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Probate during coronavirus/COVID-19

If you’ve lost a loved one during the government’s COVID-19 lockdown, you will probably have many questions. Significant issues include funerals – particularly if the person who has died had suspected or confirmed coronavirus/COVID-19 – and dealing with a deceased person’s estate. Here we offer some information that you may find helpful.

Last updated on January 12th, 2021 at 03:59 pm

Registering the death

Registration of the death is usually done in person, however, due to the current situation, this is now being done by telephone. The registrar will liaise with the coroner or doctor who certified the death, as well as the funeral director, to minimise face to face contact. The death certificate can then be applied for online and sent to you or your professional advisor. For our local clients, here is a link to Sheffield Registry Office and Derbyshire County Council, where you can register a death.

Funerals during coronavirus/COVID-19

Since the third COVID-19 lockdown began on 4 January 2021, government advice on attending a funeral has been amended.  Here is a summary of the guidance given:

  • The funeral must be held at a COVID-19 secure venue or in a public outdoor space.
  • No more than 30 people can attend a funeral and the government still advises remote attendance where possible.
  • The number of attendees may be less than 30 if the venue’s risk assessment shows that the risk of transmission of COVID-19 cannot safely be limited with this many people in attendance.
  • Only 6 people can attend linked religious, belief-based or commemorative events, such as stone settings and ash scatterings.
  • Anyone working at the funeral or linked event is not counted toward these limits.
  • Wakes are not allowed to take place.
  • Social distancing must be maintained. Mourners must not mix closer than two meters apart unless they are part of the same household or support bubble.
  • Mourners should wear a face covering.
  • Singing, chanting and raised voices should be avoided.
  • Social distancing must also be maintained when travelling to and from the funeral.
  • Everyone should follow the general advice on hand hygiene, such as washing hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or using hand sanitiser.
  • Anyone with coronavirus/COVID-19 symptoms, or those who live in a household where someone has symptoms, should not attend the funeral. Unfortunately, this can include the next of kin of the person who has died.
  • Anyone who is self-isolating should not attend the funeral.
  • Clinically vulnerable people should not attend the funeral if possible. If they do, other mourners should be made aware that someone who is clinically vulnerable is in attendance and extra precautions should be taken.

Administering an estate during COVID-19

Simple estates

If the estate is simple, for example, everything is jointly owned or the estate is valued at less than £5,000, you may not need a grant of representation and you should be able to administer the estate without professional help. However, Graysons’ probate experts can offer help if you need it. Find out more about simple estates on our website here.

More complex estates

If the estate is more complex, you are likely to need the assistance of a professional. This might include estates where:

  • there are a variety of assets, including property that needs to be sold
  • there is a possibility that the will might be disputed, for example where a dependant has been left out and it is likely that they will want to make a claim
  • some assets are held in trusts, or there is a request in the will that a trust is set up
  • there are missing beneficiaries
  • the value of the estate is substantial and may exceed the inheritance tax threshold

You can get further information about administering an estate here.

Complicated estates

If multiple properties, overseas property, investments or businesses are included in the estate or inheritance tax issues are likely, professional help will be required.

Comprehensive information can be found on our webpage, probate and the administration of estates.

What if there is no will?

If the deceased left no will, this is called dying intestate and the estate will be administered and distributed according to strict regulations. You can find out more about intestacy on our website here.

It is advisable to get professional advice in the event that the deceased died intestate to determine who the beneficiaries are, who is allowed to deal with the estate, and what you are allowed to do before a grant of representation is obtained. Graysons probate team can help you with that.

How can Graysons’ probate team help?

During these difficult times, dealing with the estate of a deceased friend or relative is likely to be stressful. Graysons’ compassionate probate team are highly experienced and can help reduce the stress by taking much of the burden from you.  Anne Rogers, partner and head of our private client team, Chris Shaw and Laura Cowan, both senior private client advisors, are all experts in handling estate administration in a clear and considerate manner. For example, they can:

  • assist with the procedures for registering the death and organising the funeral
  • identify, contact and establish beneficiaries
  • advise on the terms of the will or the distribution of the estate if there is no will
  • deal with any inheritance tax that is due
  • obtain the grant of representation, whether that is a grant of probate or letters of administration
  • obtain the value of and collect assets
  • pay any liabilities
  • distribute the estate

You can find comprehensive information relating to estate administration on our website here.

Probate Registry

This is a section of HM Courts and Tribunal Services (HMCTS) that issues letters of administration or a grant of probate. Try not to worry if you haven’t heard from the Probate Registry as quickly as you might have expected as HMCTS has advised that during coronavirus/COVID-19, there may be some delays in providing grants of representation.

If you need our help, particularly during these tough times, we are here. Whilst our offices are closed to the public, our practice is very much open, and our team is working securely and remotely.

Contact us now using our contact form or call us on 0114 272 9184 and we will be in touch straight away.

Author: Laura Cowan, senior private client advisor.

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