There are many practical steps you will need to take following the death of a loved one. One of these is finding the right probate lawyer for your needs – Oratto can help – the other is finding the essential documentation.

Below you will find a rough guide to finding ten of the most important documents.

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Bank and building society accounts

As soon as you have received the death certificate, it is important that you inform any banks or building societies with which the deceased had an account – go through personal papers and contact any financial advisers or accounts to locate these.

You can take the death certificate into the relevant branch of a bank or building society, or it can be sent by post. However, even as the appointed personal representative, it is likely that you will need some form of ID – for example, a current full UK passport or a photographic driving licence.

Even if you have been unable to obtain a death certificate, it is a good idea to write to the bank or building society in order to secure the account and to prevent unwanted marketing.

Insurance policies

It is vitally important that you find documentation relating to all of the following:

  • House insurance – If relevant, let the insurer know that the owner is deceased and the property is empty (although most policies continue to provide cover for 30 days). If the deceased was a joint owner then the policy will need to be transferred to the surviving owner.
  • Life insurance – Inform the provider of any life insurance policy by contacting them and enclosing a copy of the death certificate. If you are unsure of whether there is a life policy, check documentation as well as bank standing orders. Additionally, the Association of British Insurers offers a search facility.
  • Endowment policies – Contact the insurer, providing a copy of death certificate and request a valuation.
  • Medical insurance – Again, contact the insurer and provide a copy of the death certificate. Check to see if you might be entitled to make a claim for the deceased's medical insurance.

National savings accounts

You will need to search for documentation pertaining to National Savings and Investments and, if relevant, contact the organisation with copies of the death certificate and the Will. If the value of the savings held exceeds £5,000, you will also need to provide a copy of the Grant of Probate or the Grant of Letters of Administration.

Details of stocks and shares

Check for share certificates and/or bank statements for details of dividends paid. Additionally, if the deceased had a stockbroker or financial adviser, contact them for further details.

Contact the registrars or officers of the companies involved so that dividends can be paid into the executor's/administrator's account. Shares should be valued and sold so that the income can be distributed amongst the beneficiaries.

Mortgage, utilities, loans, credit cards and tax debt

It is important to respond quickly to all letters and phone calls demanding payment. Contact account and utility providers to ask for details of outstanding balances. Go through personal papers to be sure you have every party covered.

It is also worth checking to see if there are any insurance policies that will help with the payment of these liabilities.

Keys to property and property valuation

The property will need to be valued for the purposes of probate. This is both to determine the value of the estate and to calculate Inheritance Tax liability – this is required even if the beneficiaries plan not to sell, although the Residence Nil Rate Band may mean that in some cases there is no Inheritance Tax to pay on the property.

Talk to family and neighbours for help with locating all copies of keys to property.

Funeral details

Before you can arrange a date for the funeral, you will need to register the death. Check with relatives and consult personal papers to see if the deceased took out a pre-paid funeral plan.

If there is no funeral plan, the costs will usually be met by the estate. If funds are tight, it is useful to remember that (with the exception of secured loans) the funeral bill receives the highest priority. Sometimes it might even be necessary to take out a loan in order to pay the costs of the funeral.

Written details of testator's wishes for his or her belongings

Sometimes testators leave a 'gift list' that appendixes or simply supplements the Will. You may be able to find this in the deceased's personal papers or details of such a document may be mentioned in the Will.

List of creditors

Executors and administrators should place a notice in The Gazette (the official public record) to give creditors the chance to claim anything they are owed.

Divorce certificate

You will need to find the decree absolute for the deceased (where appropriate), if the deceased died without a Will and was divorced.

Find a solicitor who specialises in probate

Oratto can put you in touch with a solicitor for probate who is suited to your personal circumstances - whether you need help finding documentation or some other aspect of probate.

Contact Oratto today to speak with our knowledgeable advisers regarding finding the right probate lawyer for your needs.