Probate, property and possessions

The personal representative

The personal representative deals with everything owned by the person who has died. The personal representative is also known as the executor if they are named as such in the will. If the deceased received a social security benefit or pension it is their responsibility to notify social security as soon as possible. The personal representative is responsible for paying all the deceased's debts, taxes and expenses, including funeral expenses. They make the payments from the estate rather than their own income or savings.

If you are the personal representative you may have to apply to prove the will or apply for letters of administration, if there is no will. This will then give you permission to pay the bills and deal with estate.

For more information on how to obtain probate, contact the Probate and Inheritance Tax Helpline on 0845 30 20 900. The helpline is open Monday - Friday 9.00am to 5.00pm, except bank holidays. Or you can get more information from the Court Service website: Further information about inheritance Tax is available on the Inland Revenue website

Arrears of benefit

There may be arreas of social security benefits still owing to the deceased, as the executor or administrator, you can claim these. Ask the social security office as soon as possible if:

  • The deceased was awaiting the outcome of an appeal against a decision regarding social security benefit.
  • You believe the deceased may of been eligible for a social security benefit and did not claim it

You may be able to act on behalf of the deceased and arrears of benefit may be payable to you.


It is usual for the debts, including funeral expenses, to be paid out of the deceased's estate. But if there is no estate to pay for the funeral the personal representative is responsible for paying all the debts of the estate. It is always good to advertise for creditors (people the deceased owed money to). This means putting formal advertisements in a newspaper. This should be after the grant of probate or administration has been made to you. Unknown creditors are provided two months in which to make claims. If you do not advertise, you may be faced with having to personally pay claims made after the money has been shared out. For example you will need to inform any company with whom the deceased had credit, hire purchase or rental agreements.

National Insurance owed is also a debt of the estate and will need to be paid, so as not to affect any benefit of the surviving spouse.

Distribution of property

When all debts, taxes and expenses have been paid from the estate anything left will then be distributed in accordance with the will, to carry out the wishes of the person who has died.

If there is no will

If there is no will, the personal representative can the distribute anything left of the estate. There are rules that consider the rights of close blood relatives like the surviving spouse, children and parents. The personal representative shares out the estate according to these rules. For details contact the probate registry.

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 act within 6 months of the probate or letters of administration are taken out. It is always best to seek legal advice before parting with goods. If a deceased partner has left debt, you should seek legal advice about any liability for the debt.


You should tell the tax office about the death as soon as possible if the deceased was a UK tax payer.

Legal advice

If you have any difficulty in dealing with the deceased's property, possessions or guardianship of their children, get advice from solicitor or Citizens Advice Bureau as soon as possible.

Other things to be done

Below is a list of the other things that may have to be done, everyone's individual circumstances are different, therefore it is not a complete list.

You should return the following, with a note of explanation and the date of death.

  • Order books, payable orders, or giro cheques etc.... to the social security office. It may be useful to keep record of pension book numbers or other social security numbers before you send anything back
  • The deceased's passport to the UK Passport Agency, Globe House, 89 Eccleston Square, London SW1V 1PN
  • The deceased's driving licence to Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency, Logview Road, Swansea SA6 7JL
  • The registration documents of a car, for the change of ownership to be recorded
  • A season ticket, Claim any refund due
  • Membership cards of clubs and associations. Claim any refund due
  • Library books and tickets
  • Any National Insurance papers to relevant office
  • Any NHS equipment such as wheelchairs, hearing aids, artificial limbs.

Please you should tell:

  • The local social services department of the council if the deceased was receiving meals-on-wheels, home help, or day centre care or had an appliance or piece of equipment issued by the department
  • Any hospital the person was attending
  • The family doctor to cancel any home nursing
  • The Inland Revenue
  • The social security office if benefit was paid directly into the deceased's bank or building society account
  • An employer or trade union
  • A child or young person's teacher, employer or college if a parent, brother, sister, grandparent or close friend has died
  • A car insurance company
  • The deceased's gas, electricity and telephone suppliers
  • The local council housing department if the person who has died was living in a council house
  • The local council Housing Benefit/Council Tax Benefit section if the person who has died was receiving Housing or Council tax benefit
  • The deceased's bank, building society, insurance company etc.
  • The post office so that they can redirect the deceased's mail

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