Your 5 Step Guide to Initiating the Probate Process
Report your bereavement to the National Federation of Funeral Directors by calling 01273 949 156 and quoting the Certificate number.
Register the death if you have not already done so and a registrar will explain the Government Tell Us Once service when you register the death.
- To use this service, you will require a Unique Reference Number (UNR) which will be provided to you when you contact them.
- Inform them the National Federation of Funeral Directors are assisting with the administration of probate for the deceased.
Provide the National Federation of Funeral Directors with a scan or copy of the deceased’s death certificate. (An original will be required to be posted later);
- This can be sent by email to: email@example.com or;
- by post to: 95 Arundel Road Worthing BN13 3EU.
Ensure all assets, like property, are secure. For example, ensuring doors and windows are locked, removing valuable contents, maintaining regular visits, and informing the house insurance company.
4.1) Advise us of any unsecured assets including, but not limited to;
- Digital Assets
Please begin to gather information regarding finances, bank accounts and any information that will be helpful regarding the valuation of assets.
Tell Us Once
How to use Tell Us Once
A registrar will explain the Tell Us Once service when you register the death. They will either:
- complete the Tell Us Once service with you
- give you a unique reference number so you can use the service yourself online or by phone
The registrar will give you a number to call. This includes a video relay service for British Sign Language (BSL) users and Relay UK if you cannot hear or speak on the phone.
Before you use Tell Us Once
You’ll need the Tell Us Once reference number that you got from the registrar.
You’ll also need the following details of the person who died:
- date of birth
- date they died
- name, address and contact details of the person or company dealing with their estate (property, belongings and money), known as their ‘executor’ or ‘administrator’
- if there’s a surviving spouse or civil partner, the name, address, telephone number and the National Insurance number or date of birth of the spouse or civil partner
- if there’s no surviving spouse or civil partner or their spouse or civil partner is not able to deal with their affairs, the name and address of their next of kin
- if they died in a hospital, nursing home, care home or hospice, the name and address of that institution – you’ll also be asked if the stay was for 28 days or more
You may also need:
- if they had a passport, their passport number and town of birth
- if they had a driving licence, their driving licence number
- if they owned any vehicles, the vehicle registration numbers
- if they were getting services from their local council, such as Housing Benefit payments or Council Tax reductions, the name of their local council and which services they were getting
- if they were getting any benefits, tax credits or State Pension, information about which ones they were getting
- if they were getting money from an Armed Forces Pension or Compensation Scheme, details of that scheme
- if they were getting money or paying into public sector pension schemes, details of those schemes
- if they were getting money or paying into Local Government Pension Schemes (LGPS), details of those schemes and their National Insurance number
Unless they were involved in a LGPS, you do not need their National Insurance number. If you can still provide it though, it will help some organisations match their records faster.
Secure the Property
The first asset to secure is the property.
Check and lock the doors, windows, garages, sheds and outbuildings. You should also turn off all the electrical appliances except for any alarm systems.
Once you have done that, you can turn your attention to other practicalities. For example, cancel ongoing deliveries such as newspaper, milk or groceries, and arrange a postal redirection. If there are any pets, they will need to be re-homed.
As the Executor, you need to make sure that an appropriate insurance policy is in place. Many insurance policies include clauses which invalidate the policy if the property is unoccupied for more than 30 days. Contact the deceased’s insurance company and ask for a copy of the policy. It may be necessary to cancel the existing policy and arrange a policy specifically tailored to the circumstances.
Do not underestimate this risk. If an escape of water occurs at the property and the insurance policy is invalid, you may be personally liable to make good the loss.
Put on the Heating
If the heating is turned off during the winter months, it’s possible that the water will freeze and the pipes will break. To prevent an escape of water you can drain down the heating system. This should prevent flooding, however it may make the property seem inhospitable to potential buyers. Therefore it may be preferable for the heating to be kept on at a low temperature.
Utility companies deal with Executors and Personal Representatives on a regular basis. They will generally allow for bills to be settled following the sale of the property. When your loved one dies, contact the utility companies to confirm the situation, and provide them with regular meter readings.
Remove Valuable Contents
If the property is to be sold you may wish to keep the furniture in place until you have accepted an offer. If there are any unwanted personal items and clothing, you could ask a local charity to collect them.
Maintain Regular Visits
It’s important that you make regular visits to the property. As Executor you have a duty to maintain the property and ensure that any damage is repaired. Has a window been smashed? Has anyone gained access to the property? Do you need to change the locks? Do you need to employ a gardener? All these questions can only be answered by regular attendance. Practicalities aside, it is likely that weekly attendance is also an insurance requirement.
‘Digital assets’ are the possessions you access on a digital device such as a laptop, mobile phone, tablet or personal computer. They are normally accessed via an online account and include things such as digital photos, digital music tracks or videos that are stored online and accessed by logging into a personal account with the provider. Other examples are emails, conversations in social media and online games.
Most people also access actual assets and services via online accounts, such as bank accounts, credit cards, pension funds, investment portfolios and utilities. Although these are not digital assets as such, access is controlled via a digital portal by typing in a username and password.
Maintaining access to online accounts is essential for either financial or sentimental reasons, and if you were to die, your loved ones may not be able to access your accounts, documents and photographs.
It would be sensible to make a list of all digital assets and liabilities you hold in online accounts together with a list of logins and passwords. Make sure you store the list securely as a hard copy and keep it up to date. You should make your executors aware of the list and where it is stored, for example with a secure password manager and/or securely and confidentially with your Will at your solicitors. Many solicitors, including Coffin Mew, do not charge for this service. You should never share with other people your PIN numbers or other information relating to your bank accounts.
Once you have reviewed your digital assets, you should clarify what happens to them if you die. For each online account, review the terms and conditions. Some Internet Service Providers (ISP), such as Facebook and Google, allow you to appoint a contact to take control of the account and to memorialise it following the death of the account holder. You should contact the ISP during your lifetime to nominate a person. Other ISPs will automatically delete inactive accounts after so many days and if you do not make provision, all of your digital assets held with them could be lost including documents, photos and other sentimental or valuable assets. Therefore, it is sensible to make provisions that enable your executors to access the assets after your death.
It is equally important to secure access to your laptops, PCs, mobile phones and any household devices. Make a note of login details and passwords; your executors may need to access information held on your devices to complete things like tax returns. Apple has particularly strong safeguards to protect data from falling into the wrong hands, which could mean that it is impossible for your executors to unlock an Apple device without the login and password.
Consider whether any sensitive or confidential information is stored in your emails or on devices and whether access to these by your family will cause distress. If so, you should consider deleting such information in your lifetime.
If you run your own business, consider printing off or sharing essential information with trusted colleagues. This important succession planning may be vital to ensure business continuity. You should discuss with your business partners what happens on death and make provisions in your Will.
If any assets you hold online have intellectual property rights attached to them, consider including them as a legacy in your Will.
If you hold crypto-currency such as Bitcoin or Ethereum, you should note down details of the public and private keys held in any digital wallets and arrange for the details to be stored securely. You may want to include them in a legacy in your Will. You should make your executors aware of your holding so that they can secure control following your death.
Finance Documents You Will Need
Some of the documents you will need to find include the deceased person’s:
- tax and National Insurance affairs
- bank, building society and savings’ accounts and certificates
- stocks and shares
- state and private pensions
- state benefits
- car, health, home and life insurance policies
- utility bills
- other unpaid bills
- property deeds
- mortgage payments
- rent payments
- credit card and store card payments
- loan payments and other formal debts