Distributing the estate & finding a new home for personal possessions


When the time is right, it will be necessary to distribute the estate of the person who has died. If they left a Will or Letter of Wishes this may give details about who should inherit some or all of their possessions. Deciding what to do with other belongings, perhaps sentimental items gathered over a long lifetime, can be extremely difficult and emotional.

It may be some time before you are able to face this task, but when you are ready the information below may help.


The estate is everything owned by that person. It is their net worth, which may include land, property, possessions, shares, cash, etc.

Some people may have an estate plan, setting out in writing how they would like it to be distributed and managed after their death. 

More often there may be a Last Will & Testament, Letter of Wishes, or other documents detailing their possessions and what should happen to them.


This depends upon the wishes of the family and whether a valid Will has been located. The reading often takes place as soon as possible so that executors can be identified and an application for Probate made (see About Probate).


Inheritance Tax (IHT), generally payable on estates with a value in excess of £325,000, must be paid within six months from the end of the month of death. Even estates below this threshold should be reported to HMRC.  For further details, see the Government information on inheritance tax.


Sorting through & finding a home for possessions & belongings

It is lovely if relatives and friends can choose a treasured item that will remind them of the person they have lost. However, often relatives simply don't have the space to keep everything. 

It can be a long, emotional and time-consuming task going through what is left behind, but it can often provoke wonderful memories and help with coming to terms with the fact that they have gone.

Here are some suggestions for what you might do with possessions that you are unable to keep. Hopefully they will find a useful life and bring pleasure to others.  

    • family & friends - if you are able, take photos of larger items and circulate to family and friends. It is lovely if possessions can go to someone familiar who knows their history
    • charities - many charities now take larger items as well as smaller. It can bring comfort knowing that someone else will benefit from your donations
    • auction houses - antiques, paintings, silverware and other valuable items can be valued and sold by an auction house
    • on-line - if you have the time and energy you can post items on-line for sale
    • Funeral Directors - some Funeral Directors offer a clearance service
    • house clearance companies - once you have removed items you wish to keep or pass on, a house clearance company can take everything else away. They tend to charge by the van load. Make sure the company you use is licenced, insured and environmentally friendly.



Most people now have some sort of online presence, be it through multiple social media platforms or just storing photos in the cloud. Many of these platforms and services cannot be accessed without the passwords. Each platform has its own terms of service, so it is imporant to look at each site individually to find out how to close accounts or to access data.

Here is a summary of a few of the main platforms:

Apple Devices & ICloud

Apple accounts are non-transferable and rights to content terminate on death unless otherwise required by law. In order to obtain access, Apple requires that the next of kin obtains a court order that names them as the rightful inheritor of their loved one's personal information.

For information on how to request access to a deceased family member's account, see Apple Support information.

For information on how to request deletion of a deceased person's Apple ID see the Apple Support information.


Facebook allows a person to appoint a Legacy Contact who, on their death, can either delete the account or set up a memorial page.  The Legacy Contact is not able to read messages. 

For more information, see Facebook Legacy Contact.


Verified immediate family members may request the removal of a loved one's account from Instagram.

If you see an account on Instagram that belongs to someone who's passed away, you can request that instagram memorialise the account. You will need to provide proof of death, such as a link to an obituary or news article. 


Next of kin must present a copy of their ID and a death certificate to have the account deactivated. Twitter is unable to allow access to anyone, regardless of their relationship to the deceased. For more information see Twitter's information.


If you have authority to act on behalf of a deceased member you can request to memorialise or close their account.


Policies regarding access and requirements for closing accounts vary between providers:


Gmail require a copy of the deceased's ID and death certificate.  In 'certain circumstances' it 'provides content from a deceased user's account'. For more information, see Google support.


For information on how to close an account see Yahoo support.


For more information on how to close an account see Microsoft support.