Practical considerations following someone passing away

It is a tragic consequence of a pandemic that many people die. Today, the Office of National Statistics figures show that the UK has suffered over 32,000 deaths making us the worst affected country in Europe. Globally, there have been over 250,000 deaths.

As a result, there are many of us who have been touched by Covid-19 in some form, even if they have been lucky enough not to have contracted it. I thought it might be helpful to put together a starter list of practical considerations to take into account on the death of someone to help you get started.

  1. Register the death – this has been made much easier following the outbreak of Covid-19 as you are no longer required to personally attend the Registry office. The registration can be completed via telephone. This is the case whether someone has died from Covid-19 or something else. For more guidance, please see my article, Registering a Death and Coronavirus.
  2. Plan the funeral – contact your funeral director who will give you the appropriate advice in arranging the funeral. Government guidance advises that attendance be restricted to ‘close family members’ to reduce the spread of Covid-19. You might want to consider a memorial when we are all able to meet again in larger gatherings so you can properly celebrate your loved one’s life. There is much guidance that you can find on the internet but I found this article useful.

The cost of the funeral will be borne by the assets of the deceased. Prior to arranging the funeral, you should try to check what assets the deceased had. If you know that there is enough money in the deceased’s bank account, then you may send the funeral invoice to that bank and they will make payment of the funeral using the money in the deceased’s name.

Be aware that when signing the contract with the funeral director you are making yourself liable for payment of the invoice in the event that the deceased has no money to cover the invoice.

  1. Use the Tell Us Once service – when registering the death, the registrar will let you know about this service and give you the phone number for the service along with a unique reference number. This service can be used either by telephone or online. The Service notifies a number of Government departments of the death, including HM Revenue and Customs, Department for Work and Pensions, Passport Office, DVLA and the deceased’s local council. If you decide not to use the Tell Us Once Service then you will be required to let all of the relevant organisation know about the death.
  2. Check if there is a Will – you will need to know who is entitled to deal with the affairs of the deceased and who will receive the assets of the deceased. If there is a Will, there should be an appointment of an executor who will be the person who should deal with the affairs of the deceased. If there is no Will, then the intestacy provisions apply. There is a strict order of who has the right to deal with the deceased affairs. If you are unsure of who is entitled, contact me for a free initial consultation.
  3. Obtain legal advice – as the person dealing with the affairs of the deceased, it is important that you are fully aware of the burden and responsibilities that come with the role. Obtaining legal advice often ensures that you avoid being held personally liable for any mistakes or omissions.
  4. Consider buildings insurance – Where the deceased dies leaving a home that is no longer occupied, contact the provider of the buildings insurance to let them know that the property is no longer occupied. The buildings insurer will confirm if they are happy to continue insuring the property and will usually change the terms of the insurance. Examples of changes to the terms include requiring someone to visit the property once a week to ensure the security of the same, remove all post and to keep the heating on low during Winter months or to drain the system. They may also apply other terms, so check the changes when you are notified. If there is no buildings insurance in place, then you should ensure it is put in place with a reputable insurer. In the event that the property is not appropriately insured and the property is in some damaged or destroyed, the person dealing with the deceased’s assets could be held personally liable for the costs of repair or rebuild.
  5. Check Council Tax – Where the deceased died leaving a partner or someone else living in the property on their own, contact the local Council to ensure that the person who remains living in the property on their own obtains the 25% single person reduction on the Council Tax.
  6. Consider placing a postal re-direction – Especially where you do not live local to the property.
  7. Seek support for yourself – Lastly, but most importantly, the death of a loved one is never easy, whether it is during a pandemic or not. But right now, with social distancing and shielding, it does feel harder as we can’t easily access our usual support networks to talk and to hug and be hugged. However, we must reach out to our support networks and consider reaching out to the many charities, such as Cruse Bereavement Care who can help.

I, too, have had my fair share of loss and the following quote from a poem called Let Me Go by Christina Rossetti has always brought me some peace, I hope it does the same for you:

“Miss me a little, but not for long
And not with your head bowed low
Remember the love that once we shared
Miss me, but let me go.”

If you need any help or advice, please do contact me on 03300 242420 ext 17 or samantha.downs@nexa.law

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