ensuring all rebates and refunds have been issued and all exemptions claimed
  • Locating missing beneficiaries.

This is not an exhaustive list.

Remember! As a Personal Representative, you take on personal liability for the deceased’s affairs and must report to HM Revenue & Customs and often other government bodies.

Being a Personal Representative is a big job, it is paper-heavy, time-intensive and often requires detailed and specific calculations of tax allowances and exemptions.

Further information

Please feel free to contact one of our skilled and empathetic team today for a chat and guidance on your specific circumstances to enable us to tailor our advice to you. We can help you as and when you need and guide you along the way.

Otherwise, we can deal with every aspect of estate administration from start to finish taking the burden away from you. This also means you have the peace of mind that everything is done correctly and efficiently. We can also advise on tax-saving elements directly relevant to beneficiaries.

Don’t worry – In most cases, we do not expect payment of our fees upfront – we can usually take our fees from money in the deceased’s estate later in the process. At a time of global emergency and grief, allow us to take away the worry of legal work, letting you have time to grieve and get life back on track.

Please note that we will be happy to talk all of this through with you by telephone, or using video conferencing via Microsoft Teams, FaceTime or WhatsApp. Of course, once the Coronavirus lockdown is over we will be able to meet with you in one of our offices.

This information is correct at 12.00pm on 27 March 2020.


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