How to cope with the legalities of death

When somebody close to you dies there will be a number of decisions and arrangements to make, which can be extremely emotional during this period of grief. What’s more, the practical side of knowing who to inform, how to arrange a burial or cremation and what to do about the person’s financial affairs, can also be very difficult.

With this in mind, here is a quick insight into the legalities of death and how to cope with the enormity of it all.

Registering the death

Within five days, you will need to register the death, which requires a medical certificate from a GP or hospital doctor. This can be done at your nearest register office as long as you are:

  • A relative who was present at the death.
  • A relative present during the person’s last illness.
  • A relative living in the area where the death took place.
  • Anyone else present at the death.
  • An owner or occupier of the building where the death took place and who was aware.
  • The person arranging the funeral (but not the funeral director).

The registrar will also require the following information:

  • Date and place of death.
  • The person’s full name (including maiden name) and their last address.
  • The person’s date and place of birth.
  • The person’s occupation and in the case of a woman who was married or widowed, the full name and occupation of her husband.
  • The date of birth of their husband or wife (if still married).
  • Pension or other social security benefits if applicable.

Arranging the funeral

The funeral can only take place after the death is registered. Most people use a funeral director, who will deal with things like the service, crematorium or cemetery fees and newspaper announcements.

Alternatively, you could arrange the funeral yourself or choose a different type of service, such as a direct cremation from Beyond. This is a simple cremation with no funeral, which is often much more straightforward, costs a lot less money, and gives you more time to arrange a memorial service.

Dealing with finances

Everything owned by a person who dies is known as their estate, which could include:

  • Money – cash, bank accounts, owed money and money paid out on a life insurance policy
  • Stocks and shares
  • Property
  • Personal possessions

If the person has a will, this should list the name of the executor, who will be responsible for dealing with the estate. If there is no will or the named executors aren’t willing to act, an administrator is required.

While there are some exceptions, it is against the law to share out the estate or receive money from it until you have probate or letters of administration.

The responsibilities of the executor or administrator include but are not limited to:

  • Organising and sorting all financial obligations, such as money, possessions, and debts.
  • Preparing and sending off the documents required by the probate registry and HM Revenue and Customs.
  • Sharing out the estate, as set out in the will or according to the rules of intestacy.

More information about death and wills can be found by visiting the Citizens Advice website.

Melissa Thompson
Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn't know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.