What happens when my parent or elderly relative dies?

Dealing with the death of a loved one can be extremely difficult, and finding out what you need to do at the time can be overwhelming. Preparing for the situation can help prevent what is an already upsetting time becoming even more stressful.

If you are named as an attorney in a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) for your parent or relative, your legal responsibility ends when they die. However, there are several important matters that must be dealt with promptly after someone dies, including notifying the person’s financial institutions and utility providers, so as a family member this may be left to you to oversee.

If your relative has left a will, you may also be named as an executor. There is no obligation to accept this role, even if you have previously acted as an attorney for an LPA. In the event that no family member wishes to undertake the responsibility as executor themselves, a solicitor can take on this role. If you have been appointed as an executor, you can also ask your own solicitor to act for you, as your attorney.  

The executor of a will must ensure that the death is registered as soon as possible and obtain the death certificate, and convey the deceased’s wishes regarding funeral arrangements. They will also be required to obtain a Grant of Probate to deal with the deceased’s assets, estate and any debts.

If your relative has not left a will (commonly known as ‘dying intestate’), the situation is more complex. A ‘grant of letters of administration’ must be applied for in order to distribute the deceased’s estate, however only certain family members are entitled to do so, with those eligible including any surviving spouse or civil partner, followed by children, then parents, siblings, grandparents and any aunts/uncles.

A specialist solicitor can advise on wills as well as LPAs, both of which can help make the period following the death of a loved one as pain-free as possible for the whole family.