Guest Blog: When someone passes away without leaving a Will
Guest Blog by David Lockwood, Finders International
Although rare, there may be an occasion when a member of the care team enters a client’s home to find that they have passed away. Finding a deceased client is always challenging for staff, who may have built a relationship with them over many months or years. A priority is to ensure that the person is treated with dignity and respect following their passing.
It becomes especially difficult if the individual has no known next of kin and no-one to make those vital arrangements. In cases such as these it would fall upon the local authority to provide a basic funeral, as per their statutory duty under the Public Health (Control of Diseases) Act 1984. Referrals to the local authority will usually come as a result of the deceased being dealt with by the coroner’s officer if the death is unexpected. However, if the death is expected, the client’s GP or care manager/social worker may not know who to contact. In cases such as this, it is imperative that next of kin are found as soon as possible.
Whilst a funeral provided by the local authority will be dignified, it may not take a person’s wishes into account and in fact they may not be known. The funeral may also take place without family being offered a chance to make arrangements or attend.
If the person lives in their own home, there is also the question of their property and chattels. Some local authorities will carry out a search to try and establish if there are family members or friends willing to take on the arrangements. In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, many authorities are not carrying out searches.
So what can you do if you know or think that your client had no friends or next of kin? There are a few questions you can ask:
- Does the person have a funeral plan in place?
- Have they discussed making plans or their wishes with staff?
- Are you aware of any next of kin; have they ever mentioned family in another part of the country or overseas? Carer’s may have seen cards at Christmas or the client has remarked upon something.
- Does their property need protecting?
Even if you are certain you have details of a next of kin, the chances are that they may have moved away. So you may have an idea that there are people out, but you have no clue as to their whereabouts.
This is where you should turn to the services of a probate genealogist, such as Finders International.
Probate genealogists can quickly establish if there are next of kin, contact them and ensure that funeral arrangements are put in place. They will also ensure that the property is secured and protected.
Probate genealogists likely already work with councils, care homes, hospitals, coroners and funeral directors to trace next of kin and ensure that funerals can be arranged, and families have the chance to attend.
A recent case study of ours shows just how effective probate genealogists can be. Take the case of Terrance, he passed away in hospital and nominated a friend as his next of kin. The hospital contacted them and found that they hadn’t been in contact for some time and furthermore weren’t able to make the funeral arrangements.
The hospital contacted us and we were quickly able to establish that he had been married and then divorced. After much research, we were able to provide the hospital with a full family tree and the hospital were able to find someone to make the necessary arrangements for the funeral.
You can contact Finders International via:
Telephone: +44(0) 20 7490 4935
Email: [email protected]