The first few weeks
Find a will
If you don’t already know where the person’s will is, search around for it. If you can't find one in their house, try checking with their lawyer if they had one.
If there is no will, then special rules apply about who inherits from the estate.
Stop and redirect mail
If you would like to redirect their mail to your address, the post office will need to see the death certificate along with your proof of address and ID. This cannot be done online currently as you will need to fill in a “Special Circumstances Application Form”.
Download the Special Circumstances Application Form from the Royal Mail website (scroll down to ‘application forms’)
You can apply by post or in a branch.
Deal with a vehicle
Make sure any vehicle owned by the person who died has an MOT or you could be fined.
The vehicle will need to be insured, taxed and have an MOT if it is to be moved. You will have to use a car transporter otherwise.
The 'Tell Us Once' service should have notified the DVLA of the death so you will need to temporarily become the registered keeper so you can tax the vehicle.
You can use a website like webuyanycar.com to get an instant valuation of the vehicle which will come in handy when you are valuing the estate.
Notify any relevant insurance companies of the death. It is especially important to make sure any property insurance is still valid because executors could be held liable if a beneficiary receives less from the estate because of a burglary, fire, flood, or other loss.
Notify the insurance company if the property will be vacant and that it will be checked regularly and give them your contact details. If you have difficulty continuing the cover, you could try a specialist insurer like Home Protect.
Cancel Power of Attorney
If there was a Power of Attorney in place this is now invalid. You should notify the Public Guardian by email: OPG@scotcourts.gov.uk and attach a copy of the death certificate. Include a note of the Power of Attorney certificate number.
Deal with online accounts/digital assets
If anything of value is stored in the cloud you should try and download it before notifying the company as you may permanently lose access to it.
Every company has different rules so be careful about logging in with the deceased's password as you might be breaking their terms of service.
Open a separate bank account and track the money
In order to stay organised and accountable to the beneficiaries, it's best to receive money due to the estate into a separate account and pay out any debts, expenses and inheritance from it.
Some banks offer an ‘executor bank account’ which could be a good idea if there are multiple executors - make sure it has online banking to avoid having to go into the branch.
It is a good idea to keep track of all the money, other assets and debts in a spreadsheet. When you finish administering the estate, you are expected to provide a copy of these ‘estate accounts’ to anyone inheriting the leftover estate (residual beneficiaries). This is to prove you have dealt with the money properly.
Download our free executor spreadsheet
You can get a free copy of a spreadsheet we've put together by clicking the purple button in the bottom right-hand corner.
Find all the beneficiaries
It is an executor’s responsibility to track down all the people who stand to inherit something (these people are known as 'beneficiaries'). Executors could be held personally liable if they fail to pay a beneficiary their inheritance as stated in the will or by the rules of intestacy if there is no will.
It is good practice to notify all the people who are due to inherit something from the estate. You could reassure them that as executor you will deal with the estate as efficiently as possible but that it could take as long as 6-12 months because you will be waiting on multiple companies and government departments which can take a long time to process things.
Unmarried partners may wish to seek legal advice if there is no will and they are not being provided for by some alternative arrangement.
Bankrupt and underage beneficiaries
If someone due to inherit something is bankrupt you should pay their inheritance to their trustees.
In the case of young beneficiaries, there are often instructions in the will that say an inheritance should be paid when a beneficiary reaches a certain age. Things can get a little complicated depending on how the will was written so you may wish to hire a lawyer to advise you on this.