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Advice and Information

The following information has been selected from frequently asked questions to Police Family Liaison officers.

We hope you will find the information contained in the scripts helpful, however please note the information provided is not exhaustive.

Dealing with Wills

What is a personal representative?

The personal representative (also known as the executor if they are named in the Will, or the administrator if there is no executor named or no Will) is responsible for ensuring that what is specified in the Will is carried out.

If the person who has died was receiving Social Security benefit or pension the personal representative should tell Social Security of the death as soon as possible.

Has a Will been left?

Wherever the death occurred, it is important to find out if the person who has died left a Will, and if so who the executor is. The Will says what should happen to the money, property and possessions (known as the estate) of the person who has died.

The personal representative is responsible for paying any debts, taxes and expenses, including funeral expenses.

They make the payments from the estate, not from their own income or savings. Only when these duties are finished can the personal representative share out the rest of the estate.

What happens if no Will has been left?

If the person who has died did not leave a Will, but had money or property, an application for legal authority to administer the estate must be made to the probate Registry in your area.

You can make these applications yourself, but you may wish to get advice from a solicitor. If you decide to use a solicitor, he or she will be able to tell you what is necessary and make the necessary application on your behalf. It is a good idea to get all your documents together, and make a note of questions, before you visit the solicitor as this will save on time, money and effort.

Arrears of benefit

As the executor or administrator, you can claim any arrears of Social Security benefits still owing to the person who has died. The Secretary of State can also be asked to appoint someone to proceed with a claim before death. There may be money due if the deceased was or had recently claimed a benefit. Your local Social Security office will be able to give you a form to apply for any arrears. This procedure is the same whether benefit is payable at a Post Office or to an account. Arrears may sometimes be paid without the need to claim.

You should also ask the Social Security office for more information, as soon as you can. If the person who has died was awaiting the outcome of an appeal against a decision about a Social Security benefit: or you think he or she may have been eligible for benefit but did not a claim it, you may be able to act on his or her behalf and arrears of benefit may be payable to you.

Small Estates

If the whole estate comes to less than £5,000 it may be possible for it to be released without proving the Will or obtaining letters of administration.

Debts

Normally debts, including funeral expenses, are paid out of the estate of the person who has died,

The personal representative is responsible for paying all debts of the estate. It is best to advertise for creditors (people the person who died owes money to.)

This means putting formal advertisements in a newspaper, which has a local circulation. This should be after the grant of probate or administration has been made to you. Unknown creditors are given two months in which to make claims. If you do not advertise, you may be faced with personally paying claims made after the money has been shared out.

Tell the creditors the name of the personal representative. This may mean telling people like the area telephone manager, and any company with whom the person who has died had a credit, hire purchase or rental agreement. One example of a claim, which may arise, is if the Social Security office finds they have paid too much Income Support and ask for the overpayment back.

National Insurance owed at the date of death is also a debt of the estate. If this is not paid, it may affect the benefit of the surviving spouse.

Distribution of Property

When all the expenses, debts and taxes have been paid, the personal representative may then distribute anything left of the estate. If there is a Will, the personal representative will follow the instructions in the Will to carry out the wishes of the person who died.

Marriage and Divorce

Marriage will cancel any Will made in most countries. After a divorce, a former spouse cannot get anything left to them from the Will, unless the Will clearly says otherwise. Divorce may also prevent the former spouse acting as a personal representative.

If there is no Will

If there is no Will, the personal representative can then distribute anything left of the estate. The personal representative shares out the estate according to the rules that consider the rights of a surviving spouse, children, parents and other close blood relatives.

If there are no relatives

If there is no Will, or entitled blood relatives, the Crown has a right to the whole of the estate. You should write to:

Treasury Solicitors Department (BV)
Queen Anne's Chambers,
28, Broadway
London
SW1H 9JS

Claims on the Estate

Whether you are related or not, you can apply for a share of the estate if you were being supported financially in any way by the person who died, immediately before the death. If you qualify you must apply within six months of the date on which probate or letters of administration are taken out. The court can allow later application in special circumstances. You should get legal advice on how to do this.

Do not be rushed into parting with goods before taking legal advice. Hire purchase goods cannot be repossessed after a third of the purchase price has been paid unless the firm gets a court order. Where a deceased partner has left a debt, you may need to check with an advice centre or a solicitor about any liability for the debt.

Tax

If the person who died was paying tax on income from investments or as a self-employed person or as an employee, tell the tax office about the death as soon as possible. This will enable the tax affairs of the person who died to be settled. Depending on the circumstances, this may involve paying some more tax or claiming a repayment.

The particular tax office to contact will depend on the circumstances. For instance:

If the person who died was an employee or had a pension from a former employer; the pay section of the employer or pension organisation will know the deceased’s Tax Office.

If the person who dies was self-employed contact the Tax Office nearest to the place of business.

If the person who died was unemployed, or retired without a pension from a former employer; contact the Tax Office nearest to the home address.

You can find out more information by contacting your local Inland Revenue office and asking for a copy of their leaflet “What to do about tax when someone dies”.

Death registration

A death must be registered by the Registrar of Births, Marriages and Deaths for the sub-district in which the death occurred.

You will be able to find the number in your local phone directory, or from your doctor, local council, post office or police station.

Check when the registration will be available and who should attend; it may be someone other than you is needed to give information for the death to be registered.

If the death has been referred to the coroner, it cannot be registered until the registrar has received authority from the coroner to do so.

If the death has not been referred to the coroner, go to the registrar as soon as possible.

The death must be registered within 5 days, unless the registrar says this period may be exceeded.

You may be given to any registrar in England and Wales. You will need to attend your chosen registrar’s office to make a declaration of the particulars of the deceased.

This declaration will be forwarded to the registrar for the sub-district where the death took place, where it will be registered. There may be some delay in the certificates being issued, as this cannot be done until the death has been registered.

When you go to the registrar you should remember to take the following with you:

  • The medical certificate of the cause of death
  • The deceased medical card (if possible)
  • The deceased’s birth and marriage or civil partnership certificates, if available
  • You should tell the registrar:
  • The date and place of death
  • The deceased last (usual) address
  • The deceased’s first name and surname (and the maiden name where appropriate)
  • The deceased’s date and place of birth, (town and county) if born in the UK and country if born abroad
  • The deceased’s occupation and the name and occupation of their spouse or civil partner
  • Whether the deceased was getting a pension or allowance from public funds
  • If the deceased was married or had formed a civil partnership, the name of the surviving widow, widower or surviving civil partner

The Registrar who registers the death will give you:

A certificate for Burial or Cremation (known as the green form) unless the coroner has given you an Order for Burial (form 101) or a certificate for Cremation (form E). These give permission for the body to be buried or for an application for cremation to be made. It should be taken to the funeral director so that the funeral can be held.

A Certificate of Registration of Death (form BD8). This is for Social Security purposes only, read the information on the back of the certificate. If any of it applies, fill in the certificate and hand it to your job centre, plus or social security office.

Leaflets about bereavement benefits and income tax for widows/widowers/surviving civil partners where appropriate.

If you attend a registrar’s office other than the one for the sub- district where the death took place the certificate will be sent to you.

Dealing with loss

For most people the pain will gradually lessen. It can happen even though you think it never will, but with that there may come guilt and worry about forgetting or letting go of the person who died. At this stage it may become quite hard to let go of the grief because that is what links you to them. It is important to allow yourself the time to grieve.

As the years go by the pain may lessen, the memories will never leave you. The time it takes to adjust is different for each person. It is important to remember that each member of the family will be experiencing their own individual personal grief, which will be different as the relationship with the person who has died was different.

The change is usually gradual, but over time you may feel less overwhelmed and preoccupied by your loss. You may frequently think about what happened, and about the person who has died. For most people it will get less painful as time goes on but you will never forget your loved one.

You will always have your memories and the times you spent with them. Nothing can take that away from you. The aim of the grieving process is to learn to live with loss.

There will be times, though, when you are taken by surprise, when you hear a piece of music or visit a place that may remind you of the person who has died and you will find yourself overcome by grief all over again.

Special days or anniversaries, such as Christmas or your loved one's birthday, especially the first one or two after the death, can be difficult. As these days draw near you may find yourself feeling very low, upset and tired as the date for the anniversary approaches, especially in the first year of your bereavement, and wonder how to survive them. Some people find it helpful to plan for these anniversaries and to mark them in some quite personal way. For example, you could:

Light a candle (a symbol for the flame of life), perhaps in a memorable place or at a special time

Buy or make something beautiful, perhaps a decoration for the tree

Have a Christmas stocking, perhaps one which could be filled with memories or pictures

Use the money which would have bought your loved one a present to make a gift or donation

Go on a special walk, or visit a place full of happy memories

Take flowers to the grave, or a place that holds personal memories; this can be part of a celebration as well as a time to remember

Plant a tree or shrub in your own garden or maybe (with permission) in a park or churchyard.

Dealing with the media

Newspapers and magazines often publish stories about people who have died, particularly if the death happened in unusual circumstances. As a result, some degree of media attention may be inevitable. However, there are limits on what newspapers and magazines are allowed to do. These are set out in the Editors Code of Practice which is upheld by the Press Complaints Commission (PCC). This guidance is designed to help families who have lost a loved one, and who may need advice about how best to handle enquiries from the media.

The Code of Practice
There are a number of provisions in the Code that may be relevant when reporting a death:

The press must take care not to publish inaccurate or misleading information (Clause 1)

In cases involving personal grief or shock, enquiries and approaches must be made with sympathy and discretion and publication handled sensitively (Clause 5, i)

The press must not include excessive detail when reporting suicide, in order to minimise the risk of copycat cases (Clause 5, ii)

The PCC is always happy to offer advice on a confidential basis on the telephone. Our contact details can be found below.

Photographs
The press will often want to publish a photograph of the person who died, and relatives and friends may be approached by a journalist requesting this. It is your decision whether or not to provide this, but it can be a useful way of satisfying some of the media interest.

Harassment help
When there is no public interest for doing so, journalists should not follow or persistently question people once they have been asked to desist. The PCC can help with unwanted approaches by passing desist messages to relevant editors and broadcasters. In emergencies, this service can be accessed out of office hours - see related contact link.

Pre-publication concerns
If you are worried about a story you think will be published, you can contact us for advice. The PCC cannot order newspapers not to go ahead with a story but we can certainly help you to ensure that your position has been taken into account at the publication concerned. We will either advise you how to deal with the newspaper or magazine directly or, in some cases, pass on specific concerns to the relevant publication. There is no need to make a formal complaint to use this service.

Making a complaint
If you think the rules in the Code have been broken by something that has been published (or by the behaviour of a journalist) you can make a formal complaint to us. When this happens we will seek to mediate between you and the editor in order to achieve an appropriate settlement. This can be achieved in a variety of ways, including: the publication of an apology, correction, letter or follow-up article; a private letter of apology from the editor; the removal of inaccurate or intrusive material from a website. Further examples of successful mediation can be seen here.

In some cases, usually when mediation has failed, the PCC can also issue formal rebukes which must be published in full and prominently by the offending newspaper or magazine.

What to do if the death happens abroad
There may be a particular press focus if a death happens abroad. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) will be able to advise you about all the practical aspects of dealing with the death. There is more information available on the FCO website. The FCO may also help you with media enquiries.

The PCC remit covers newspapers and magazines published in the UK but it continues to apply to journalists working for UK publications wherever they are reporting from. If you have concerns about foreign titles and their journalists, we will be able to offer advice on whether there is a PCC equivalent body you can contact.

Contacts

Press Complaints Commission

Press Complaints Commission
Halton House
20/23 Holborn
London EC1N 2JD

24 hour advice line - emergency calls only : 07659 152656

020 7831 0022 [Switchboard 09:00 - 17:30 Monday to Friday].

complaints@pcc.org.uk

Bereavement register

The Bereavement Register is a free service that helps put a stop to direct mail sent to people who have died, reducing distress caused to their relatives and friends.

Throughout our lives we receive direct mail from companies offering us their products and services. In life this can be an irritation but when we die it can be extremely upsetting for the family we leave behind. The upset can turn to anguish when direct mail is targeted by fraudsters.

Impersonation of the deceased is a growing problem and all it takes is for a bill or credit card application sent after someone has died, to fall into the wrong hands.

You can register either online, by telephone or by writing

Write to:
Freepost, The Bereavement Register, Sevenoaks, Kent, TN13 1XR

Automated call centre: 0870 6007222 or Direct line: 01732 467940

Legal Advice

Law Centres provide a free and independent, professional legal service to people who live or work in their catchment areas. Find details of your nearest Law Centre in you local telephone directory or by visiting their website - see related link.

Law Society Advice

The Law Society is the professional body to which all solicitors belong. They can provide details about solicitors in your area. You can contact them by telephone - see related contact link.

Insurance

If the deceased was the named policy holder on household or car insurance please notify your insurers. Failure to notify your insurers could invalidate your insurance.



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