A number of organisations in addition to the Registrar will require official notification of the death. While some of these matters can be dealt with by telephone or a personal visit, more often than not institutions will request written confirmation and a copy of the death certificate.
Where money has to be released, or assets sold or transferred, the organisations concerned will probably also want to see the Grant of Representation from the Probate Registry before they can act.
In administering my mother’s affairs I opted to write letters to most of the organisations I needed to contact, and filed away copies of the letters and the replies received (see Figure 14). In this way I had a complete record of what had been done.
The list of organisations and agencies which follows does not claim to be fully comprehensive, and some may not be relevant to the deceased’s affairs. If you are employing a solicitor, you should discuss which, if any, of the following matters you can deal with yourself. The more you do for yourself, the lower the legal fees will be.
It is not absolutely necessary to inform this organisation when a death occurs, but doing so will remove the deceased’s name from mail order databases and prevent the sending of unwanted junk mail addressed to the deceased. (See Useful Addresses.)
The bank (or banks) needs to be informed of the date that the person died.
If the account is a joint one, there is usually no problem in transferring it into the name of the surviving holder. If it is a sole account, the bank will freeze it, cancelling all standing orders or direct debits as well as any debit or credit cards linked to the account. It will ask you to destroy any bank stationery (such as cheque books and paying in slips) and any credit or debit cards.
The bank may be prepared to release the money in the account if the total estate is under a certain amount, but this will require you and other interested parties to sign an indemnity form and send a copy of the will (if one exists). Otherwise the bank will need to see the Grant of Representation when it is issued.
When approaching the bank you should ask for details of the balance held in the account. This information will be needed at a later date for the inheritance tax form. You should also check whether there are any documents or certificates kept in the bank on behalf of the deceased.
A building society will adopt a similar procedure to a bank in the case of savings accounts and ISAs.
If the deceased had a mortgage in joint names, responsibility for paying off the mortgage is transferred to the survivor. If not, the society will probably agree to suspend payments until the grant of representation comes through and will then need to discuss future arrangements. You should also check whether any insurance has been taken out which guarantees payment of the mortgage on the death of a mortgagee.
Your local council will need to be informed regarding housing benefit or council tax benefit (which are normally payable if your savings and investments amount to less than £16,000). If the house is now going to be occupied by one person instead of two, a reduction of 25 per cent in council tax is due.
You should also ask for the electoral registration officer to be informed so that the deceased’s name is deleted from the electoral register.
Credit card issuer
If the deceased’s credit card is issued by a company other than their bank you should report the death and ask for an up-to-date statement. You should make it clear that there could be a delay in payment of the account until the grant of representation comes through.
Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA)
The DVLA will need to be informed of the death so that the deceased can be deleted from their records, and the driving licence should be sent back. If the deceased’s car is to be off the road for some time you should make a Statutory Off Road Declaration (SORN) form V85/1 – or V11 (the vehicle licence renewal reminder). A refund may be given. Otherwise, if the ownership of the car is transferred, the vehicle registration certificate must be signed and forwarded to the DVLA or the equivalent agency in Scotland or Northern Ireland.
If the account is in the deceased’s name it should be transferred to the name of the person who is going to occupy the property. If the property is not going to be lived in for a time, arrangements should be made for the meter to be read, the supply disconnected and outstanding bills sent to the deceased’s personal representative.
The deceased’s employer will doubtless have been informed of the death, but now is the time to check whether any unpaid salary, illness or death benefits are due, or if any company pension is payable to the estate or any surviving partner.
In the case of full-time students, the educational establishment attended should be informed.
The same procedures need to be actioned as in the case of the electricity supplier.
The relevant HM Revenue and Customs (Inland Revenue) office should be informed in writing of the death quoting, if possible, the deceased’s reference number. The officers will also need to be sent a copy of the death certificate before they can issue any rebate for overpayment of tax which may be due. Inheritance tax is dealt with separately at the end of this chapter.
If you cannot find the deceased’s income tax details and the local tax office has no record, ask their former employer or, in the case of a self-employed person, try the office in the area where their business was based.
If the deceased had an accountant they should take charge of these tax matters. The leaflet IR45 What to Do About Tax When Someone Dies can steer you in the right direction.
Insurance companies should be informed of the death and you should check whether they need to see a death certificate. Car insurance is not usually transferable, and the agreement will need to be terminated and any overpayment refunded to the estate. Anyone entitled to drive on the deceased’s insurance policy will cease to be legally insured. House insurance is usually transferable to any person continuing to reside in the house or whoever is in charge of handling the property.
If the tenancy agreement is in the deceased’s name, and someone will continue to live in the property, a new contract will have to be agreed and signed. Usually the tenancy can be transferred without any problems if it was joint, but this is by no means automatic in other circumstances – especially if the property is owned by a local council or housing trust.
Where the deceased was the sole tenant the tenancy will need to be terminated and arrangements made to remove the deceased’s possessions from the property. Any outstanding rent payments will have to wait until the Grant of Representation comes through, and the landlord will need to be informed accordingly.
Library books and tickets should be returned.
This becomes payable on the production of a death certificate and payment will normally be made to whoever is nominated as the beneficiary. Otherwise it will be paid to whoever is administering the estate.
Any outstanding hospital, dental or surgery appointments should be cancelled and the reason given to the organisations concerned. Any borrowed equipment should be returned to the local hospital or family doctor’s surgery.
The relevant offices need to be informed and instructions given on payment but, as with banks, they may ask to see the Grant of Representation. Premium Bond holdings do not need to be cashed in immediately, but can be held for a further 12 months and are eligible for any prize won during this time. At the end of this period the investment is paid out to the estate.
This should be returned to the passport office which issued it.
State pension: the Pension Service and Benefits Office should be informed either by letter or by calling at a social security office (DWP) and any payment books, cheques or cards returned. If you were in receipt of a married person’s pension this will be replaced by a single person’s pension. For more information refer to Leaflet NP45 A Guide to State Retirement Pensions. You may also be eligible for a Bereavement Payment.
Personal or company pension: the pension provider should be informed and arrangements made for any outstanding payments to be made to the estate or any surviving partner.
Social security benefits (DWP)
There are a number of benefits that a married spouse may be eligible for, details of which are available from the local social security office or Job Centre as well as Leaflet GL14 Widowed? A Basic Guide to Benefits and Tax Credits and Leaflet NP45 A Guide to Bereavement Payments. Claims must normally be made within three months of the death.
The benefits include:
- Bereavement Payment. This is a tax-free lump sum of £2,000 for non-pensioners.
- Bereavement Allowance. This is payable to non-pensioners aged over 45 for up to 52 weeks.
- Widowed Parent’s Allowance. This is a non-means tested benefit based upon the deceased’s National Insurance contributions payable for as long as the claimant is receiving Child Benefit.
- Incapacity Benefit. In certain circumstances if you are widowed you may now qualify for this benefit, even if you did not do so previously. (See Leaflet IB202 Incapacity Benefit.)
Social services department of local council
If the deceased has been getting meals on wheels, home care or day care, the social services office of the local council should be told and arrangements made for the return of any equipment.
The deceased may have subscribed to a club, association, publication or charity. These would need to be informed and payments stopped. In some cases (e.g. subscription to a magazine) a refund may be due.
It may not always be possible to find out who these are until requests for payment are received. In all instances you should explain the circumstances and refer creditors to the person dealing with the estate. Under no account should anyone accept responsibility for paying any bills at this stage. Most creditors will accept that this cannot be done until the Grant of Representation comes through.
If the telephone is no longer needed, arrangements should be made to have it disconnected and for an invoice to be sent to the deceased’s personal representative.
Trade union or friendly society
Some of these pay out funeral benefits or other benefits to their members, so it is well worth contacting them with news and evidence of the death.
If the TV licence is in the deceased’s name the Licensing Office at Bristol should be notified.
If the contract is with the deceased, the water company should be notified. If necessary, arrangements should be made for the supply to be turned off.