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Coroner and inquest probate solicitors
If a death is reported to the coroner, this can impact on the process of winding up the deceased person's affairs. This process is called probate.
Our probate solicitors can provide advice and guidance on how the probate process works when a death has been reported to the coroner. We can apply for probate on your behalf and take care of the legal, tax and administrative work for you. We can also work closely with our personal injury inquest solicitors if you have an ongoing claim.
Why are deaths reported to the coroner?
It's not uncommon for deaths to be reported to the coroner – currently 45% of all deaths are reported to the coroner. The role of the coroner is to establish why, when and how a person has died, and they may decide that an inquest into the death is needed to establish these facts.
Reasons why a death may be reported to the coroner include:
- Unknown cause of death
- Violent or unnatural cause of death
- The death was sudden and unexplained
- The deceased wasn't seen by a medical practitioner during their final illness
- There is no medical certificate available
- If there is a medical certificate, the doctor who signed this didn't see the deceased within 14 days either before or after their death
- The death occurred during an operation while the person was under general anaesthetic
- The medical certificate suggests that the cause of death could be an industrial disease or industrial poisoning
If the cause of death is clear, then the coroner may decide that a coroner's inquest is not needed. However, the coroner must hold a coroner's inquest if:
- After post-mortem, the cause of death is still unknown
- The person possibly died a violent or unnatural death
- The person died in prison or police custody
How does a coroner's inquest impact on probate?
When a loved one dies, their affairs will need to be wound up and their estate distributed to those entitled to inherit it. This process is commonly referred to as probate and, depending on the size of the estate, a grant of representation may be needed to carry out this work.
Once the death has been reported to the coroner, this could delay the probate process by a few weeks, because the death cannot be registered and the final death certificate cannot be issued until the coroner has reached their conclusion. This could be after their initial investigations have taken place, or once the post-mortem has happened, or it may be necessary to hold an inquest.
In cases where the coroner decides to launch an inquest, the final death certificate will not be issued until this has concluded. However, once the post-mortem has taken place, the coroner can release the body for the funeral and issue an interim death certificate, which confirms the identity of the person who has died.
While the final death certificate is being awaited, the interim death certificate can be used to notify banks and other organisations of the death and also to apply for the grant of representation. This means that the probate process can begin even though the death has not yet been registered and the final death certificate has not been issued.
If compensation is due to the estate
If it is found that the death has been caused by the actions of a third party (for example, an employer, medical practitioner or defendant driver) then the estate may be entitled to compensation.
This could be the case if, for example, the death was caused by medical negligence, an accident at work or a road accident. Following the inquest, it may be possible to make a personal injury or medical negligence claim. In this situation, probate will always be needed to deal with compensation payments that are awarded to the estate.
Even if the deceased's estate does not require probate (because it is a small estate) probate will still be needed to deal with any compensation payments awarded to the estate. This means that, following an inquest, probate could be required on an estate that would not otherwise have needed it.
How a coroner & inquest probate solicitor can help
Going through the inquest of a loved one can be a very difficult experience, particularly at a time of grief, and dealing with the legal paperwork and processes associated with probate may be the very last thing on your mind.
Your coroner and inquest probate solicitor can provide advice and guidance throughout the probate process when a death has been reported to the coroner. We can apply for the grant of probate on your behalf, and deal with all of the legal, tax and administrative work that probate entails.
If the inquest leads to a civil claim for compensation being brought, then we can work closely with our personal injury inquest solicitors as the inquest progresses, managing any compensation payments that are made into the estate.