Will A Coroner's Inquest Delay Probate?
20 February 2019
The interim death certificate will be issued once all of the required post-mortem examinations have taken place and the body is released for the funeral. This means Probate should only be delayed by a few weeks while the interim death certificate is awaited.
The interim death certificate can then be used to notify organisations of the person's death and apply for the Grant of Probate.
If someone's death has been reported to the coroner, after completing their preliminary enquiries and an investigation, the Coroner may decide to hold an inquest to establish the circumstances surrounding the death and to determine when, where and how the person died. An inquest will always be needed if the person has possibly died a violent or unnatural death, or if they died in prison or police custody.
If the coroner does decide to hold an inquest into the death, then this can take weeks, months or even years to conclude, depending on the complexity of the situation. The inquest will be opened soon after the death, which allows the coroner to give authorisation for a burial or cremation to take place. After the inquest has been opened, it may be adjourned until after any other investigations have been completed (the average length of adjournment is 27 weeks).
What is an Interim Death Certificate?
The coroner will not issue the death certificate until the inquest has concluded, and the death also cannot be registered until this point. However, in the meantime the coroner will issue an interim death certificate, which is known as the 'Coroner's Certificate of the Fact of Death'. The interim death certificate will simply confirm the identity of the person who has died, and confirm the fact that they have died. It will not provide further details of the death (such as the cause of death) as these details will not be known until the inquest has concluded.
The body will also be released for burial or cremation at the same time that the interim death certificate is issued. This means that the funeral can then take place.
The interim death certificate will be accepted by the Probate Registry, meaning that Probate can be applied for while the inquest is still ongoing. Banks and other financial institutions will also accept the interim death certificate as proof of death, meaning that the deceased's bank accounts can be dealt with as well before the inquest concludes.
Life Insurance and Pension Providers are the exception and will often require sight of the original final death certificate once it has been released by the Coroner. They wait to consider the cause of death because it is possible that the circumstances of the death may make the policy invalid.
Grant of Probate
Once the Grant of Probate has been obtained, the administration of the Estate can progress in exactly the same way as it would if no inquest was taking place.
The Grant of Probate is a legal document that gives the person named on it legal authority to deal with the Estate of the deceased person. This means that they can sell any property and other assets owned by the deceased, close down their bank accounts, settle their debts and distribute their Estate to those entitled to inherit it.
If the deceased didn't leave a Will, the document granted is called the 'Letters of Administration' and works in essentially the same way as a Grant of Probate.
Our Coroner and Inquest Probate Solicitors can provide advice and guidance throughout the Probate process when a death has been reported to the coroner.
As soon as the inquest has concluded, the coroner will register the death and issue the final death certificate.