How to deal with financial companies and organisations after someone dies.

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It’s a sad fact that a number of people who lose a partner or friend have what’s already an incredibly difficult time made worse by inefficient administration by the organisations they contact. Don’t underestimate how many organisations you will have to tell about your loved one’s death, or how many times you may have to repeat the news. Keep a list of when you send letters and post copies of the death certificate and make a note of everyone you speak to.

– Banks and insurance companies
Many financial companies have a specialist probate centre, which co-ordinates dealing with and closing accounts. This should mean you don’t have ring around every single department if the person who died held several accounts with the same company. However, others pass you from department to department, forcing you to repeat the information several times.

SAVVY TIP: Be aware that even relatively straightforward things, like taking someone’s name off a household insurance policy, may mean you have to send a copy of the death certificate. Original copies, which you can ask for when you register the death, or certified copies, which you can get a solicitor or bank branch, are usually required and they will be returned to you.

– Credit providers and lenders
Contrary to popular belief, money that is owed when someone dies still has to be paid. Debts secured on a property are given priority, but if there were any other debts, such as credit card debts or loans, they should be paid out of the proceeds of the estate.

SAVVY TIP: If there isn’t enough money in the estate to pay the credit card debts, the card company may be prepared to write it off. They tend to make their decisions on a case-by-case basis.

– HM Revenue & Customs, National Insurance
Tax bills still have to be paid after someone has died and if the person who died used to fill in a self-assessment tax return, you may even have to fill one in or get someone else to do it for you. The HM Revenue & Customs website has general information on what you may need to do and how to get help or you can contact the HMRC Trusts Deceased estate’s helpline on 0131 777 4030.

SAVVY TIP: You may be able to claim a one-off payment called a Bereavement Payment, a Bereavement Allowance or a Widowed Parent’s Allowance. There’s more information about bereavement benefits on the government’s website.

– Employer (or former employer if there was a pension scheme)
If you are married to, in a civil partnership with or financially dependent on the person who died, you are likely to be able to receive a pension from their employer. The Pensions Advisory Service has information on different pension scheme death benefits.

– Passport office, DVLA, local council
You are supposed to return the driving licence and passport of the person who has died. You should fill in a form called ‘what to do with a passport when a passport holder has died’, which you can download from the website. You should also tell the DVLA if you decide to keep a car that was registered in the name of someone who died. There is information on the website on returning a driving licence.

SAVVY TIP: If you were living with the person who died and you are now the only adult in the property, you can now claim the single person discount on your council tax.

– Clubs and organisations
If the person who died belonged to a local club, you can probably rely on a friend making contact and explaining what has happened. However, if it’s a national club or organisation (such as a book or wine club), you may have to deal with some bureaucracy. I’ve heard of people who had to send several copies of death certificates to a book club to stop orders from landing on their doorstep.

SAVVY TIP: You can register with the Bereavement Register so that you don’t receive direct marketing addressed do the person who died. The Deceased Preference Service operates a similar service. It is likely to take six weeks to two months for companies to update their mailing lists.

Useful links:
The Way Foundation (Way stands for ‘widowed and young’) is a charity that aims to help young widows and widowers deal with their bereavement. It has local support groups, an online forum and organises social activities.

Cruse Bereavement Care is a national charity that offers advice, help and support. Its website has a number of online books and publications.

Financial Ombudsman Service is a free, independent complaints service for anyone who’s got a complaint about a financial company, which the company itself has not resolved.

Related articles:

If you’ve been badly treated by a financial company you’re not alone

Don’t miss out on bereavement benefits

Complaining to the Financial Ombudsman Service

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