How Does Probate Work when the Coroner is Involved?

03 June 2019

If a death has been reported to the coroner, then the final death certificate won't be issued until the coroner's work has completed. However, this doesn't mean that all Probate work has to stop in the meantime. We explain how Probate works when the coroner is involved.

The Role of the Coroner

In the UK, around 45% of all deaths are reported to the coroner. So, while some may find the coroner's involvement unsettling, it's actually very common and is not something to be nervous about.

A death may be reported to the coroner for any of the following reasons:

  • The cause of death is unknown
  • The cause of death is violent or unnatural
  • The death was sudden and unexplained
  • During their final illness, the deceased wasn't seen by a medical practitioner
  • There isn't a medical certificate
  • There is a medical certificate, but the doctor who signed it didn't see the deceased within 14 days of the death
  • The deceased died during surgery, while under general anaesthetic
  • The cause of death could be industrial disease or industrial poisoning

The role of the coroner is simply to establish the facts of the death, including identifying who has died and concluding how, when and where they died. To establish these facts, the coroner will gather evidence and carry out some investigations. They may decide that a post mortem is necessary, and they may then decide to hold an inquest into the death.

Applying for Probate when the Coroner is Involved

If Probate is needed on an Estate, then an application will need to be made to the Probate Registry for a legal document which grants legal authority to carry out the Probate work. This document is called the Grant of Probate if the deceased left a Will or Grant of Letters of Administration if they didn't, and it gives the named individual legal authority to close the deceased's bank accounts, sell their home, settle their debts and so on.

In order to apply for Probate an original final death certificate (known as an official copy) or a coroner's interim death certificate must be provided. If applying by Personal Application, this will need to be sent directly to the Probate Registry along with the application form. Alternatively, this can be sent to your Probate Solicitor who will process the application on your behalf.

If the coroner establishes the facts of the death without needed to hold an inquest, then this process will only take a short time to compete and the coroner will then issue the final death certificate. If an inquest does need to be held, however, this can take weeks or even months to conclude so in this instance the coroner will issue an interim death certificate.

The interim death certificate simply confirms the identity of the person who has passed away. No further details, such as the cause of death, will be included as these facts have not yet been established. The interim death certificate can be used to notify banks and other organisations of the death, and the Probate Registry will accept this in place of the final death certificate when applying for Probate.

It's worth noting that pensions and life insurance companies will often require the final death certificate in order to confirm entitlement, as this may be dependent on the cause of death.

This means that an inquest should only delay Probate by a few weeks, while the interim death certificate is awaited. For more information, see Will a Coroner's Inquest Delay Probate?

Once Probate Has Been Granted

Once the Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration has been issued by the Probate Registry, the Probate process can continue in much the same way as it would have if the coroner had not been involved. This means that the deceased's affairs can be wound up and their assets sold or transferred and their debts settled, ready for their Estate to be distributed to the beneficiaries.

Legal Support during an Inquest

If your loved one's death has been reported to the coroner and you're unsure of what you need to do, our Solicitors can help. Our Probate Solicitors can support you through the Probate process when the coroner is involved, and we also have dedicated Coroner & Inquest Solicitors who can provide you with legal representation and advice during the inquest itself.

More articles