When there is a death, some of the immediate concerns are funeral arrangements and notifying asset holders such as banks and insurance companies.
More mundane tasks such as paying the electricity bill can easily be overlooked. However, it is important to look after an empty property as this is often the main asset in an estate.
The insurance company should be notified of the death as soon as possible so that they can make any necessary amendments to the policy to ensure that cover remains in force. If they are not told that the property is empty, the existing insurance may become invalid.
Utility companies should be notified of a death as soon as possible. They are often able to delay payment of bills until the estate is in funds. More importantly, they are more likely to keep the gas and electricity connected if they know the reason for any non-payment. This can happen if banks freeze accounts once they have been notified of a death.
Keeping the utilities running means that the property can be warmed, for example during a cold period to prevent pipes freezing, and gas, water and electricity used as needed during the clearance and cleaning of the property prior to any sale.
Local authorities may waive payment of council tax for six months after a death, so it is worth notifying them as soon as possible. This usually only applies if the property is going to be sold.
The six month period may run from the date of death or the date of grant of probate, depending on the local authority concerned. After the end of the six month period, council tax is likely to be payable where a property remains furnished.
If after death a sole occupant remains in the property, then a discount of 25 per cent is usually applied to the bill.
Payment of bills is usually made by the executor or administrator from funds held in the estate. They will also be required to calculate the amount of any inheritance tax due and prepare estate accounts at the end of the winding-up of the estate. If you do not have anyone willing to take on this role, you can appoint a professional executor who will carry out all of the administration on behalf of the estate.
If you are thinking of making a Will or would like to discuss appointing a professional administrator, ring us on 01276 415835/6/7.