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Financial support following a death

Publish date: 20/10/2014

Financial support

There are a number of bereavement benefits that may be available to you. These include a bereavement payment (a one off tax-free payment of £2000), a bereavement allowance (a regular taxable payment for 52 weeks), or State Pension (if you and your late spouse were getting the basic State Pension you may be able to get an increased amount of basic State Pension using their National Insurance contributions). In order to be eligible for these benefits there are a number of qualifying factors that will need to be taken into consideration.

For further information on benefits and to get the appropriate claim form please contact the department for work and pensions or visit their website.

Paying for the funeral

Funerals can be very expensive so it’s very important to know where the money to pay for it will be coming from before you make any firm arrangements. Otherwise you may have to meet the bill yourself.

Firstly check whether the person who has died has made any plans for their own funeral and whether they’ve paid for them. The sections below will go through some possibilities.

If no one is able or willing to arrange or pay for the funeral, the local council or sometimes the health authority may cover the cost of the funeral but only in cases where the funeral has not already been arranged.

If someone has arranged to pay for their own funeral 

There may be money available to pay for the funeral from money that the dead person has left behind (i.e. their assets) or from schemes or pensions that they paid into over the years.

When someone dies their bank account is frozen, unless it’s a joint account. It may be possible to use some of their savings to pay for the funeral. In order for this to happen the bank will ask you to provide certain documents, which usually will include the death certificate.

When checking the person’s papers you need to be looking out for a certificate from the cremation society, their life-insurance policy or a funeral plan which has already been paid for. It’s also worth checking for any letters from their past employers for details about any occupational pension scheme or personal pension. These might cover the cost of the funeral and also provide financial support for their surviving husband, wife or civil partner.

If the person had been living in a residential care home or a hospital, the staff will hand over the persons belongings (up to a certain value which is fixed by the local authority) to the closest relative or to the person who has written permission to receive this from whoever is dealing with the will.

Employer’s pension schemes or personal pensions

Some employer’s pension schemes (known as occupational pension schemes) will pay out a lump sum to help with funeral costs, and some may provide pension benefits for the person’s surviving husband, wife or civil partner. You should check to see if the person who died has ever belonged to such a scheme. If they were self-employed or if their employer did not offer an employer’s pension scheme they may have made their own arrangements.

If the person was already receiving a pension from a previous job you should find out who was paying it – it might be either the employer’s pension scheme or an insurance company. You should inform the representative of the pension scheme about the death of the person. If there is a surviving husband, wife or civil partner, dependent child or other dependent they may be eligible to receive the pension. If they already receive a pension they may be entitled to more.

If not retired it would be sensible to look into whether there was a pension due to be paid. If such a pension does exist you need to check who was responsible for paying it – it could be the employer or an insurance company.

The Pension Tracing Service will be able to help with this if you are finding this difficult

Phone: 0845 600 2537

Textphone: 0845 300 0169 (For people who find it hard to hear or speak clearly)

Their lines are available from 9am to 5pm on Monday to Fridays.

Other pensions and payments

There may be pensions or lump sums payable from a professional body, trade union or other association, or possibly from a provident club which pays benefit when a member dies.

If the person was being paid a benefit before they died, some of that benefit may still be due. When you inform the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) about the person’s death, you can request them to send you a form, which you can use to claim any money that may be owed.

If you are the executor of the will this money will be paid to you. If there is no executor but you are the one paying for the funeral you can claim up to the value of the funeral costs.

 Life insurance policies
The person who has died may have taken out a life insurance policy which pays out a lump sum if the person dies before a certain age. Although the lump sum is generally paid after probate, when the insurance company have proof of the person’s death they may pay out some money before then.

 The Cremation Society
If the person who died was a member of the Cremation Society, the society may pay something towards the cost of the funeral or you may be able to pay reduced cremation fees.

Funeral Payments from the Social Fund

If you’re arranging a funeral you may be able to get some help towards the costs if you are on a low income and receiving certain types of benefits.

This would be a one-off, tax-free payment to help cover the necessary costs of a simple, respectful low-cost funeral.

The claim must be made within 3 months of the date of the funeral.

It must also be reasonable that you, or your partner, are the ones who are paying for the funeral. The circumstances of any other relatives of the person who has died may need to be considered.

Usually the person needs to have been living in the UK at the time when they died and the funeral would normally need to be held in the UK.

If you do receive a Funeral Payment you will have to pay this back from the estate of the person who died. The estate includes property, money and other things that they owned. Any home that is still lived in by a surviving partner, or personal things left to relatives, do not form part of the estate.

You can find out more about obtaining a funeral payment and as to whether you are eligible to claim for this through contacting Jobcentre Plus by visiting.

When a war pensioner dies

If the person who died was a war pensioner you may be able to get help with the costs of a simple funeral depending on their circumstances.

You won’t be required to pay any of the money back from the estate of the person who died in this case.

You must claim for this within 3 months of the funeral.

In order to claim you need to contact the Service Personnel and Veterans Agency immediately after the funeral.

Phone: 0800 169 2277

Textphone: 0800 169 3458

These lines are open from 8.15am to 5.15pm on Monday to Thursday and from 8.15am to 4.30pm on Friday.

Other help

The hospital may arrange the funeral of someone who dies in hospital if they are unable to trace the person’s relatives or if the surviving relatives can’t afford to pay for the funeral. They may then make a claim on the person’s estate to meet these costs.

If the person hasn’t died in hospital and there is nobody who can take responsibility for the funeral, the council have a duty to bury or cremate someone if no other arrangements have been made. They may subsequently make a claim on the person’s estate to pay for the funeral. Your local council will be able to provide more information.

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