How to cope with money during bereavement or illness

A young person is holding a handful of money in one hand and a will in the other. Behind them there is a sun and some rain clouds.

Coping with money can be hard when you’re grieving

If someone close to you dies, the last thing on your mind will be sorting out their finances. Coping with grief can be overwhelming, and thinking about money won’t seem like a priority.

But when someone dies, it can save a lot of trouble in the future if you sort out any financial issues quickly, so you don’t have to worry about them getting bigger and causing you unneeded stress. Here’s an expert guide from Experian, to tell you exactly what you need to know.

How to manage money after someone has died

 Experian is an expert credit reference agency. We don’t decide who should get credit, but the information we provide may help the lender to decide. Not sure what credit means? Find out more by reading The Mix’s guide to borrowing money.

We hope this guide will help you cope with credit after someone has died or become seriously ill.

First steps to get you on track

  • Firstly, you should contact any lenders they have accounts with straight away and tell them about the situation.
  • It will help if you send them a letter to explain that you’ll be in touch later to find out what you need to do.
  • It might help you to get a copy of your loved one’s credit report so you know how much they owe.

Experian can send you their credit report if you:

  • Send us a ‘grant of representation’ from the probate registry; or
  • Send us proof that you are the executor of their will

Once you have the credit report, you could also send us a copy of the death certificate and ask us to contact the lenders to ask them to update their records. Some of the lenders might ask you to contact them directly.

Lenders can appear to be insensitive when they chase debts owed by people who have died. But unless someone contacts these lenders, they won’t know what the situation is. They are likely to be sympathetic if you tell them straight away and keep in touch after that.

Dealing with identity fraud

Identity fraud is a growing problem. Fraudsters sometimes use the identities of people who have passed away to apply for credit. Closing your loved ones accounts can be really hard, but you can reduce the chances of fraud by:

  • Making sure all existing credit accounts are closed
  • Returning their passport and driving licence to the organisations that issued them
  • Arranging to remove the person’s name from the electoral roll
  • Registering their details for free with the Mailing Preference Service to stop marketing offers being sent addressed to them

Investments

Someone who has died may have assets such as life insurance, shares, pensions or other investments. In some cases, the paperwork may have been misplaced, lost or destroyed.

If you’re dealing with their financial affairs, you can check for assets by contacting the Unclaimed Assets Register. They’ll carry out a search for a small fee.

Coping with money when someone is ill

If someone close to you becomes seriously ill, you’re more likely to be concerned about looking after them than you are about making sure their bills are paid. But remember that you’re helping them out a lot by managing their finances so they don’t have to deal with the stress.

Here are Experian’s top tips for coping with financial issues when someone close to you is ill.

Dealing with credit repayments

When someone is seriously ill, they may not be able to keep up credit repayments or look after any other financial affairs. If this is the case, it might be a good idea to help them arrange and register a ‘property and affairs lasting power of attorney.’

This will allow you to officially deal with their finances for them. You can set up a lasting power of attorney yourself or you can contact a solicitor. You can get more information from the Office of the Public Guardian website.

Bills and debts

You may not know what bills are paid regularly or how these are paid. If it’s your partner, some of the bills may be in both your names.

You aren’t responsible for debts that are not in your name, but if a financial link to your partner is shown on your credit report, you might find that missed payments could prevent you from getting credit in the future.

A copy of the person’s credit report will show you details of the credit accounts they have. So, a copy of the report can help you see what needs to be paid. Experian can send you a copy of the other person’s credit report if you send us a copy of your power of attorney.

Sickness benefits

It might be a good idea to make sure they are receiving all the benefits they are entitled to. See the ‘Useful contacts’ section at the end of this guide for details of organisations that can help you do this.

What you can do now to organise your finances

We’d all like to be really organised and on top of things, but life tends to get in the way. In case you do get ill, it will reduce your stress and anxiety (and for your friends and family too) if you have kept good records of your finances.

Make a will

  • It’s wise to get help from a solicitor or other suitable person when writing a will, especially if you plan to write the will yourself.
  • It’s also important that you choose a person or people you trust to be your executors, because they will be legally responsible for carrying out your wishes.

Make a list of where your money goes

You should also make a list of the financial commitments you have, who they are with, and how much needs to be paid and when. Make sure the list is always up to date and keep it with a copy of your will and credit report.

Power of attorney

You might also consider arranging one or more lasting powers of attorney. This means that if your health gets worse in the future and you can’t look after your financial (or other) affairs yourself, someone you choose will be able to do this for you. You can get more information from the Office of the Public Guardian website.

Tips for family and friends

You might also want to suggest that members of your family and close friends keep an up-to-date copy of their credit report, a will and a list of their financial commitments handy. If you’re the person likely to sort out their affairs if they die or become seriously ill, it will help you if these documents are handy.

Some contacts you might find useful when coping with money during bereavement and illness:

If you’re dealing with any of these issues and need support, know that you’re not alone and we’re here for you. Get in touch with The Mix’s team for free and confidential support.

For more information about money and tips for managing your finances, please visit The Mix’s money hub.

Next Steps

  • The Money Advice Service offers free, unbiased and independent advice about all financial matters. 0800 138 7777
  • Cruse offers grief and bereavement support via phone, email, and face-to-face. You can call their free helpline on 0808 808 1677 (Monday - Friday, 9.30 - 5pm, extended to 8pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays) or visit their website for more support.
  • Citizens Advice offer free help with housing, money and legal problems. Find your local centre.
  • If you're under 25 and would like free confidential telephone counselling from The Mix to help you figure things out complete this form and we'll call you to arrange your first session.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

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Updated on 24-Feb-2021

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