Money and property

Most people, when they have died, leave a certain amount of money and belongings. This may be no more than a few clothes, personal care items and photographs if they lived in rented furnished property. Usually, though things are a little more complicated than that and there are legally correct ways to deal with everything.

For the most common questions please see the links on the left. Please note this covers English Law and will differ in Scotland, Wales and The Isle of Man.

The Bereavement Support Network offers a free helpline to establish whether you need probate and where to get the relevant forms. They can advise on what you need to do this yourself and outline the mandatory costs you will have to pay. Please call our freephone number 0808 168 9607. The service is manned between 9.00 am and 5.00 pm weekdays if you need to call, wherever you are calling from in the UK.

What to do first

  • Make sure all money is safe by informing banks and building societies that the person has died. Do this even if even if you don’t yet have a death certificate. A joint account will not be frozen.

  • Contact the house insurance company and the car insurance company. Both insurances may be invalid once the policy holder has died. The companies will advise you if they can make a change to the policy or what else to do.

  • Look for the Will if you think one was written to find out who is responsible for dealing with money and property matters and get in touch with them.

To be able to manage everything correctly it will help to understand just a few specialist words that you will meet here and elsewhere:

The Deceased: The person who has died was a unique individual and in most cases was loved and precious to a number of people. However you will find that many formal documents refer to the person who has died as the deceased or sometimes as the late [their name]. This is not intended to be insensitive but can seem so until you get accustomed to it.

The Estate: Everything someone leaves behind after their death.

A Will: A document that is written during life giving instructions about what is to happen to money and property after death. It may also include instructions about a funeral and guardianship of children under the age of 18. A Will is a formal legal document and the original must not be damaged or marked in any way.

A Codicil: This is a document that adds to or amends an existing Will. The rules for signing and witnessing the document are the same as for the main Will.

Testator: The person who has written a Will.

Probate: The legal process of getting permission from a court to be able to obtain everything belonging to the person who died and deal with it. This comes from the document which is a ‘grant of probate’ when there is a Will but Letters of Administration when there is no Will.

Grant of Representation: A term that includes both a grant of probate and letters of administration

Intestacy: This is when the person who died did not make a Will. The law determines who will get any money and property.

Executor: The person (may be more than one) named in the Will who has responsibility for carrying out the instructions in the Will.

Administrator: The person entitled to deal with the estate in intestacy, usually the nearest relative.

Personal representative: A term for the person dealing with the estate which includes both executors and administrators.

Probate professionals: You do not have to use a professional to manage the estate although we would suggest this would be a wise course of action even if it is just to offer guidance.

Assets: Everything in the estate that has a positive monetary value.

Liabilities: All the debts on the estate such as outstanding mortgage and utility bills.

Personal moveable property (formerly known as chattels until 2014): These are belongings i.e. anything that is a personal possession that is not a property and is not money.

Liquid assets: Money held in cash or accounts and shares and similar products.

Utilities: Practical services to a property such as energy suppliers, water and sewerage supplier and telephone/internet suppliers.

Beneficiaries: People who are named in the Will to receive part of the estate. A residuary beneficiary receives part (or all if only one residuary beneficiary) of the section of the estate that is left after all specific gifts have been accounted for. Residuary beneficiaries are usually the closest relatives.