Experiencing the death of a loved one can feel extremely overwhelming and it can be difficult to know how or where to begin. We have created a step-by-step guide to help you navigate the process and handle the affairs of a late family member or friend.

1. Ascertain if there is a will

First thing's first – did your loved one have a will? A will is a valuable source of information. Not only will it tell you who is responsible for managing the estate (the executors), it may also include invaluable information as to your loved one's immediate post-death wishes.

Many people use their will, or an accompanying letter of wishes, to state whether they'd prefer to be buried or cremated. Some testators may also share guidance as to the type of ceremony they'd like, even down to the songs they'd like played. On rare occasions, the testator may set out an unexpected request, such as a wish to be buried overseas, or that their organs be donated to medical research. It is extremely important to ascertain whether there is a will and locate a copy, this will give you peace of mind going forwards.

2. Notify loved ones

One of the most challenging parts of losing a loved one, is sharing the sad news with their family and friends. If you're not sure who to contact, look for an address book among their possessions or if you have access, scroll the contacts app on their mobile phone. You may also look at placing a notice in the local paper or posting a tribute on social media.

3. Register the death

In Scotland, all deaths must be registered within eight calendar days. You can register the death at any registration office in Scotland. At your appointment, make sure to bring along a copy of the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death, (also known as a Form 11), this will have been provided to you by the doctor. The registrar will record the death and give you either a "Certificate for a Burial" or an "Application for Cremation".

4. Plan the funeral

Once the death is registered, you can appoint a funeral director and start planning the ceremony. Funeral directors have a wealth of knowledge and will be able to help you plan the ceremony and connect you with local suppliers.

Be sure to check to see if your loved one has a pre-paid funeral package or insurance policy in place, which will save you both money and time. If you are responsible for paying for the funeral, remember that funeral expenses can be paid for out of the proceeds of your loved one's estate, this includes flowers, printing and food and drink, so executors needn't be out of pocket.

5. Consult a solicitor

Find a solicitor that specialises in executries, such as Brodies LLP and arrange an initial meeting to discuss the estate. Your solicitor will help you ascertain next steps, the legal processes involved in the administration and the level of reporting required for your loved one's estate. Your solicitor will keep you right and can be as involved as much or as little as you require.

6. Tell the government

The UK Government has an excellent service called Tell Us Once. This is an easy form that either you or your solicitor can complete online, to notify all relevant government departments, such as the Department for Work and Pensions and the DVLA.

7. Look through your loved one's possessions

There's never a good time to look through your loved one's possessions, but it is important to prepare a full inventory of what they owned and what they owed. This will principally involve looking at paperwork, but also check the home for items of value. If you are overwhelmed by the volume of paperwork, take it to your solicitor and they will be able to help you pull out the relevant documents and liaise with financial institutions on your behalf.

8. Mail redirect

If your loved one's property is to be unoccupied, make sure to set up a mail redirect, to forward the mail to an executor or directly to your solicitor.

9. Bills and utilities

Contact your loved one's suppliers and providers to let them know your loved one has passed away. Advise each provider of the date your loved one died and ask for a final account. If you are unsure who to contact, your solicitor can assist and make these enquiries on your behalf.

Proceed with caution before suspending any utilities at the property. If the house is to be sold, then you can probably do away with the landline, however, you will likely need gas and electric for readying a property for sale. Remember, executors are also obliged as executor to maintain a valid home insurance policy over the late friend or family member's property.

10. Online accounts

It is increasingly important to consider your loved one's online presence. Take stock of what email, social media, and online shopping accounts, your loved one held during their life. You can then speak with the service providers to inform them of your loved one's passing and ask that the accounts be closed. Many social media providers give you the option to memorialise a loved one's account after their death, so that friends and families can continue to view past content and post their tributes.

If you have recently experienced the death of a loved one, the Personal and Family Team at Brodies LLP are on-hand to guide you through the executry process. Our Wills and Executries solicitors are experts in providing bespoke advice and support, to ensure your loved one's wishes are fulfilled, while minimising any stress or inconvenience on your part.


Emma Paul

Senior Solicitor