Money matters following bereavement

It would seem that money would be the last of someone’s concerns when a loved one has died. The heartbreak, the sadness, the loneliness, the rollercoaster of emotions, the acute pain of simply missing them is enough to bear, surely?

If you are someone with tens of thousands of pounds or more in the bank, then this might well be true for you. But for most of us – normal, every day people – financial concerns often do feature in the bereavement journey.

It starts with burial or cremation arrangements. These aren’t free.

Nor are the death notices, or the funeral, or arranging a ‘wake’ or other celebration of life.

A headstone? Depending where you live, this can cost more than £1000.

Sadly the kind of “send off” we would like to arrange might be beyond what we can afford.

This also applies to remembrance ideas. We might compare ourselves unfavourably to other bereaved people who can afford to put up a memorial bench, set up a school prize or even arrange a trust fund. If we would like to do something like this and it’s beyond our means, we might feel discouraged and frustrated.

Money troubles if you’re bereaved

But money troubles can go much further than funerals and related matters.

For those bereaved of a spouse or partner, their loved one’s death will most likely have changed their financial position. Their partner’s life insurance or work pension could mean that they are better off, but often income is reduced rather than increased. Perhaps your household now has just one wage earner instead of two. Pensioners in particular might struggle with less money coming in to the household.

The house still has to be heated. The car still needs to be insured. The TV license must be paid. Even if there are fewer people under your roof, many of these bills remain constant. (There are some exceptions, such as a 25% reduction for council tax in a single person household.)

This continues on with the ‘lone person premium’. Try booking a hotel room or a holiday for one person and you will discover all about this!

Sometimes the bereaved must pay to receive the help that their loved one used to give. Perhaps they were your carer, or managed the garden, or they fixed the sundry household items that wear out and break down over the passage of time. Finding trustworthy tradespeople can add another stress as well as cost.

In some cases, it is only after a loved one dies that outstanding debts and obligations are discovered. Your financial position might be worse than you anticipated.

Those who have lost a partner may discover that it is more difficult to make financial decisions without anyone to share the responsibility with. Need to buy a new washing machine? Who will advise? This of course extends to much bigger decisions such as moving home.

The reality is – the death of a family member, particularly one from your household – can have a very real impact on your finances. The reality and the worry are both extra burdens on the bereaved.

How much more so in these days of a cost of living crisis!

If you are in this situation, I hope that you have a few trusted family members or friends to discuss your issues with. There are also organisations that might be able to help, including Cruse Bereavement Care. (See more links below)

You may wish that you could invest all of your time, energy and thoughts on grieving for your loved one, but practical matters must also receive your attention.

Do try to take care of yourself!

Advice and guidance

Here is some information that could be helpful. (This applies mostly in England and Wales)

Age UK has a useful page of information about financial benefits and entitlements

Bereavement Support Payment – if your husband, wife or civil partner died on or after 6 April 2017 and you are under State Pension age, you may be able to get Bereavement Support Payment.

Widowed Parent’s Allowance – if your husband, wife or civil partner died before 6 April 2017, you are pregnant or have dependent children under the age of 19 (or 20 if getting Child Benefit for them) and you were married or in a civil partnership when your partner died.

Funeral Payment – you may be able to receive this if you live in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, you are (or your partner was) receiving certain benefits and you are responsible for funeral costs.

Down to earth offers free and confidential advice if you are struggling with the cost of organising a funeral anywhere in the UK. (Run by the Quaker Association)

Paying for your child’s funeral is a factsheet published by The Compassionate Friends.

ACAS has advice here if you have issues with continuing or returning to work following bereavement

The Money Saving Expert (Martin Lewis) website has some useful advice if you are struggling to pay your utility bills.

There’s a 25% discount on council tax for people who live alone, but you must apply for it.

There are resources here if you are struggling with debt

(If you have any other useful links to recommend, please do so in the comments, thank you!)

A wild bird shares my biscuit. It didn’t take much to make it happy, but it does take something. We all need our daily bread provided one way or the other.

(Written July 2023. No responsibility is taken for the advice given on external websites.)

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