26 November 2018

Taking over the finances for the first time

3 min read

 

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Managing your finances is challenging at the best of times. But if you’ve just lost your partner the task can seem overwhelming especially if you’ve been used to them dealing with your household money. But there are some practical steps you can take to help get your finances quickly under control.

Draw up a budget

Your household income may well have changed so start by working out exactly how much money you now have coming in and what your regular financial commitments are each month such as your rent or mortgage, utility bills and council tax. Once you’ve done this it’s much easier to assess your financial situation. You can then work out if you have enough money to pay for everything or if you need to make savings.

The Money Advice Service has a useful budget planner which can help you plan your spending and take control of your everyday finances. Simply listing everything you currently spend may help you spot savings and work out if you are paying for things you no longer want or need.

Paying the bills

Make sure you work out what bills need to be paid and when. There may be some that are no longer applicable – such as subscriptions to magazines – which you could stop paying.

If your partner had a bank account solely in their own name this will probably have been frozen on their death. If any of your household bills were paid from this account you’ll need to contact the relevant organisations straightaway to let them know what’s happened. Ask for the bills to be put in your name and sent to you so that you can now deal with them. It’s a good idea to set up a direct debit for regular bills so you don’t have to worry about missing a payment.

Taking over the finances

As well as taking control of all your household finances there may be other financial arrangements you need to sort out. 

  • Bank and savings account. If you had any joint accounts with your partner you can continue to use these but you must tell the bank or savings organisation about your new situation. It’s also often a good idea to change the account into your name only. 
  • Credit cards and loans. Check how much you owe and what the monthly payments or commitments are. You will need to deal with these if they are in your name. If your partner had any debts solely in their own name, such as credit card bills, these will need to be sorted out too. If you had any joint debts with your partner, such as a mortgage, loan or overdraft on a joint account, you will now be solely responsible for these. The Money Advice Service has guides on dealing with the debts of someone who has died and sorting out joint debts
  • Mortgage. Contact your lender to tell them what’s happened. If your partner had life insurance, mortgage payment protection insurance or any other money this could be used to help pay off your mortgage. If there is not enough money to clear the mortgage in full you should speak to your lender to find out what your options are. This is not always straightforward as you cannot simply take over a mortgage even if you took it out in joint names. Your mortgage lender may want to assess your ability to pay based on your new circumstances. 
  • Insurance policies. Most insurance policies end when the policyholder dies. If your home, car or pet insurance was in your partner’s name you need to contact the insurer as soon as possible to check if you are still covered or need to arrange new cover in your own name. If you have a joint life insurance policy with your partner you need to contact your insurer to update the policy. 
  • Financial advice. When your circumstances change it’s always a good idea to review your finances. If you would like help deciding what to do with any have savings, investments, inheritance or life insurance pay out you have you could contact a financial adviser. The Financial Conduct Authority offers tips on how to choose an adviser and where to get help. 
  • Dealing with debts. If you find yourself with debts, make sure you pay your priority debts first. If you need help sorting out your debts there are a number of free, independent organisations that can help you such as StepChangeCitizens Advice and National Debtline
  • Benefits – Use a benefits calculator to see if you're eligible for any state benefits.

You can find out more about dealing with your finances after your partner dies on the Money Advice Service website.