Checklist for dealing with an estate

Dealing with an estate can be a daunting process. We have prepared a checklist below which can be used as a starting point for the most common steps to be taken when administering an estate. Please note that this checklist is intended as guidance only. Completing the steps below does not necessarily mean that you have fulfilled your duties and responsibilities as personal representative. Each estate is different and there may be various matters that need to be considered which are not set out below.

We recommend that you seek legal assistance. If you have any questions or would like to find out how we can help you, please contact our Private Wealth team on 0330 016 9200 or email us at


Register the death

In England and Wales, a death must be registered within five days. Once you have a medical certificate of the cause of death (from the hospital or a GP), you will be able to arrange an appointment with the register office. It is at this appointment that the death certificate will be issued.  If the cause of death is uncertain, the coroner’s office may be instructed to carry out a postmortem to determine the cause of death and there may be a formal inquest. In these circumstances, the coroner will issue an interim death certificate.

Complete the Tell Us Once Service

After registering the death, you will be issued with a ‘Tell Us Once’ reference number. The Tell Us Once service informs various public bodies of the death, including HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), the Department for Work and Pensions and the local council. You must use the service within 28 days of the reference number being issued.

Locate the original Will (if there is one) 

If there is a Will, the authority of the executors derives from the Will. Executors do not have to act if they do not wish to and further advice can be taken in relation to this. You will need the original Will. If it is held with a firm of solicitors, contact them to arrange its release.

If there is no Will, find out who is entitled to deal with the estate 

If there is no Will, the deceased would have died ‘intestate’. The law specifies who can administer the estate, who inherits and in what amounts. This can be complex and, in such circumstances, it is recommended that legal advice is sought.

Arrange the funeral 

You will need to arrange for an appointment with a funeral director to organise the funeral. You will also need to consider any arrangements for the wake. The Will or a separate letter of wishes may contain the deceased’s funeral wishes. Provided there are funds, costs relating to the funeral and wake can be settled from the deceased’s bank accounts before Grant.

Contact private pension providers 

Contact any private pension providers and find out if there is any further pension due, if there is a sum payable to the estate, or if a pension will continue to be paid to someone else.

Contact insurers

Contact insurers (e.g. house, car) to notify them of the death and arrange for the insurance to be updated so that it is in the names of the personal representatives. With house insurance, if the property is now empty, the insurer will often impose additional conditions, such as regular visits to the property. Make sure that you understand these conditions and follow them.

Secure any property and valuables 

If the deceased owned a property which is now empty, make sure that you have secured it. Do you know the key-holders? Do the locks need to be changed? Are the windows locked? Is the garden secure? Should you be making the property looked ‘lived in’? etc.

Locate the deceased’s cash and other valuables (such as watches, jewellery, artwork etc.) and ensure that these are secure and adequately insured.

Return of Documentation

Return any registered Lasting Power of Attorney or Enduring Power of Attorney to the Office of the Public Guardian for cancellation.


Obtain information about the assets and liabilities

You will need date of death balances for all assets and liabilities. Some banks offer an online notification service and others will require you to contact them by post or phone.

Arrange valuations 

If the personal possessions and household contents are of value, you need to arrange for these to be formally valued by an appropriate expert. For real property, you will either need valuations from three estate agents or instruct a RICS qualified surveyor where there is inheritance tax to pay, a non-standard property, or if the property is let out.

Find out about lifetime gifts and trusts  

If the deceased made gifts or set up a trust in the 7 years prior to their death, you may need to report these on the inheritance tax return depending upon various allowances and exemptions available. You should speak to close family members to find out if they received any gifts and consider reviewing the deceased’s bank statements for signs of gifts. The deceased’s solicitor, accountant and/or financial advisor may also be able to confirm if they are aware of any reportable gifts or trusts.

Prepare and submit tax returns

Prepare and submit a final self-assessment tax return (if required) to HMRC for period 6 April to date of death

Prepare and submit an inheritance tax return (if required) to HMRC

An inheritance tax return is not needed in all cases. It is recommended that you either speak to a solicitor or look on the Gov.UK website for the latest requirements. If a return is required, it must be submitted within 12 months of the date of death.

Pay inheritance tax due (if any)

Provided there are enough funds, inheritance tax would usually be paid directly from the deceased’s bank account(s) or investment portfolio. Inheritance tax must be paid by the end of the 6th month after the person died. Interest is payable on late payments.

Submit application for Grant 

The Probate Registry issues Grants. If you are applying as an executor named in the Will, you will be applying for a Grant of Probate. If there is no Will, you will be an ‘administrator’ and you will be applying for a Grant of Letters of Administration. Usually, the application is made online, but in some circumstances, it will be made by paper.

Consider placing statutory advertisements 

Statutory advertisements are published in the London Gazette and a paper local to where the deceased lived and to where they owned property. These are not death notifications but are specific notices that mean that, should any unknown creditors or unknown beneficiaries come forward after the date set out in the notice, you will not be personally liable as a personal representative if you no longer have estate funds.

Open an executor’s bank account

If you are not instructing a solicitor to deal with the full estate administration, you will need to open an executors’ bank account to receive monies in and to pay any liabilities and expenses.


Collect in (i.e. sell or transfer) all of the assets 

Bank and building society accounts will need to be closed and the proceeds paid to the executor/solicitor’s account. Consideration needs to be given as to what to do with other assets such as investments, property and personal possessions. You may wish to seek advice in relation to these and you may also want to have a discussion with the beneficiaries in case they would prefer for assets to be transferred to them rather than receive sale proceeds.

Any joint bank accounts/building society accounts and any real property held as ‘joint tenants’ will usually pass automatically to the surviving joint owner(s).

Pay liabilities and expenses 

Provided there are sufficient funds in the estate to do so, pay any outstanding liabilities and expenses due.

Deal with income tax and capital gains tax reporting 

Depending upon the amount of income and the type of income received, you may need to report income received during the ‘estate administration period’ (this is essentially the period from date of death to the date where the final amounts due to the residuary beneficiaries can be ascertained), to HMRC. Whether or not you can do this informally or formally depends upon various factors, including the amount of income tax payable and the value of assets disposed in any one tax year. You may need to register the estate with HMRC as a ‘complex estate’.

You may also need to report and pay capital gains tax liability depending upon the assets sold and the gains/losses on these assets.

It is recommended that you seek advice from a solicitor and/or accountant with regard to income tax and capital gains tax reporting for the estate administration period.

Consider whether the inheritance tax position has changed and obtain formal tax clearance from HMRC 

If inheritance tax was payable, you should apply for formal inheritance tax clearance from HMRC. There is a specific form that you will need to complete for this. There may be adjustments that need to be made to the probate values that were submitted on the inheritance tax return or you may be able to claim relief on the loss on the sale of certain shares within one year of death or the loss on the sale of property within four years of death. In which case, this needs to be reported to HMRC. It is recommended that you seek advice from a solicitor regarding inheritance tax reporting.

Prepare estate accounts

Estate accounts are provided to the residuary beneficiaries and, in summary, show the value of the estate at date of death, expenses and costs during the administration, income and how much each beneficiary will receive after deduction of costs and expenses. Unless a very simple estate, it is recommended that these are prepared by a solicitor.

Pay any specific or cash legacies 

Please note that if these are not paid within the period of one year, you may need to add in interest to the payments when they are made. Cash legacies are payable before any assets are distributed from an estate.

Pay distributions to residuary beneficiaries

You should take advice from a solicitor where the beneficiary is a minor, does not have mental capacity, has not reached an age contingency set out in the Will, or if any monies are passing into a trust. It is also recommended that before making any payments to beneficiaries, you carry out a bankruptcy search against them through the HM Land Registry service.

Provide income statements (R185s) to residuary beneficiaries

These statements set out the gross, tax paid and net income on each residuary beneficiary’s share of the estate. They may need this for their own tax reporting. An accountant or solicitor would usually prepare these statements.

For more information, please contact us on 0330 016 9200 or email us at