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When someone you love passes away there is a lot to sort out on top of the grief and distress that you are experiencing.

 

If it is the first time you are responsible for looking after the administration and organisation surrounding someone’s death then it can be daunting. One important part of your role is to make sure the property of your lost one is taken care of.

 

Owned Property

 

If the deceased owned a property, either with or without a mortgage you will need to;

  • Notify the mortgage company (if the property is mortgaged). They will also want to see a copy of the death certificate.
  • Notify the insurance company and ensure that you are regularly visiting the empty property, as stipulated in the insurance terms and conditions.
  • Take meter readings of gas and electricity and inform the relevant utility companies. They should be able to put a stop on direct debits and provide you with a current statement or outstanding balance.
  • Ensure that contents of the fridge and freezer are emptied and any food or waste items are taken out of the property.
  • Unplug electrical items such as Televisions, air conditioning units and chargers.
  • Ensure the windows and doors of the property are secure and that any gates, sheds, outbuildings and garages are locked.
  • You may wish to notify the neighbours and let them know that you will be visiting the property regularly.
  • It is worth considering the upkeep of the property, as depending on the probate situation and timescales, the property may stand empty for a while. During the winter months it is advised to keep the heating and hot water running on a low setting or to drain the system completely to avoid burst pipes. Ensure that the grass is cut, gardens are kept tidy and that the windows of the property are opened occasionally for ventilation.
  • If the property is going to be sold or the ownership transferred then it is advisable to ensure that you appoint a solicitor who can deal both with the estate administration and the sale of the property. Lamb Brooks have a large Property Law Team who regularly work alongside Private Client Solicitors on probate house sales or transfers of ownership.

 

If the property will still have a surviving spouse living at the address, you/they will need to notify the mortgage company and the insurance company. It is also worthwhile ensuring that all utilities are in the remaining spouse’s name so that they are able to control the accounts as and when needed. Some may ask for a copy of the death certificate and it is best to notify of the death so that records can be updated. It can be stressful for a widow / widower to receive calls and post in the name of their lost one. There are also discounted rates available for council tax when a property has single occupancy.

 

Rented Property / Housing Association

 

If the deceased rented their property you will need to notify the landlord, lettings agent or housing association of their death. If you are not sure of this information, contact your local Council Offices who should be able to help.

 

  • Depending on how the property was rented and the tenancy agreement, you may need to get in touch with utilities and providers and notify them of the death, providing a copy of the death certificate where needed.
  • The overall home owner will be responsible for informing the insurance company of a vacant property but you may need to provide a copy death certificate and notify any personally arranged insurance, such as contents insurance.
  • The landlord or housing association will notify you of the next steps in terms of emptying the property and any timescales for this to be completed. They can also advise you on any rent arrears, credits or deposits that need to be returned / settled.
  • It is advisable to check the property as soon as possible, dispose of any food or waste, unplug electricals, ensure the doors and windows of the property are secure and take meter readings where applicable.

 

Losing a loved one is always a difficult time, often exacerbated by the sudden responsibility of having to sort out the administration and legal affairs.

 

For further advice on the initial steps you need to take or to speak to a member of our team about probate, wills and estate administration please call our compassionate team on 01256 844888 or email enquiries@lambbrooks.com.

 

 

 

The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice.  The law may have changed since this article was published.   Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.