Dealing with a loved one’s death in the crisis

Law firm Gibson Kerr offers advice on how to cope with the legal implications of a personal loss during the coronavirus lockdown

Many of us are facing the sad prospect of dealing with the death of a loved one.

As the country remains in lockdown due to Covid-19, many of us are facing the sad prospect of dealing with the death of a loved one. If you are the nearest relative or executor, you may be wondering what the next steps are to deal with their estate in the current circumstances.

Registering the death

Registration offices are closed to the public right now, so registrars are currently holding appointments by telephone. The local office will arrange a suitable time with you to obtain all the details they need to register the death. The medic who certified the death will ensure that the registrar is provided with the medical certificate they need.

During the telephone meeting, the registrar will ask you questions such as the deceased’s persons full name, date of birth, parents’ names, occupation and marital status.

You will be asked to approve the draft death certificate and it will be electronically signed on your behalf and a copy will be e-mailed to you.More information on registering a death during the lockdown can be found on the National Records of Scotland website.

Arranging the funeral

The next step will be to organise the funeral and you should contact a funeral director to begin arrangements. If your loved one has a funeral plan, you should contact the plan provider to find out which elements of the plan can still be carried out. Alternatively, if there is a will, it may contain the deceased’s funeral wishes.Current government lockdown rules limit attendees at a funeral to immediate family only. Your funeral director will be able to advise you on this.

Many funeral directors are offering a live stream or recording of the funeral for family members and friends who cannot attend. Additionally, it should be possible to arrange a memorial service when restrictions ease.

Administering the estate

If there is a will which names you as executor, you will be responsible for administering the estate. This involves ascertaining the deceased’s assets and their values. You will need to establish if a Grant of Confirmation (probate) is required to enable you to close their accounts and sell/transfer any assets.

The relevant bank will advise whether it requires a Grant of Confirmation to deal with the deceased’s accounts. Most banks have a telephone or online service for notifying them of the death, or a postal address to write to.

Once you have obtained all of the information about the assets, you will complete an application for Confirmation (if required), including an inventory of the assets. Sheriff courts have recently begun accepting new applications for Confirmation at ten “hubs” across Scotland.

If inheritance tax is payable, you will need to complete an inheritance tax account, and payment can be made by bank transfer to HMRC.

If there is no will, an intestacy procedure will apply. Applications for appointment as executor can be submitted to one of the sheriff court hubs, although the process may take longer than usual due to restrictions on court staff numbers.

We’re here to help

Our personal law solicitors are happy to help you with the process of administering an estate. We are working remotely and are able to hold a telephone or online meeting with you, so please get in touch with our personal law partner, Lindsay Maclean, on 0131-202 7516 or e-mail [email protected]

Find out more at www.gibsonkerr.co.uk