Handling finances after bereavement

Andy Webb

When you lose someone close to you, the last thing on your mind is money. But even though you’re grieving, life still goes on around you and sooner rather than later, you’ll need to get on top of your finances.Hopefully someone else will be able to help out with the immediate money issues such as the will and funeral, but there are four key changes you’ll need to consider within weeks, if not sooner.

You’ll lose access to your partner’s accounts

Any accounts that were in your partner’s name will be frozen once the bank knows about their death. You won’t be able to access any savings solely in your partner’s name until the estate has been sorted and any debts settled, which might limit how much money you have to live on in the short term.

Frozen accounts also mean bills and credit cards won’t get paid. To avoid late-payment fees or even services being cut off, you’ll need to contact the suppliers and get the accounts transferred into your name and bank account.

You might need to apply for a mortgage, or sell your home

If there’s still a mortgage outstanding on your home and it’s in your partner’s name or both your names, you can’t just transfer it over. You’ll need to apply for a new mortgage and prove you can afford the payments. If you get rejected you may have to sell your home.

Your income will change

The most obvious change will be dropping down to one income.

You’ll need to find out about any pensions or life-insurance policies your partner had, which could bring in some regular money.

If you’re under state pension age and find yourself on a very low income, you might be eligible for benefits. You might also be entitled to a bereavement payment or allowance from the government—but only if you were married or in a civil partnership. If you now live alone, you’ll be entitled to a 25 per cent discount on council tax.

You’ll need to start budgeting

If you’re not used to budgeting, it can be a huge challenge—especially under the circumstances.

Early on, check all your bank balances and bills to make sure you’ve enough to cover regular expenses in the short term. Then you’ll have to look again at your spending habits to make sure you can continue to afford the life you’re leading on the income you’ve got.

A call to the bereavement services (0800 085 2463) will help you find out what benefits you might be able to claim, while Citizens Advice is a good organisation to contact if you need help managing your money. If you want to talk about your grief, you can call the Samaritans for free on 116 123.

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