Step by step guide
There are a handful of things that need to be done as soon as possible after someone has passed away. You may have dealt with some of them already, but if not you’ll find guidance on the initial steps that you may need to take, starting with formally registering the death.
Step 1: Register the death
After someone passes away their death must be registered. If you go to a register office in the area where the person passed away, you will be given the documents you'll need on the same day. If you choose a register office in a different location, then the documents may take longer. You can find your nearest register office in the phone book or online at: gov.uk/register-a-death. You may need to make an appointment.
You need to register the death as soon as possible, but timescales vary depending on where in the country you live. For up-to-date information for your area, visit gov.uk. You'll need the doctor's certificate and possibly supporting information, such as a birth or marriage certificate. If in doubt, check with your local register office before attending. The register office will give you a death certificate. Most organisations, including M&S Bank, will need to see original documents, so you may want to ask for extra copies (the register office makes a small charge for this).
Step 2: Letting us and other organisations know
Letting us know
We're here to offer you all the support we can, and once you've informed us of your bereavement we'll ensure that all the relevant teams within M&S Bank are updated. There are various ways that you can contact us, but you may find the quickest way to notify us is to complete our Contact us form.
You can also call our Customer Services team on 0345 900 0900, notify us by visiting a branch or write to us at M&S Bank, PO Box 3849, Chester CH1 9FN.
Once you've notified us, we'll then be able to confirm the next steps, including what documents we need to see and any forms that need to be completed. For more information on next steps and what documents may need to be provided, please see what happens when we are notified about the death of a customer?
Letting other organisations know
In addition to informing friends and family of the death, there will be a number of organisations you'll need to inform, from other banks and building societies to utility companies. You'll also need to find legal documents such as passports and driving licences that will need to be returned and cancelled.
For a more comprehensive list of organisations to consider contacting, please see other organisations you may need or want to inform. The easiest way to inform organisations of a death is by phone. It's helpful to have an account number or reference before calling. Each organisation will tell you if they need to see any documents.
Step 3: Obtain the will
A will contains the last wishes of a person who has passed away, in particular about who they want to inherit their estate.
You'll need to find the last known signed and witnessed version of the will. If you can't find a will at the deceased's home, it's a good idea to ask their solicitor, bank, or financial advisor if they have it.
A will usually names one or more executors who will be responsible for dealing with the administration of the deceased's estate.
What happens if there isn't a will?
If someone passes away without making a will or you’re unable to locate a signed will, they are said to have passed away 'intestate'. The law on who will inherit the estate will vary depending on where the deceased lived and in some circumstances, their religion. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland the Laws of Intestacy apply and the person who will inherit the estate is the next of kin – usually their husband, wife, civil partner or their child/children. Unmarried partners are not considered next of kin. In Scotland, different rules apply – to find out more visit gov.scot.
To find out what to do if there is no will left in England, visit gov.uk/inherits-someone-dies-without-will. There you'll find a simple online tool that takes into account the deceased's situation and guides you to the correct information.
Step 4: Arrange the funeral
Once the death has been registered, you can arrange the funeral. You may already know what sort of funeral the person wanted, or there may be instructions in the will or in other papers, like a prepaid funeral plan. Most people choose to use a funeral director who will help you make all the necessary arrangements.
Organisations, like The National Association of Funeral Directors and The National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors, can provide you with funeral directors who have to abide by codes of practice and high standards of service.
- The National Association of Funeral Directors: nafd.org.uk
- The National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors: saif.org.uk
Paying for the funeral
One important decision to consider is how much to spend. Funerals can be expensive, and may need to be paid for immediately. Unless a prepaid funeral plan exists, it's worth checking how much money is available to pay for it.
It is possible for the funeral bill to be paid direct from the deceased's estate. Please check with us, or with their other bank(s) if they have one, to see if money can be released to pay for the funeral.
At M&S Bank, we'll be able to release funds, from accounts with available credit balances, for the following:
- full or part payment of the main funeral bill and associated costs
- flowers for the funeral
- the wake
- repatriation of the deceased to the UK (if insurance is not held).
On receipt of the original invoice we'll make payment direct to the funeral directors or vendor.
Unfortunately, we can't accept estimates to settle the bill in full. However, we can accept the funeral director's estimate if a deposit is requested to be paid prior to the funeral taking place. Wherever possible we require the funeral director's bank account details to process the payment more quickly.
For more information or guidance, please contact our Bereavement Support team on 0345 300 6139.
Consider your financial support
If the loss of a partner means you have lost your main household income, or if you are struggling to pay the funeral bill, you may be entitled to financial help or benefits. For more information, or to find out if you are eligible, please visit gov.uk/funeral-payments/overview or read the Department for Work and Pensions guide 'Support after a death'. You can download this at gov.scot or get a copy from your local register office or Jobcentre Plus.
Step 5: Deal with the estate
Anyone responsible for dealing with the estate is known as a 'personal representative'. A 'personal representative' can be an individual or an appointed solicitor. If there is a will, this is anyone named as an 'executor'.
If there is no will, this is the immediate next of kin, or someone else appointed to administer the estate (the 'administrator'), visit gov.uk/inherits-someone-dies-without-will for more information.
What a personal representative has to do
- Make an inventory of everything in the estate and work out the total value
- Calculate and settle any inheritance tax and other tax liabilities
- Apply for probate, if required
- Sell any property or investments that the will doesn't specifically transfer to someone else
- Collect all assets (such as shares and investments) and settle any debts, including mortgages and loans
- Distribute the estate to the beneficiaries
If you are the personal representative, you can decide whether you want to:
- deal with the estate yourself; or
- appoint a solicitor or specialist probate service to do some or all of it for you
For more information on probate, whether it's required and how to apply, please see applying for probate.
Depending on the value of the estate and who it is left to, you may have to pay inheritance tax.
There's normally no inheritance tax to pay if:
- the value of your estate is below a certain threshold
- you leave everything to your spouse or civil partner, a charity or a community amateur sports club
Generally, some or all of the inheritance tax must be paid before probate is granted. This is normally paid by the personal representative, using money from the estate. It may be possible for M&S Bank or another bank to pay this using money held in the deceased's accounts.
If there isn't enough money available in the account to pay the inheritance tax, you can get further information from the HMRC website: hmrc.gov.uk/inheritancetax.
The personal representative is also required to settle other taxes such as income tax and National Insurance for the person who has passed away. Contact HMRC and they'll tell you what to do. For more information: gov.uk/after-a-death/tax-and-benefits.