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practical support - grief and estrangement guide

This section of our guide will include information on estates/probate confirmation, how to plan a funeral, benefits and support, and how to talk to an employer about grief.

estates and probate/confirmation

When someone dies, their belongings and everything they own gets bundled together in what is legally known as an ‘estate’ in England. In Wales and Northern Ireland, ‘probate’ is the word used to describe the legal and financial process involved in dealing with the property, money and possessions (known as the estate, or sometimes assets) of a person who has died. If you live in Scotland it’s called ‘confirmation‘ and works a little differently.


Probate is the process of showing that a will is legitimate (if there is one) and checking who has permission to control the estate of the person who has died. Before the next of kin or executor named in the will can claim, transfer, sell or issue any of the deceased persons assets they might have to apply for a grant of probate.

a grant of probate

A grant of probate is a legal document that’s sometimes needed to access bank accounts and settle debts after someone has died. This document is only called a grant of probate if the person left a will. If they didn’t leave a will, a grant of letters of administration is used instead. Both documents work in the same way, giving an identified person legal authority to deal with the estate of the person who died.

When probate has been granted, an executor can start to deal with the deceased person’s estate. If there was a will, this sets out how the assets should be distributed. If the person died without a will the law determines who should receive anything. See probate without a will for more information.

To apply for a grant of probate, you must pay an application fee, and you can do this yourself on the governments website, or you can contact a solicitor to do this for you – however that will cost more money. If the value of the estate is over £5,000, the application fee is currently £273. There’s no fee if the estate is £5,000 or less.

If you get stuck or lost in the process at all, you are not alone.

For guidance on what it all means, Martin Lewis’ Money Saving Expert have a helpful Guide to Probate on their website and Which? have a step-by-step guide on the entire probate process, from obtaining a Grant of probate to key tasks in estate administration. You can also reach out to a local family solicitor for a free 30-minute consultation and there are multiple UK Bereavement Charities plus your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau who will be able to give support.

how to plan a funeral

Usually when someone dies, depending on how they die, it is the job of the next of kin to arrange the collection of the body and for it to be taken to a funeral home or religious community centre. If someone has died in hospice, the hospice may have arranged that with the dying person as part of their wishes. A funeral director will do this as part of their services and can cost anywhere from £120 upwards depending on the time of day.

The deceased person will stay at the funeral home or religious community centre until the funeral. Once they’re in the funeral home, anyone who wishes to will be able to visit their body and pay their respects. You don’t have to visit the body, and if you’re part of a religious community there may be your own rules and traditions to follow.

There will be costs associated with planning any funeral (e.g. burial/cremation) and funeral service. With non-religious and Christian funerals, there tends to be a cost starting from £3,700 for a most basic package to around £10,000 for additional extras. If you hire a funeral director, they can support with organising all the elements of the funeral, however you are encouraged to get involved to make it a more personal experience, and you are welcome to shop around for prices for certain things.

Legally, you have no obligation to hold a funeral (unless the deceased is your child) and there is no UK law that states you must pay for a ceremony. You do not have to pay for a funeral if you are estranged from the family members and/or cannot afford it. In most circumstances’ costs are covered by the deceased’s estate. If family members are either unable or unwilling to pay for suitable funeral arrangements, the local authority council is obliged to organise a public health funeral.

These funerals are sometimes referred to as a ‘pauper’s funeral’ and are typically a simple cremation ceremony, with no funeral service held. The council will seek to recoup and costs of this from the deceased’s estate but remember, you are not legally obliged to pay for the funeral out of your own pocket.

benefits and support

You may be able to get help to pay the probate fee and other court fees if you have a low income or are on certain benefits. You can apply for help with fees online on the government website, or you can do it by filling in a form. See more information here.

You may also be able to help claim some of the costs towards a funeral, and this can be applied for in the same way online or by post. See more information here.

You usually must be in receipt of certain benefits to get support in paying for a funeral, however it never hurts to call the government helpline on 0800 151 2012 and enquire with your specific circumstances to see if there is any extra support available.

If your financial circumstances were connected to the person who has died, your benefits may have been affected and you may need to make a new application first. If you have not already, you could call the DWP Bereavement Service on 0800 151 2012.

talking to your employer about grief

If you are in work, your place of employment should have a procedure for how much time off and support you are entitled to. Employees are legally allowed to have time off, however employers are not legally required to pay any employees for bereavement leave. The allowance of time you’re allowed off is down to the discretion of your employer.

Lots of employers have policies in place to support their staff. If someone close to you dies, you should inform your employer and let them know how it is affecting you. Your place of employment may also have private therapy options available within an employee assistance scheme. If not, you be referred for NHS counselling by either visiting your GP, or you can refer yourself online here.