Immediately after someone dies and before you begin the actual probate process, it is a good idea to take priority of some initial tasks first. This will make your role as the executor easier down the line.
Complete the following tasks as soon as possible in preparation for managing the matters of the estate:
1. Change to postal address
You should make sure that any correspondence to the deceased is redirected to yourself if you are the executor, or to the executor/administrator as appointed by the Will/Court if you are not. As the executor you will have to be in charge of running daily responsibilities including reading the mail and correspondence of the deceased.
2. Secure the property
If the deceased lived alone, make sure to check up on the unoccupied house/flat to make sure that it is safely locked up and that all the utilities (gas/water/electric) are shut off.
3. Check insurance policies
Check whether there are any house and contents insurances applicable to the property. This is important because if the property becomes damaged or broken into, the beneficiaries of the estate might hold you accountable for any losses to the estate.
At the same time, the insurers need to be notified of the death and provided with the executor’s contact details.
4. Recover valuables
If you are aware of any particularly valuable items on the deceased’s premises, you should remove them for safekeeping purposes.
5. Open an executor’s bank account
The bank account will help you keep a detailed financial record for administration and probate purposes. You will need to deposit any proceeds that arise from the sale and recovery of assets for the estate into this account. The account will also be used when paying out any liabilities, as well as distributing the estate to the beneficiaries under the conditions of the Will and intestacy rules.
You will need a number of official papers for probate, some of which will be physical copies while others can be found online, so make sure to do a thorough search for some of the following important documents:
Savings & National Trust documents
Car registration documents (V5)
Insurance and pension certificates
Share and stock certificates
Tax forms, returns etc.
Insurance valuations of antiques, jewellery etc.
When the above steps are taken care of, you should start on the process of valuating the deceased’s assets and applying for grant of probate/confirmation where applicable.
Remember that whether you require a grant will depend not only the size of the estate, but the types of assets that are included in the estate.