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Reporting a Death

1. Overview

There are 3 things you must do in the first few days after someone dies.

  1. Get a medical certificate from a GP or hospital doctor. You’ll need this to register the death.

  2. Register the death within 5 days (8 days in Scotland). You’ll then get the documents you need for the funeral.

  3. Arrange the funeral – you can use a funeral director or arrange it yourself.

You may be able to use the Tell Us Once service to report a death to most government organisations in one go.

2. Register the death

 

If the death has been reported to a coroner (Procurator Fiscal in Scotland) you can’t register the death until the coroner gives permission.

Otherwise use the register a death tool to find out if you can register the death yourself and to see what you need to do.

You should register the death within 5 days.

You can go to any register office but if you use the one in the area where the person died you’ll be given the documents you’ll need on the day.

If you use a different register office the documents will be sent to the office in the area where the person died before they’re issued to you. This means you’ll usually wait a few days.

Registering the death will take about 30 minutes – you might need to make an appointment.

 

Who can register the death

 

You can register the death if you’re:

  • a relative

  • someone present at the death

  • an administrator from the hospital

  • the person making arrangements with the funeral directors

 

What you need to do

 

Take the medical certificate showing the cause of death (signed by a doctor) with you.

If the cause of death is unknown, sudden or unexplained it may be reported to the coroner.

The coroner will give you the documents you need, or they’ll send them direct to the registrar. The table below shows the documents needed.

Cause of deathDocuments issued by coroner

Natural causesForm 100A, or Pink Form 100B if there’s a post-mortem – these forms are sent to the registrar, but sometimes given to you

Unnatural causes/not enough evidence of natural causesOrder for Burial (form 101) or Certificate for Cremation (form 6) so the funeral can take place – will be given to you; Certificate After Inquest (form 99 (rev)) – this states the cause of death and is sent to the registrar (the death is registered by the registrar with no-one present)

 

If form 100A or 100B is issued (ie there is no inquest)

 

If available (but don’t worry if not), also take the person’s:

  • birth certificate

  • marriage or civil partnership certificate

  • NHS medical card

 

You’ll need to tell the registrar:

  • the person’s full name at the time of death

  • any names previously used, eg maiden name

  • the person’s date and place of birth

  • their last address

  • their occupation

  • the full name, date of birth and occupation of a surviving or late spouse or civil partner

  • whether they were getting a State Pension or any other benefits

You should also take supporting documents that show your name and address (eg a utility bill) but you can still register a death without them.

 

Documents you’ll get

When you register a death you’ll get a Certificate of Registration of Death (form BD8). You may need to fill this out and return it if the person was getting a State Pension or benefits (the form will come with a pre-paid envelope so you know where to send it).

You can buy extra death certificates – these will be needed for sorting out the person’s affairs.

 

3. When a death is reported to a coroner

A doctor may report the death to a coroner if the:

  • cause of death is unknown

  • death was violent or unnatural

  • death was sudden and unexplained

  • person who died was not visited by a medical practitioner during their final illness

  • medical certificate isn’t available

  • person who died wasn’t seen by the doctor who signed the medical certificate within 14 days before death or after they died

  • death occurred during an operation or before the person came out of anaesthetic

  • medical certificate suggests the death may have been caused by an industrial disease or industrial poisoning

 

The coroner may decide that the cause of death is clear. In this case:

     1. The doctor signs a medical certificate.

     2.You take the medical certificate to the registrar.

     3. The coroner issues a certificate to the registrar stating a post-mortem isn’t needed.

 

Post-mortems

 

The coroner may decide a post-mortem is needed to find out how the person died. This can be done either in a hospital or mortuary.

 

You can’t object to a coroner’s post-mortem – but if you’ve asked the coroner must tell you (and the person’s GP) when and where the examination will take place.

 

After the post-mortem

 

The coroner will release the body for a funeral once they have completed the post-mortem examinations and no further examinations are needed.

If the body is released with no inquest, the coroner will send a form (‘Pink Form – form 100B’) to the registrar stating the cause of death.

The coroner will also send a ‘Certificate of Coroner – form Cremation 6’ if the body is to be cremated.

 

If the coroner decides to hold an inquest

 

A coroner must hold an inquest if the cause of death is still unknown, or if the person:

  • possibly died a violent or unnatural death

  • died in prison or police custody

 

You can’t register the death until after the inquest. The coroner is responsible for sending the relevant paperwork to the registrar.

 

The death can’t be registered until after the inquest, but the coroner can give you an interim death certificate to prove the person is dead. You can use this to let organisations know of the death and apply for probate.

When the inquest is over the coroner will tell the registrar what to put in the register.

 

4. Arrange the funeral

 

The funeral can usually only take place after the death is registered. Most people use a funeral director, though you can arrange a funeral yourself.

Funeral directors

Choose a funeral director who’s a member of one of the following:

 

These organisations have codes of practice – they must give you a price list when asked.

Some local councils run their own funeral services, for example for non-religious burials. The British Humanist Association can also help with non-religious funerals.

 

Arranging the funeral yourself

 

Contact the Cemeteries and Crematorium Department of your local council to arrange a funeral yourself.

 

Funeral costs

 

Funeral costs can include:

  • funeral director fees

  • things the funeral director pays for on your behalf (called ‘disbursements’ or ‘third-party costs’), for example crematorium or cemetery fees, or a newspaper announcement about the death

  • local authority burial or cremation fees

 

Funeral directors may list all these costs in their quote.

 

Paying for a funeral

 

The funeral can be paid for:

  • from a financial scheme the person had, for example a pre-paid funeral plan or insurance policy

  • by you, or other family members or friends

  • with money from the person’s estate (savings, for example) – getting access to this is called applying for a ‘grant of representation’ (sometimes called ‘applying for probate’)

 

You can apply for a Funeral Payment if you have difficulty paying for the funeral.

 

Moving a body for a funeral abroad

 

You need permission from a coroner to move a body for a funeral abroad. Apply at least 4 days before you want the body to be moved.

Find a local coroner using the Coroners’ Society of England and Wales website.

There is a different process in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

 

5. Tell Us Once

Tell Us Once is a service that lets you report a death to most government organisations in one go.

When you register the death the registrar will:

  • let you know if the service is available in your area

  • give you the phone number

  • give you a unique reference number to use the Tell Us Once service online or by phone

 

What you need to use Tell Us Once

You’ll need the following details of the person who died:

  • date of birth

  • National Insurance number

  • driving licence number

  • passport number

 

You’ll also need:

  • details of any benefits or entitlements they were getting, for example State Pension

  • details of any local council services they were getting, for example Blue Badge

  • the name and address of their next of kin

  • the name and address of any surviving spouse or civil partner

  • the name, address and contact details of the person or company dealing with their estate (property, belongings and money), known as their ‘executor’ or ‘administrator’

  • details of any public sector or armed forces pension schemes they were getting or paying in to

 

You need permission from the next of kin, the executor, the administrator or anyone who was claiming joint benefits or entitlements with the person who died, before you give their details.

Organisations Tell Us Once will contact

 

Tell Us Once will notify:

  • HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) – to deal with tax and cancel benefits

  • Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) – to cancel benefits, for example Income Support

  • Passport Office – to cancel a British passport

  • Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) – to cancel a driving licence

  • the local council – to cancel Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit, a Blue Badge, inform council housing services and remove the person from the electoral register

  • public sector or armed forces pension schemes – to stop pension payments

 

 

There’s a different process to update property records if the person who died owns land or property.

 

If Tell Us Once isn’t available

 

You’ll have to let the relevant organisations know about the death yourself if:

 

The Tell Us Once service isn’t available in Northern Ireland or the following local authorities:

  • Brighton and Hove

  • Croydon

  • East Sussex

  • Eastbourne

  • Hammersmith and Fulham

  • Harrow

  • Hastings

  • Highland

  • Lewes

  • Liverpool

  • Manchester

  • Medway

  • Portsmouth

  • Rother

  • Salford

  • Wealden

 

Banks and other financial organisations

 

Contact the person’s bank or mortgage, pension or insurance providers to close or change the details of their accounts.

 

6. Dealing with tax and benefits

 

If you used the Tell Us Once service, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) should contact you about the tax, benefits and entitlements of the person who died.

 

Who to contact

 

Contact the following organisations if you didn’t use the Tell Us Once service.

 

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC)

Contact HMRC, who will work out whether the right amount of tax has been paid by the person who died. They’ll let you know:

  • what tax they need to collect or repay

  • whether you need to fill in a Self Assessment tax return on the person’s behalf, for example when the estate continues to receive income

 

You can also use HMRC’s bereavement tool to work out which forms to fill in and where to send them.

Inheritance Tax may be due on the person’s estate after they die.

 

National Insurance (NI) Contributions Office

 

Contact the NI Contributions Office to cancel the person’s NI payments if they were self-employed or paying voluntary NI.

 

Child Benefit Office

 

Contact the Child Benefit Office if a child or the parent dies. You need to do this within 8 weeks of the death.

 

Tax Credit Office

 

Contact the Tax Credit Office if your partner or a child you’re responsible for dies. You need to do this within 1 month of the death.

 

Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)

 

Contact the bereavement service to cancel the person’s benefits and entitlements, including their State Pension. They’ll also check if you’re eligible for help with funeral costs or other benefits.

 

DWP Bereavement Service
Telephone: 0345 606 0265
Textphone: 0345 606 0285
Welsh language: 0345 606 0275
Find out about call charges

Personal, workplace and armed forces pensions

 

What you need to do to stop pension payments will depend on the type of pension.

Use the Pension Tracing Service to find details of the person’s personal or workplace pension.

Contact Veterans UK if the person had an armed forces pension.

 

Grant of representation (‘probate’)

 

You may be able to apply for a grant of representation. This gives you the legal right to deal with the person’s property, money and possessions (their ‘estate’) – known as ‘probate’.

This process is called ‘confirmation’ in Scotland.

 

Getting help

 

Contact HMRC for help and advice about dealing with tax after someone dies, or you can hire a professional.

You may be able to get free tax advice if you’re on a low income.

 

7. What to do if a child or baby dies

 

You must register the death in the normal way, but you may also need to report the death of a child to other organisations

depending on your circumstances.

Child Benefit

 

You should tell the Child Benefit Office as soon as possible if you’re claiming Child Benefit.

Child Benefit payments will usually carry on for 8 weeks after a child’s death.

You may still be able to claim Child Benefit if your child died before you made a claim.

If a newborn baby dies

You’re entitled to up to 8 weeks of Child Benefit if you claim within 3 months of the death.

If the child died before the end of the week they were born in, the 8 weeks starts from the Monday following the death.

 

If a child is stillborn

You can’t claim Child Benefit if the child’s stillborn.

 

Tax credits

If you’re claiming tax credits and your child dies, your payments may change. You’ll need to tell the Tax Credit Office within 1 month of the death. If you don’t, you might:

  • have to pay back overpayments

  • not get all the money you’re owed

 

You can continue to get tax credits for up to 8 weeks following the death.

If the child died before you claimed tax credits, you can still claim (unless the child was stillborn). Call the tax credits helpline to get a claim form.

Sure Start Maternity Grant

You can still get the grant if you qualify. You must make a claim within 3 months of the birth.

Maternity and paternity leave and pay

You’ll still qualify for leave and pay if your baby:

  • is stillborn after the start of the 24th week of pregnancy

  • dies after being born

 

Child Trust Fund payments

 

When a child dies, any money in their Child Trust Fund account – including any payments from the government – usually passes to whoever inherits the child’s estate.

 

8. Death abroad

 

You must register a death with the local authorities in the country where the person died.

In many countries you can also register the death with the UK authorities.

 

Contact the International Pension Centre if the person was getting a pension or other benefits.

You can use Tell Us Once if the person died in:

 

Find out more about coping with a death abroad.

There are different rules for bringing the person’s remains home, depending on whether you:

  • bring the body home for burial or cremation

  • have the person cremated abroad and bring their ashes home

 

These rules apply to England and Wales. There are different processes for Scotland and Northern Ireland.

 

Bringing the body home

 

To bring the body home you must:

  • get a certified English translation of the death certificate

  • get permission to remove the body, issued by a coroner (or equivalent) in the country where the person died

  • tell a coroner in England if the death was violent or unnatural

 

Ask for advice from the British consulate, embassy or high commission in the country where the person died.

 

Contact a register office

Once the body is home, take the death certificate to the register office in the area where the funeral is taking place.

As the death has already been registered abroad, the registrar will give you a ‘certificate of no liability to register’. Give this to the funeral director so the funeral can go ahead.

If you’re arranging the funeral yourself, give the certificate back to the registrar after the funeral’s taken place. You must do this within 96 hours of the funeral.

 

When a coroner will be involved

A coroner will usually hold an inquest in England or Wales if the cause of death is unknown or if it was sudden, violent or unnatural.

You need a certificate from the coroner (form ‘Cremation 6’) if the person is to be cremated.

 

Bringing ashes home

When leaving a country with human ashes you will normally need to show:

  • the death certificate

  • the certificate of cremation

 

Each country has its own rules about departing with human ashes and there may be additional requirements. Contact the country’s British consulate, embassy or high commission for advice. You’ll need to fill in a standard customs form when you arrive home.

Contact your airline to find out whether you can carry the ashes as hand luggage or as checked-in luggage. They may ask you to put the ashes in a non-metallic container so that they can be x-rayed.

You shouldn’t have the person cremated abroad if you want a coroner at home to conduct an inquest into their death.

 

1. Probate (Grant of Representation)

 

When someone dies, you’ll need to get the legal right to deal with their property, money and possessions (their ‘estate’).

 

England and Wales

You may be able to apply for a ‘grant of representation’ – known as ‘probate’.

You can apply yourself or use a solicitor or another person licensed to provide probate services.

Most cases follow the same basic process.

  1. Check if there’s a will – this normally states who sorts out the estate. If there’s no will the next of kin can apply.

  2. Apply to get a ‘grant of representation’ – this gives you the legal right to access things like the person’s bank account.

  3. Pay any Inheritance Tax that’s due.

  4. Collect the estate’s assets, for example money from the sale of the person’s property.

  5. Pay any debts, for example unpaid utilities bills.

  6. Distribute the estate – this means giving any property, money or possessions to the people entitled to it (‘beneficiaries’).

 

A grant of representation can sometimes be known as a ‘grant of probate’, ‘letters of administration’ or ‘letters of administration with a will’.

 

When a grant of representation may not be needed

 

You don’t normally need a grant if the estate either:

  • passes to the surviving spouse or civil partner because it was held in joint names, for example a savings account

  • doesn’t include land, property or shares

 

You should contact the organisation holding the money, for example the bank or building society. They may ask for proof of death, for example the death certificate after the death has been registered.

 

Each financial institution has its own rules – you may still need to apply for a grant.

 

Scotland and Northern Ireland

 

This process is called ‘confirmation’ in Scotland and ‘grant of probate’ in Northern Ireland.

  1. If the person left a will

 

You can apply for a grant of representation if you’re the ‘executor’ of the will – the person named to deal with the estate.

If more than one executor is named in the will, the probate application form and guidance notes explain what to do.

You should contact your local Probate Registry if either:

  • no executor is named in the will

  • none of the named executors are willing or able to apply

 

The Probate Registry will explain what you need to do.

 

An executor doesn’t necessarily get any of the estate.

 

3. If the person didn’t leave a will

An ‘administrator’ is the person who deals with the estate if there’s no will.

You can usually apply for a grant of representation to be the administrator of the estate if you’re the person’s next of kin, for example their spouse (or civil partner) or child.

You can apply if you’d separated from the person but you were still married or in a civil partnership when they died.

You can’t apply for a grant of representation if you’re the partner of the person but weren’t their husband, wife or civil partner when they died. You’re also not automatically entitled to any of your partner’s estate.

The law decides who inherits the estate if there’s no will.

Read the rules for inheritance in other EU countries.

 

4. Applying for a grant of representation

 

You can apply for a grant of representation yourself or use a solicitor or another person licensed to provide probate services.

There are 4 steps to follow.

  1. Complete a probate application form.

  2. Complete an Inheritance Tax form.

  3. Send your application.

  4. Swear an oath.

 

Complete a probate application form

 

You can either:

Complete form C1 to apply for confirmation in Scotland.

 

Complete an Inheritance Tax form

You must work out how much the estate is worth. Depending on its value, there may be Inheritance Tax to pay.

You must also fill in the appropriate Inheritance Tax form – even if you think no tax is owed.

You may get a penalty if you send inaccurate information on your Inheritance Tax form.

If there’s tax to pay, you normally have to pay at least some of it before a grant of representation is issued to you.

You can claim the tax back from the estate or the beneficiaries, if you pay it out of your own bank account.

 

Send your application

 

Send your application to your local Probate Registry.

 

You should include:

  • the probate application form PA1

  • the Inheritance Tax form

  • an official copy of the death certificate

  • the original will and 3 copies – and any codicils (additions or amendments to it)

  • the application fee of £215 – a cheque made payable to HM Courts and Tribunals Service (there’s no fee if the estate is under £5,000)

 

You can pay for extra copies of the grant (50p each) – this means you can send them to different organisations at the same time.

 

Swear an oath

The probate office will send you an oath and details of how to arrange an appointment. You’ll need to swear the oath at either:

  • the office of a commissioner for oaths (usually a solicitor)

  • a local probate office

 

The oath is a promise that the information you’ve given is true to the best of your knowledge.

 

You should get the grant through the post within 10 working days of swearing the oath.

 

If it’s not possible to issue a grant, the Probate Service will explain why in writing.

 

5. Once the grant’s been issued

You should send a copy of the grant to organisations that hold the dead person’s assets, eg their bank. They should release any assets so you can transfer them into the executorship account.

 

Pay debts

 

Pay off any debts the person had once you’ve secured all their assets. This could include:

  • outstanding bills

  • tax owed

 

As the executor or administrator you have a legal responsibility to pay off any debts or outstanding payments before distributing the estate.

 

Place a notice in The Gazette to give creditors the chance to claim anything they’re owed. This will protect you from responsibility for any debts.

 

You can use money from the estate to pay any solicitor’s fees as part of the probate process.

 

Distribute the estate

Once all debts and taxes have been paid, you can distribute the estate as detailed:

 

After this you can prepare the estate accounts. These must be approved and signed by you and the main beneficiaries.

Beneficiaries may have to pay Income Tax if the assets they inherit generate income for them.

 

6. Stopping a grant of representation

You can stop the issue of a grant of representation. This is called a caveat – it stops probate from going ahead, for example because of a dispute over who can apply for a grant of representation or whether a will exists. A caveat lasts 6 months.

How to enter a caveat

You must be 18 or over to submit a caveat. You can do it yourself, or use a solicitor or another person licensed to provide probate services.

Write to or visit any Probate Registry to enter a caveat.

The Probate Registry can’t give legal advice.

You’ll need:

 

It costs £20 to enter a caveat.

 

7. Property and bank accounts

The deceased’s bank accounts are part of the estate.

Money in a joint bank account automatically passes to the other owners. You still have to include this money as part of the estate when you work out Inheritance Tax.

What happens to the person’s property depends on how it was owned.

 

Joint tenancy

 

If the property was owned under a ‘joint tenancy’ (‘joint owners’ in Scotland), the deceased and the other owner both own the whole of the home. Ownership passes to the surviving owner.

 

Tenancy in common

If the property was owned under a ‘tenancy in common’ (‘common owners’ in Scotland and ‘coparceners’ in Northern Ireland), 2 or more people owned the home either in equal shares or a defined percentage.

 

The person’s will (or the law if there’s no will) decides who inherits their share.

 

Owned outright

 

The will (or the law if there’s no will) decides who inherits property that is owned outright by the deceased.

Contact the mortgage company, check the Land Registry or get legal advice if you’re unsure how a property’s owned – you may need to update the property records.

8. Search for probate records

You can search for a probate record (for example a will or grant of representation) in England and Wales online or by post.

Search online for a probate record

Search online for probate records for people who died in or after 1858.

You can order copies of probate records online. They cost £10 each – you can pay by debit or credit card.

It can take up to 10 working days for you to receive your documents. Working days do not include weekends or public holidays.

A new probate record will appear online approximately 14 days after a grant of representation has been issued.

 

Search for a probate record by post

Download and fill in form PA1S – Application for a search (copies of grants and wills).

It costs £10 for a search, which includes a copy of the grant of representation and the will (if there is one).

The address you need is on the form.

You should get a response within 4 weeks.

Get a ‘standing search’ for the next 6 months

You can also apply for a 6 month ‘standing search’ if the death was in the last 6 months.

This means that if a grant of representation is issued in the next 6 months, you’ll receive a copy.

You can extend the standing search after 6 months.

Contact the London Probate Department

The will might be stored at the London Probate Department.

You must provide proof of the death and that you’re the executor named in the will. You might still be able to get the will if no executors were named.

Scotland and Northern Ireland

There’s a different procedure in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

 

Valuing the estate of someone who’s died

 

Show all parts of this guide

  1. 1. Overview

  2. 2. Assets

  3. 3. Gifts

  4. 4. Debts and liabilities

  1. 5. Decide if tax is due

  2. 6. Inheritance Tax forms

  3. 7. Work out the tax bill

  4. 8. Records

 

1. Overview

You need to value the money, property and possessions (‘estate’) of someone who’s died before you can get a ‘grant of representation’ (the legal right to deal with the estate).

You don’t need a grant of representation for all estates.

You use your valuation to work out if Inheritance Tax must be paid on the estate.

 

Before you start

 

You’ll need details of all the person’s assets and debts when they died – plus any assets they gave away before they died (‘gifts’).

An asset is anything the person owned with a value (this means it’s worth money or could be sold).

 

Basic steps

  1. Find out the value of assets and gifts – you should use a professional valuer for anything worth more than £500.

  2. Add up assets and gifts, then take away any debts.

  3. Use the total to decide if there’s Inheritance Tax to pay – there usually is if the estate’s worth more than £325,000.

  4. Fill in the right Inheritance Tax forms – use the forms to deduct anything that’s exempt from Inheritance Tax and then work out the tax bill.

  5. Send the forms when you apply for a grant of representation.

  6. Keep records.

 

You can ask a solicitor to help value the estate and work out the Inheritance Tax.

 

Deadlines

You have 1 year from the date of death to fill in Inheritance Tax forms if there’s Inheritance Tax to pay.

You’ll have to start paying Inheritance Tax by the end of the sixth month after the death whether you’ve completed your forms or not – you can make a payment before you finish valuing the estate.

If there’s no Inheritance Tax to pay

The deadline depends on whether you need to fill in form IHT205 or IHT400. If it’s:

  • the short form (IHT205) there’s no deadline

  • the full form (IHT400) your deadline is 1 year

 

2. Assets

When you value someone’s estate, you need to find the ‘market value’ (realistic selling price) of assets at the time they died.

You should use a professional valuer – eg an estate agent or chartered surveyor – for land, buildings, household goods and personal belongings worth more than £500. You can estimate the value of smaller items.

There are detailed rules on how to value assets – read the guide to completing your Inheritance Tax account.

Your valuation is a starting point – HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) will contact you if they want to discuss it.

What counts as an asset

 

An asset’s anything the person owned with a value (this means it’s worth money or could be sold), including:

  • money in a bank or building society account

  • property and land

  • personal belongings, eg jewellery

  • furniture

  • cars

  • shares

  • trusts

  • pensions that include a ‘lump sum’ payment on death

  • a payout from a life insurance policy

  • jointly owned property, bank accounts or other assets

 

If the person didn’t own their home but had the right to live there rent-free under the terms of a will, you must count it as an asset.

 

Valuing joint assets

 

Value the whole asset, then work out the share owned by the person who died. Add the value of their share to the estate.

Jointly owned houses, building and land

If the joint owner wasn’t the spouse or civil partner of the person who died, take:

  • 10% off the joint owner’s share if they lived in England, Wales or Northern Ireland

  • £4,000 off the whole asset before working out their share if they lived in Scotland

 

Joint bank accounts

If the person who died provided all the money in the account but had it in joint names for convenience, include all the money in your valuation.

If another person provided some of the money, only include the amount provided by the person who died.

Valuing pensions

If the person who died had a pension other than the State Pension, ask their pension provider to help you work out:

  • if any pension counts as part of the estate

  • the value of anything that counts

The guide to completing your Inheritance Tax account can also help you work out what counts as part of the estate, eg:

 

Valuing assets held in trust

Trusts are a way of looking after assets for someone else. If the person who died had anything in a trust, ask the ‘trustees’ (people looking after the trust):

  • if it counts as part of the estate for Inheritance Tax

  • the value of anything that counts

  • who pays any Inheritance Tax

 

The trustees often pay the Inheritance Tax, but sometimes the estate has to pay some, eg if the person who died put anything in a trust in the 7 years before they died.

You must include assets held in trust when you fill in Inheritance Tax forms – even when there’s no Inheritance Tax to pay.

If you need help

Contact the probate and Inheritance Tax helpline.

If you got a value wrong

If you find out that a value you gave in Inheritance Tax forms was too low (eg when you sell an asset for a higher value) write to HMRC – trusts and estates to tell them the new value.

If your value was too high

You may be able to claim back Inheritance Tax if you find out that your value for an asset was too high and you sell it for a lower value.

Claim using:

  • form IHT38 for land or buildings sold within 4 years of the person’s death

  • form IHT35 for shares sold within 12 months of the person’s death

 

3. Gifts

When you value someone’s estate, you must include any cash or other assets they gave away:

  • in the 7 years before they died

  • at any time if they continued to benefit from it (eg they gave a house away but lived in it rent-free) – these are ‘gifts with reservation of benefit’ in Inheritance Tax forms

 

Don’t include gifts you don’t pay Inheritance Tax on.

Gifts put in a trust

Trusts are a way of looking after assets for someone else. If the person put gifts in a trust at any time, ask the ‘trustees’ (people looking after the trust) to help you work out:

 

Working out the value of gifts

Most of the time you use the ‘market value’ (realistic selling price) of the gift when it was made.

But if the gift was part of assets that were worth more combined than split, you use the value that the estate lost when it was given away.

Example

 

A person had 2 paintings valued at £100,000 together, but only £30,000 each separately. They gave one away before they died.

Their estate lost £70,000 in value because of this gift – this is the value of the paintings together (£100,000) minus the value of the painting that the person kept (£30,000).

So the value of the gift is £70,000.

You should use a professional valuer – eg an estate agent or chartered surveyor – for gifts worth more than £500. You can estimate the value of smaller items.

 

4. Debts and liabilities

 

When you value someone’s estate, you deduct their debts from their total assets and gifts.

This includes anything they owed when they died as well as ‘liabilities’ (things they’re responsible for paying) like:

  • household bills

  • bills for goods and services they’d received but not yet paid for (eg building work, decorators, solicitors, accountants)

 

Mortgages and joint property

Deduct any mortgages or secured loans on a property from the property’s value. If the deduction’s more than the property’s worth, take away the excess amount from the estate’s total value.

If the person had a joint mortgage with someone else, only deduct their share of the mortgage.

Add any payout from a mortgage protection policy to the value of the estate.

 

Loans and credit card debts

 

You can deduct:

  • loans

  • outstanding credit card balances

  • overdrafts

 

Add any payout from a payment protection policy to the value of the estate.

 

Uncashed cheques

You can deduct cheques the person wrote for things they bought if they haven’t been cashed yet.

Ignore uncashed cheques the person wrote as gifts – you don’t have to deduct them or add them to the value of the estate.

 

Debts owed to close friends or family

Only deduct these if they’re legally enforceable. This is when either:

  • the deceased person and the lender made a written or verbal agreement about repaying the loan

  • there’s evidence that the person was making repayments

 

Gambling debts

 

You can deduct legally enforceable gambling debts, eg from racecourse betting through the Tote.

You can’t deduct debts from:

  • illegal gambling

  • any gambling in Northern Ireland – they aren’t legally enforceable

 

Guarantee debts

 

A guarantee is a promise to pay someone else’s debt if they can’t pay it themselves. If they hadn’t paid it when the person died, you may be able to make a deduction.

What you deduct depends on the borrower’s situation – if they:

  • can’t repay the loan, take off the whole amount of the loan

  • can only repay part of the loan, take off the amount they can’t repay

  • can repay the whole loan, you can’t take off anything

 

You may need to value deductions for guarantee debts as cash gifts.

 

Funeral expenses

You can deduct expenses to cover the funeral and things like:

  • flowers

  • refreshments for mourners

  • expenses you paid to arrange the funeral

  • a headstone to mark the grave

 

Liabilities you can’t deduct

If the person died after 17 July 2013, you may not be able to deduct money they owed if any of the following apply:

  • it hasn’t been paid out of the estate

  • it was used to buy property you don’t pay Inheritance Tax on

  • it was used to buy, maintain or improve property that qualifies for Business, Agricultural or Woodlands Relief

 

Contact the probate and Inheritance Tax helpline to check if you can deduct liabilities.

 

5. Decide if tax is due

There’s no Inheritance Tax to pay if either:

 

You get the value of the estate by adding up the value of all the assets and gifts you must include, then taking off any debts.

Inheritance Tax is paid when the estate’s worth more than the threshold.

 

Inheritance Tax threshold

 

The threshold (‘nil rate band’) is currently £325,000.

There were different thresholds in previous years – use the threshold that applied when the person died.

 

Increase the threshold

 

You may be able to increase the threshold up to £650,000 by transferring any threshold that wasn’t used by a spouse or civil partner of the person who died.

You transfer the threshold when you fill in Inheritance Tax forms.

 

6. Inheritance Tax forms

Send your Inheritance Tax forms when you apply for a grant of representation (or confirmation in Scotland). This is the legal right to deal with the estate.

The form you use depends on whether there’s Inheritance Tax to pay.

You may be able to use your forms to:

 

Short form – if there’s no Inheritance Tax to pay

Fill in form IHT205. Read the notes with the form and include any other forms or supporting documents you’re asked for.

 

You can also fill in this form if everything over the Inheritance Tax threshold passes to:

  • the spouse or civil partner of the person who died

  • a charity with a charity reference number from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC)

 

In Scotland, fill in form C1 instead and send it in with either form C5(SE) (if the estate is worth less than £36,000) or form C5.

 

Transfer 100% of a partner’s threshold

If the person who died had a spouse or civil partner who didn’t use any Inheritance Tax threshold, you can transfer 100% of it. This doubles the threshold for the estate, eg from £325,000 to £650,000.

Fill in form IHT217 and send it with form IHT205. You’ll need to know the threshold when the person’s spouse or partner died.

 

If the person who died lived abroad

 

Fill in form IHT207 instead of form IHT205 if the person who died both:

  • lived abroad permanently

  • had less than £150,000 in UK assets – in cash, bank accounts or listed stocks and shares only

 

In Scotland, fill in form C5 (OUK) and form C1 instead.

 

When you can’t use a short form

Forms IHT205 and IHT207 will tell you if you have to use the ‘full form’ instead – even if there’s no Inheritance Tax to pay, eg if:

  • the estate is worth more than £1 million

  • the person’s partner used some of their Inheritance Tax threshold, so you can’t transfer 100% of it

 

Full form – if there’s Inheritance Tax to pay

Fill in form IHT400 (and form C1 if you live in Scotland). Read the notes with the form and include any other forms (‘schedules’) or supporting documents you’re asked for.

You must return the form within a year of the end of the month the person died, or you may get a penalty.

 

You also use this form to work out the Inheritance Tax bill and claim any reliefs to reduce the bill.

 

Transfer a partner’s threshold

You can increase the Inheritance Tax threshold by transferring any threshold that wasn’t used by the spouse or civil partner of the person who died. This can be up to 100% of their threshold.

Example

 

The person’s partner had an Inheritance Tax threshold of £250,000 when they died in May 2003, but only used £100,000 – that’s 40%. There’s 60% left to transfer.

The person died more recently than their partner, so their threshold is £325,000. Add 60% of £325,000 (that’s £195,000) to increase the threshold to £520,000.

Fill in form IHT402 to work out the percentage and send it with form IHT400. You’ll need to know the threshold when the person’s spouse or partner died.

 

Deduct things you don’t pay tax on

Use form IHT400 to deduct anything you don’t pay Inheritance Tax on (‘exemptions and reliefs’).

Include details of anything that’s exempt from Inheritance Tax because it:

 

7. Work out the tax bill

 

When there’s Inheritance Tax to pay, it’s usually charged at 40% on the value of the estate above the Inheritance Tax threshold.

You may be able to claim reliefs to reduce the Inheritance Tax bill.

Follow the instructions in form IHT400 and notes to either:

  • work out the Inheritance Tax yourself

  • ask HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to work out the Inheritance Tax and send you a bill

 

You may get a revised bill from HMRC if you worked out the tax yourself and they decide your calculations were wrong.

 

You’ll usually need to pay some of the Inheritance Tax bill when you apply for a grant of representation (the legal right to deal with the estate).

 

Reduce the tax bill

 

You can claim reductions or reliefs to take money off the Inheritance Tax bill when you send in form IHT400.

If you work out the bill yourself, deduct the amount you’ve claimed from your calculation – unless you’re claiming relief for gifts that have lost value.

 

Reduced rate if assets are left to charity

 

If at least 10% of the estate was left to charity, use form IHT430 to claim a reduced Inheritance Tax rate of 36%.

 

Relief for a recent inheritance

 

If the person who died inherited something from another person’s estate in the 5 years before they died, follow the instructions on form IHT400 calculation to claim Successive Charges Relief.

 

Relief for tax paid abroad

 

Follow the instructions on form IHT400 calculation to claim Double Taxation Relief if both:

  • the person who died had assets in a country with a double-taxation treaty with the UK

  • their estate paid tax on the assets in that country

 

Relief for gifts made 3 to 7 years before death

 

If the person who died made any gifts 3 to 7 years before they died, read the notes to form IHT400 to check if you can claim Taper Relief.

 

Relief for gifts that have lost value

 

If any gifts made by the person who died lost value between the date they gave them and the date they died, you may be able to claim relief for the loss. Call the probate and Inheritance Tax helpline.

 

If you need help

 

Call the probate and Inheritance Tax helpline.

 

8. Records

You must keep certain records after you value an estate.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) can ask to see your records up to 20 years after Inheritance Tax is paid.

You must keep copies of any:

  • will

  • copies of signed Inheritance Tax forms and supporting documents

  • records showing how you worked out the value of assets in the estate, eg an estate agent’s valuation

  • documents showing any unused Inheritance Tax threshold that can be transferred to a surviving spouse or civil partner

  • final accounts

 

Final accounts

 

Include any documents showing how you distributed money, property or personal belongings from the estate, for example:

  • letters from HMRC confirming that you paid Inheritance Tax

  • receipts showing debts paid, eg utilities bills

  • receipts for your expenses from dealing with the estate

  • written confirmation that ‘beneficiaries’ (anyone who inherited) received their share of the estate

 

Send copies of the final accounts to all beneficiaries.

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