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After somebody has died, it’s necessary to take care of issues around that person’s money, property, debts and any possessions they may have had – these are known as their estate. The method of dealing with these matters will depend on whether the individual had made a Will or has died without one.
The Will they left should indicate who will be the executors of the Will; these will be the people responsible for dealing with the estate.
The executor(s) will need to apply for a grant of probate or grant of confirmation (Scotland only) from a section of the court known as the probate registry to give them the authority they require.
Where someone has not left a Will, a family member (spouse, parent, or child) can apply to become the administrator of any estate remaining after death. The application is made to the court for “letter of administration” to allow them to handle and distribute the estate (money, property, possessions, etc).
If you have made a Will already, you need to bear in mind any changes you may need to make if this is affected by the recent death of a family member. For example the recently deceased may have been named as a beneficiary, executor or guardian in your own Will, so you may need to change who receives what share of your estate, or appoint an alternative executor or guardian.
You can choose to amend your Will by means of a “codicil” or you can choose to draw up a new Will if necessary.
If you have not yet made a Will of your own, you need to be aware that “dying intestate” (i.e. without a Will) can make for a difficult set of circumstances and decisions being left in the hands of those you have left behind.
There are Will writing services available to help you make a Will or you can choose to do it yourself if the Will is likely to be very straightforward. However in view of the many legal issues involved in making a Will, it is invariably wise to consult a solicitor who can draw up the Will for you or simply check over one you have made yourself to ensure you’ve not made any errors.