10 May 2019

Coping with bereavement: steps to help you with your finances

4 min read


Managing your finances can be challenging at the best of times, but when you lose someone close it can seem especially overwhelming

Following the death of a loved one, it’s not uncommon to feel anxious about all the things that need doing, from sorting out bank accounts to paying for the funeral. It may also be the first time you’ve had to manage your household finances.

Here, we take you through some of the things you may need to think about after someone dies. If you’d like more support, try our Bereavement Hub, which contains detailed information and tools to help you, whether you’re recently bereaved or want to plan ahead to protect your family should the worst happen.  

Black phone

What to do when someone dies

After someone dies there are certain things that need to be done straight away, while others can wait until after the funeral. The first three things to do are:

  • Get a medical certificate from a GP or hospital doctor – you’ll need this to register the death.
  • Register the death within five days (eight days in Scotland) to get the documents you need for the funeral.
  • Arrange the funeral, either through a funeral director or by yourself.

After the funeral you may need to:

  • Notify relevant authorities and organisations, such as banks and utility companies, of the death. The Government service, Tell Us Once, can help as it saves you having to notify organisations like the Passport Office, Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) and Department for Work and Pensions individually. If it’s available in your area, you’ll be told about it when you register the death.
  • Check if the person who died had life insurance and make a claim.
  • Pay for the funeral. First, it’s best to check if the deceased had a funeral plan or insurance policy that could cover the cost. If not, their bank may release money to pay the bill. Otherwise, you may have to pay it and then reclaim the money later from whatever money the deceased left behind. If there’s no money to pay for the funeral, you may be able to apply for a Government Funeral Expenses Payment.
  • Sort out the deceased’s estate, including their money, property and any debts. As part of this you may need to apply for probate (known as confirmation in Scotland).
Black umbrella

Your money after a death

If you’ve lost a partner or someone you were financially dependent on, it can have a big impact on your finances. You may now have to deal with the household finances, or manage on a lower income. Some things you might want to think about doing are:

  • Checking what state benefits you could be entitled to, such as Bereavement Support Payment and other benefits if you’re now on a lower income.
  • Working out what bills need to be paid and when, and getting them put into your name.
  • Drawing up a budget so you can get a good understanding of what money you’ve now got coming in and going out each month.
  • Checking what insurance policies were in the deceased’s name and arranging for new cover in your name.
  • Switching any joint bank accounts into your name.
  • Checking what joint debts you and the deceased had – as these will now be your responsibility.
  • Contacting your mortgage provider if there’s not enough money to clear the mortgage so you can discuss your options.
  • Checking the impact on your pension and tax.
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Planning ahead to protect your family

Planning ahead for death won’t make it happen, but it’ll lessen the financial impact and make things just that little bit easier for those you leave behind. Here are some steps you can take:

  • Make a will.
  • Write a 'When I’m gone' document that pulls together all your personal and financial information into a simple document.
  • Talk to your family about your funeral wishes and what you’d want to happen if you became seriously ill and unable to make your own decisions.
  • Make a Power of Attorney to appoint people you trust to look after your money and property, and/or your health and welfare, if you’re unable to.
  • Consider whether your family would manage financially if you were no longer around. If they’d struggle you could take out life insurance, which pays out a lump sum or regular income when you die.
  • Make a plan to pay for your funeral, whether that’s an over 50s policy, a funeral plan or putting money away in a savings account.
  • Decide if you want to be an organ donor.
  • Talk to your family about money. If you partner doesn’t usually have any involvement in the family finances, set some time aside to go through things with them.
  • If you have children, appoint guardians for them by writing a will.

Getting emotional support

The death of a loved one can be an extremely difficult time emotionally, but there are organisations ready to help if you need it, including:

Cruse Bereavement Care provides free care and bereavement counselling to people suffering from grief. Call their free helpline on 0808 808 1677, visit the website or find a local service for face-to-face or group support. 

The Bereavement Advice Centre offers practical information, advice and signposting on the many issues that people face after the death of a loved one. Call the centre on 0800 634 9494 or visit the website for more information. 

National family charity Care for the Family provides a full list of bereavement support organisations who can provide general or more specific types of support during periods of grief. 

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