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Spousal bereavement: dealing with the practicalities

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The time immediately following the death of a spouse is a busy and stressful one, on top of the inevitable grief. But with plenty of paperwork to fill in and arrangements to be made, it can also be confusing, so we've put together a list of useful resources and advice for dealing with the financial and practical issues.

Who to notify

Government departments

The Tell Us Once service allows you to notify most government departments of a death in one go. You'll need to get a number from your registrar in order to put this in place, but once you've called and given a list of the required details, the following departments will be notified:

  • HMRC
  • the passport office
  • DVLA
  • the local council
  • DWP

Financial organisations

The executor of the will should notify any creditors as soon as possible, as well as the deceased's bank, building society and (if applicable) mortgage provider. Templates for each of these letters can be found here

Pension Service

If your partner was receiving a state pension, you will need to contact the Pensions Service helpline in order to stop the payments. Call them on 0345 606 0265 as soon as possible, as you may have to pay back any instalments received after the death.

You will also need to write a letter to any private pension provider. A letter template can be found here.

If you think there could be another pension scheme your partner was paying into, use the pension tracing service to track it down. You can then notify them too.

What are you entitled to?

Bereavement Allowance

If you're between 55 and State Pension age when your husband, wife or civil partner dies, you may be eligible for this. It's available for up to 52 weeks after the death and the amount you receive depends on your age at the time of your spouse's death and their level of National Insurance contributions.

Find out more here.

Bereavement Payment

This is a one-off payment of £2000, available to the bereaved party if:

  • they are under State Pension age at the time of their spouse's death
  • their spouse wasn't entitled to Category A State Retirement Pension when they died
  • their spouse paid National Insurance contributions or died as the result of an industrial accident or illness

Find out more here.

Help with funeral costs

Did the deceased have a funeral plan? If so, funeral costs will already have been covered. 

If no funeral plan was made, for those on low incomes, the expense of arranging a funeral can add untold stress to an already difficult situation. For those who receive benefits such as pension credits, income support or housing benefits, help could be available in the form of Funeral Payments. 

You can claim over the phone by calling 0345 606 0265.

Find out more here.

Dealing with debts 

If your partner had unpaid debts when they died, repayment will usually be taken from their estate (if they had one). The will usually names an executor, who deals with the disposal of the estate (money and property).

What type of debt is it?

Joint debt - a debt for which two or more people are responsible and both/all parties names are on the agreements. Notify as many companies as possible of the death. They will then put forward their claims on the deceased's estate in order to reclaim the debt.

Individual debt - a debt for which only the deceased was responsible and the surviving partner was not a guarantor.

How to clear them

Joint debt - is there an insurance policy? Often, an insurance policy will cover the remainder of a debt if one party dies, for example a mortgage.

If the deceased didn't have an insurance policy, it does usually fall to the surviving partner to continue the repayments. Check your agreements for details, and if necessary contact the bank or lender in order to discuss repaying the debt.

In the case of a joint mortgage, the surviving partner will usually be responsible for repayments, but in some cases it will be worth meeting with the bank in order to discuss refinancing the mortgage.

Individual debt - if no other name is on the agreement, any debts that are not covered by the deceased's estate die with them. Credit card companies will often phone after the estate has been settled to ask if the bereaved partner is able to pay any oustanding debts not covered by the estate. You are under no obligation to do this.  

For more information about dealing with finances after the death of a spouse, visit The Money Advice Service.

                                          

Other useful resources:

last will and testament pension scams

Making a will

Pension scams: 10 things to look out for

Images: Shutterstock

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