Re: Get a Power of Attorney
Having had to work through things like this when my father died, and with the prospect of having to do so on my mother's demise, I can honestly say that this sort of wuckfittery is standard and normal. When someone dies, a legal process is set in motion which is constrained to follow a certain course, the steps therein being responses to age-old con tricks played to gain control of living persons' money.
So, you have to go through a series of steps to obtain a death certificate; when you do so I would strongly advise obtaining a dozen or so legal copies as this is cheaper at the time of issue rather than later. Most financial institutions will do precisely zero unless and until they get sight of a certified death certificate; this is legally mandated. Once they have a death certificate, some behave efficiently, some require prodding and some flap around like wet hens and have to be prompted every step of the way.
Once all this has gone through and you have obtained final accountings of all the deceased's assets and debts and have paid them all, then you can make a list of everything they owned and stick it on a probate form. It is the making of the list that is the difficult bit; gathering all the info is the time-consuming part of it. Actually filling the form out is dead easy, especially as the instructions and guidance are pretty much idiot-proof. Unless everything is horribly complicated or you have the IQ of an aubergine, you don't need a solicitor to hand-hold you through filling out a form.
Obtaining probate then gives you a certificate of probate. Once again, obtain a number of certified copies of this since no company will move unless they have had one of these certificates in their hands; they are legally required to act this way. They are not legally required to act like incompetent idiots who have never even heard of the concept of customers dying; this is merely part of the (dis)service that many offer.
One useful trick I found for applying boot to buttock in such cases is the Letter of Instruction, which is a letter with that wording as a title, signed by all executors, declaring who you are, what has happened, what certified proof you have and what you want to happen. Generally this gets things moving nicely.