Dealing with the loss of a loved one is never easy, especially when there was no clear plan for succession. You might also find yourself inheriting some of the deceased financial woes. So, unless you were already prepared for this, you can easily get lost in all the process and end up making decisions you might end up regretting later on. Here’s how to deal with a relative’s property following a bereavement.

Find the Necessary Documentation

There are a variety of documents you need to find after someone passes. The will is one, though you can go to court to appoint an executor and handle the estate if a will can’t be found. You will need a copy of the death certificate so that you can freeze bank accounts, inform any debt collectors, and collect any life insurance policies. You’ll want to start collecting all financial documentation for the deceased so you can track down assets that now belong to their estate.

Determine Who the Executor Is

The executor will be the person named in the will to handle the deceased estate. The executor will help pay debts that were left behind, selling property as necessary to pay the bills. Then the remaining property can either be distributed or sold with the money divided among the heirs.

This is why you cannot just allow family and friends to take property from the home because they’re certain the deceased wanted them to have it. A full accounting of the property and disposition of it in accordance with the will is necessary.

If you don’t have the time to deal with the property or need to secure it from sticky fingers, secure storage options will protect it until you’re ready. Places like Safestore, for instance, will offer long term discounts so that you can take your time grieving or dealing with the immediate impact of losing a loved one. They’ll be able to hold it and watch over it thanks to 24-hour CCTV cameras and intruder alarms. Then you can focus on more immediate issues like National Insurance, funeral planning and death benefits.

Don’t worry about handling all these legal matters, because you have a year to settle the estate before distributing it. After that, you’ll have to pay interest on any undistributed assets.

Handle the Estate

This could be an article in and of itself. You’ll need to create a list of all assets, possessions and debts so that it can all be dealt with. Note that spouses and partners will not automatically inherit the other person’s share, so probate or letters of administration are required to pass it on.

After probate or letters of administration are granted, the executor can collect money owned by the estate like bank accounts, insurance pay-outs and pension benefits. The estate can pay off the debts like the mortgage against the home the surviving spouse wishes to inherit. The estate also has to pay out any outstanding bills the deceased had. The executor will need to send the necessary documents off to the probate registry and HM Revenue and Customs as well as to any other tax authority the person dealt with.

The inheritance tax will need to be calculated and paid if there is anything left. At this point, the estate can be shared out based on the terms of the will or the rules regarding intestacy. You may need to bring in a solicitor if the estate is complicated, such as when there are minor heirs, a dispute about the will, or the person who died owned a business. Legal fees in these matters can be paid by the estate by the administrator.

Now that you know what should be done after the death of a close relative, make sure that everyone else close to the deceased is aware as well. Understand the basic requirements so that you don’t run into problems, and seek expert advice when required.