What Should You Do When Someone Dies?

Bereavement is a terrible time for everyone, but it is also a busy time, with many different things needing to come together in order for probate to be issued and for the deceased to have a funeral. It can be very easy to ignore or forget about all the legal and necessary things that need to be done at this time, but the longer they are left the harder everything will become. It will mean that probate will take longer, and that can be stressful and time consuming as well. It is particularly important to make things happen quickly if you – or someone else – was financially dependent on the deceased. You or they may be entitled to bereavement allowance, for example. At the very least, finances need to be sorted out to enable life to go on.

Probate can take many months to complete, depending on the complexity of the estate. The bereavement allowance can be up to £2,000, and is used to help those who were financially dependent on the deceased and who now will have a problem because of loss of or lack of finances.

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The first thing that definitely needs to be done is to register the death. This is a relatively straightforward thing to do, and when it is completed the Grant of Probate can be issued, and the will can be executed. If the deceased died at home with no medical personnel present, then a doctor will be needed to provide a medical certificate showing cause of death. This can be taken to the register office (within five days) so that you can obtain a death certificate which is needed for everything else. If the deceased died at hospital or in a care home, the medical staff will usually be able to register the death for you.

The death certificate is required to have the body cremated or buried. You may wish to purchase additional copies of the death certificate as a variety of different organisations will need to see them, and rather than waiting for each one to send the certificate back, the executor can contact many of them at once, saving a lot of time.

Next you will want to look at funeral arrangements. The deceased may have had a pre-paid funeral plan, or perhaps they left instructions in their will or spoke about what they wanted when it came to their funeral. This will obviously make things easier for those who are arranging it, but if not there is no need to worry. Think about the person that they were, and you will be able to come up with the ideal funeral for them. Speak to the executors regarding money to pay for the funeral if there was no plan in place as they may be able to organise an advance from the estate. 

How To Find If Someone Had A Will

When someone dies, unless family were told beforehand, or it is easy to find in the house, it can sometimes be difficult to know whether someone even had a will, let alone where it might be.

The problem is that there isn’t a central database of all the wills made in the UK. There is the Central Probate Registry, but it is not compulsory to enter the details of your will there, and not many people do. This might be because very few people are actually aware that it exists.

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If you want to know about someone’s will for any reason, the first person to ask should be the one who has organised the funeral. They should at least be able to determine whether there is a will or not, which will aid you in your search. If there is a will, they may even be able to tell you what it consists of, but they are under no legal obligation to do this.

Once probate has been issued, the will itself becomes public. Once this is the case, you can apply to the probate registry to obtain a copy of the will. If you are unsure when probate is due to be given, you can register through a standing search at the probate registry. One registered, the search (which is set up in the person’s name, their address, and their date of death) lasts for 6 months. If probate has not been issued in that time, you will need to set up another search. 

Virtual Mourning

We can now do almost everything online, from shopping to dating, to most work practices. What’s next? It could be anything, and it will be everything eventually, that is almost certain.

The latest idea to come out of the online world is virtual mourning. The idea behind it is that funerals can be live streamed over the internet so that those who cannot attend in real life can at least be part of the proceedings. Weddings have been done this way for a little while now, so it seems inevitable that funerals would also go virtual.

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All those who want to be involved in the funeral but cannot be there themselves would need is an internet connection and a device that is compatible with the platform being used. This could, of course, be organised with plenty of time to spare. So people who live on the other side of the world, or who simply cannot come due to disability or transport issues, can now watch their friends and loved ones being laid to rest.

As with any new concept, there have been criticisms, and when it comes to death people do feel very strongly about what is ‘right’ and ‘proper’. The main concern seems to be that the funeral itself will become something that no one actually attends, with everyone preferring to watch online. This, the experts say, is not ideal when it comes to the mourning process, as watching on a screen lends a feeling of detachment. Therefore, grieving may not take place as it should, leading to emotional problems further on. Around a fifth of Britain’s 281 crematoriums already have webcams fitted for this reason, and the idea is growing in popularity despite misgivings.

For many people, it could save much guilt and worry if they are unable to attend the funeral itself yet can still watch online. 

Justin Bieber’s Will

Justin Bieber has made some fairly poor decisions in the past, and one might be forgiven for thinking that his latest one is bound to be just as bad. However, when it turns out that his most recent decision is to write a will, it could be that the Canadian youngster is actually growing up and becoming a tad more sensible. Even if he does go back to his wild ways, at least this one particular decision will still hold true. And the reason behind this sudden grown up attitude is, so the reports say, that Bieber was shocked by the passing of some of the greatest performers of our age, such as Prince and David Bowie.

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Bieber’s estate is said to be worth around £180 million, and an estate of that size – or any size, come to that, but the larger the estate often the more difficult  it is to distribute and work with if there is no will.

Justin Bieber hasn’t only written a will, but has also detailed what he wants to happen at his funeral. Again, this can be a good idea as it will help bereaved loved ones who may not feel up to making the important decisions required at this time. If everything is set out and decided in advance it can all happen more quickly and without fuss or upset. Bieber’s plans include a solar powered headstone which plays his music videos on a screen, as well as a life sized hologram of… himself.

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No matter what we think of these requests, the fact that Justin Bieber has had the sense to write a will and to think about his own mortality should be applauded. More people should do it to save the problems that come with dying intestate. And hopefully, now that Justin Bieber has done this, perhaps more young people will realise that a good idea it is. At the moment less than 50 percent of the population has a will. Anything to promote the idea that it should be done is worth looking into. 

‘Paupers’ Funerals’ Are On The Rise

We all know that funerals can be expensive, with the cost of the ‘average’ UK funeral coming in at around £4,000. But are they becoming too expensive altogether? The huge rise in bills to local councils for so-called ‘paupers’ funerals’ would seem to suggest so.

Over the past four years, the cost of pauper’s funerals has risen by almost 30%, coming in at a staggering £1.7 million. That cost takes into account a rise of 11% in these funerals altogether. So not only are there more paupers’ funerals happening, they are costing more too.

The council calls these types of funerals ‘public health funerals’ (possibly a misleading name…) but whatever they are called they are meant for those who either die alone with no next of kin, or those whose relatives can prove they are unable to pay for the cost of a funeral. In some cases, the local council will pay a percentage of the funeral costs and ask the family – assuming there is one – to pay the rest.  

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Research suggests that it could be that people are living for longer that has given rise to these paid for funerals – the longer someone lives, the more money they will need to spend from their savings, money that would once have paid for a funeral but instead needs to be used for living expenses.

Polls show that it is in the north west of England where most public health funerals take place, and London comes a close second. However, the biggest increase of late was in the south east, which saw a rise of 24%. For the biggest rise in cost, it is the south west; in this area public health funerals cost around 39% more than they did just four years ago. It’s a massive increase and when it is combined with the rising cost of living and lack of jobs, perhaps it is no wonder that more and more paupers’ funerals are taking place.

Each public health funeral costs around £1,000.

Although the cost of a funeral is high, it can be reduced by paying into a monthly funeral service, which will mean everything is paid for ahead of time. You can even plan your own service yourself. 

The Cost Of A Funeral

Although it isn’t perhaps the first thing that will cross the mind of friends and relatives once they hear of someone’s death, it is something that will need to be thought of eventually – arranging the funeral. But it’s more than simply arranging it; it’s paying for it too. How much does a funeral actually cost?

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The question is a difficult one to answer since there are so many variations on exactly what kind of funeral you can have, but there are some aspects that don’t change, and we can give you a rough estimate on funeral costs at least.

The cost of an ‘average’ (whatever that is) funeral is now over £4,000, and for many this is simply unaffordable. This is why it can be an excellent idea to pay into a pre-paid funeral account, so that when the time comes your loved ones can give you the send off that you want and that they are happy with.

This can be paid either in a lump sum, or on a weekly or monthly basis. Your family won’t have to worry about anything other than the arrangements themselves knowing that you organised everything else. You can specify how you want to be buried (or cremated), the tone the funeral will take, which songs you want played as well as anything else you specifically require. This will take the burden of ‘getting it right’ off your loved ones who will already be feeling incredibly emotional and probably finding the entire situation difficult.

If you would rather not pay into a pre-paid funeral fund then it is wise to ensure that there is enough money in the estate to pay for the funeral. But what exactly is it that needs to be paid for?

The first thing is the doctor’s fee. This is the fee that needs to be paid in order for two doctors to certify the death. After this, you will need to pay for copies of the death registration into the register. The registration of death itself is absolutely free, but if you need copies then these cost money. You cannot simply photocopy the document yourself (for banks, building societies, landlords etc) and must have a certified copy to give to each of the institutions that requires it.

Cremation fees are another cost to take into account. Each crematorium has a different fee depending on which authority they fall under, but it is possible to find this out beforehand.

Another cost is the medical reference fee. When a cremation takes place, a medical professional must check the paperwork before it can actually be carried out – and there is a fee for this.

A burial has its own costs. The first, of course, being the coffin. Depending on the budget, coffins can range from something very plain to something rather impressive – and they can cost many thousands of pounds at the very top end of things. A headstone is even more expensive (or can be), but is perhaps more important in the long run.

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Just as the cost of cremation changes from area to area, so too does the cost of burial. If the church that has been specified is not local to where the deceased lived, there can be an additional charge on top of the standard burial fee. Also on top of the internment fee (which may or may not include grave digging fees) there is a cost for grave deeds. This is not usually possible to obtain in a churchyard, but in a cemetery or perhaps a woodland burial you may wish to consider this option; grave deeds mean that your body has the exclusive right to the grave for a specified amount of time.

And then the funeral service itself must be paid for. These differ from place to place just as the burial and cremation fees do, but you can find this out before anything happens and make sure your funeral fund will cover it all.

Extras include having the organ played and the bells rung, as well as various other options (again, depending on where your funeral is taking place).

There are so many variables, so many options, that is it always worth checking everything out before it becomes a surprise to those who are organising your funeral.


Shakespeare’s Will

Since it is the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death (and the 452nd anniversary of his birth, if records can be believed), it seemed appropriate to write about Shakespeare’s Will. But this is not the famous (infamous?) will in which he left only his second best bed to his wife, Anne Hathaway.

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This is Shakespeare’s Will, a play by Vern Thiessen, a Canadian writer who created it in 2004 at the behest of Geoffrey Brumlik, who was, at the time the artistic direction of the River City Shakespeare Festival. It premiered in February 2005 at the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton.

This play has been regularly revived since then due not only to its incredible popularity but also its enduring themes of love, life and language.

Shakepeare’s Will is performed by just one woman since the story and plot revolve around Anne Hathaway (Shakespeare’s wife) rather than the playwright himself. The action of the play takes place on the day of Shakespeare’s funeral. It is written in a form of poetic monologue that the man himself would have admired.

In the play, Anne is given Shakespeare’s will as she leaves his funeral – an act which surprises her and intrigues her, although she has no wish to read what it says. She would rather remember her marriage to ‘Bill’ as it was, not through a selection of trinkets left over from a life together.

Eventually Anne does read the will and feels she has been punished; her sister in law will receive the house, a house Anne loves desperately, and all Anne herself is given is the second best bed. Is this punishment because she was unable to save their son from drowning?

It is Anne’s recovery from the betrayal in death of the man she adored that is the true focus of the play, and this is where the strength of it – and her – lies. 

Potential lifeline for those struggling with inheritance tax

Potential lifeline for those struggling with inheritance tax

With inheritance tax falling due before any inheritance monies are released, this can prove to be a huge financial burden for grieving relatives – particularly when that bill can reach many thousands of pounds.

We have heard horrific tales of relatives resorting to extreme measures in order to raise funds to meet funeral and inheritance tax costs, such as taking out extortionate payday loans.  However, the legal press recently gave details of a new, alternative provider who is helping a number of families who have found themselves in this unfortunate financial position.

One such client of HNW Lending needed a loan of £100,000 to pay for the funeral costs and inheritance tax bill of £60,000 on a £2 million Mayfair flat – money which the executors would otherwise have needed to find themselves.

So how does it work? Loans are secured on the property in question and are normally available for repayment over a three or six months term. The application process is relatively fast, with successful applicants receiving their money in around 10 days.

Funding is provided by a number of high net worth individuals rather than a financial organisation and interest rates are negotiated.  HNW Lending will complete a valuation of the property concerned and then attempt to identify a lender who will provide funds, secured against the value of that property.

Although this is the latest kid on the block offering funding for this particular type of debt, we anticipate that other alternative lenders will follow suit, to cater for increasing numbers of families facing financial hardship due to funeral and probate issues.

#iwcprobate #inheritancetax #probate

Happy to talk about your funeral?

Happy to talk about your funeral?

The days of being reluctant to discuss our own death are well and truly over it seems, with over two thirds of over 50s saying they are happy to talk about their funeral arrangements.

Interviewing 904 adults over the age of 50, Market intelligence organisation Mintel discovered that seven in ten also wanted their funeral to be a celebration, rather than a sombre affair.  76% of those indicating they'd prefer to have their life celebrated were women.

Whilst one in five said that they had no specific preference with regard to funeral arrangements, 16 percent said that they had left written instructions about how they wanted the ceremony to be conducted, and 26 percent also indicating that they had begun to plan for the inevitable.

Interestingly, only 39 percent of respondents felt that religion should play a key part in their ceremony.

Although for many generations, the idea of death and the issues surrounding it have been seen as awkward, it seems that we as a nation are moving away from this culture – perhaps, as Mintel suggests, because we are an ageing population.

Over a quarter of those interviewed said that they had taken out an insurance plan to cover funeral costs, with the average funeral now costing around £3,600.

Unclaimed ashes cause problems for undertaker

Unclaimed ashes cause problems for undertaker

One of the more unusual stories in the press recently tells of a Southampton undertaker, who claims to be storing over 400 sets of cremated ashes, stretching back almost five decades.

Despite most relatives normally collecting their deceased loved one's ashes within a day or two of the cremation, surprisingly there are also a small number of people who leave it much longer – or even don't collect them at all.  Presumably, either they don't want to have to face the further task of distributing the ashes, which can be too distressing for some, or sadly, sometimes there has been a breakdown of relationship within the family circle and so no-one comes forward to claim them.

The problem with this particular undertaker has become so difficult that it has actually put out a public plea, to identify any potential relatives and ask them to come forward to remove the ashes.

The National Association of Funeral Directors has its own guidelines, recommending that undertakers hold onto unclaimed ashes for a period of at least five years, so the fact that the Southampton undertaker is still holding some, after a period of over forty years, is amazing.

Research has already been undertaken to find out the next of kin for some of the ashes – a task which unfortunately was fruitless, and so the net has now widened to find any family members from the next generation.

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