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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.

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

This is a very stressful time for friends and relatives of the deceased. Churches have stopped carrying out funeral services, but funeral directors can still arrange a short service at a graveside or crematorium.

Also, only close family members (and as few people as possible) should attend the funeral. Some people are using digital resources, such as Skype or Facetime, to allow people to join the funeral remotely.

Gatherings or wakes following a funeral are, regrettably, not allowed at present.

Most funeral directors are only accepting instructions over the phone or by email, and not in person.

You can find out more about arranging a funeral during COVID-19 here.

Funerals for those who died of suspected or confirmed coronavirus/COVID-19

Whilst the government understands how difficult it is for families of those who have died, it has put in place strict guidelines relating to the funerals of those who have died of suspected or confirmed coronavirus/COVID-19 to help ensure that the disease is not spread.

  • The main procedures that should be followed, according to the government’s guidance, are:
  • Funerals should not be delayed
  • Only members of the person’s household and close family members should attend the funeral
  • Mourners should maintain social distancing at the funeral and not mix closer than two meters apart
  • Mourners should also maintain social distancing when travelling to and from the funeral
  • There should be no face-to-face or physical contact – unless it is between those who are already living in the same household
  • Everyone should follow the general advice on hand hygiene, such as washing the hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or using hand sanitiser
  • Mourners should cover their nose and mouth with a tissue or their sleeve when coughing or sneezing and should throw away the tissue, if used, and wash or sanitise their hands immediately
  • 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 also include the next of kin of the person who has died if they are in a period of self-isolation

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.

You have landed on this page as Watson Esam has merged with Graysons

You can read more about the merger here. Graysons will be pleased to help with your enquiry. Please visit our web pages or contact us directly on 0114 358 9009

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