Finances after a death
This content applies to England only.
Housing laws vary between England and Scotland. Get advice relating to Scotland
When someone you live with dies, your financial situation may change. Check if you are now liable to pay the rent or mortgage, and if there are any benefits you can claim to help with this and other costs.
Paying for a funeral
If you are on a low income and you need help to pay for a funeral, you may be able to get a funeral payment. The amount you get will depend on your circumstances and if you qualify. For more information and to apply, see the Gov.uk website.
If your husband, wife or civil partner has died in the last year, you may be entitled to certain welfare benefits. Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to claim:
- bereavement payment or widowed parent's allowance
- bereavement allowance.
Life insurance claims to repay a mortgage
If the home is owner-occupied, the person who died may have taken out life insurance intended to pay off the mortgage if they died. You should contact the providers of any insurances that may have been taken out and get financial advice as soon as possible.
You should also let the mortgage lender know what is happening to ensure that they don't take action to repossess the home if payments are missed.
Responsibility for paying the rent or mortgage
To avoid building up or increasing arrears, it is important to make sure that the rent or mortgage is still being paid.
If you are the sole owner or tenant of your home, you will continue to be liable for all rent or mortgage payments. If the person who died was helping pay these costs, you will need to look at how you will budget in future. You may be able to claim housing benefit to help towards the cost of your rent, or get help paying your mortgage.
If you and the person who has died were joint tenants or owners, you automatically become liable for the whole of the rent or mortgage.
If you are the husband, wife or civil partner of the owner or tenant, and you continue to stay in the property, you will normally become liable for the rent or mortgage payments once their estate has been settled.
If you are the personal administrator of the person who died, until the estate is settled, you may be responsible for making sure that rent or mortgage payments are paid.
Get advice if you are not sure who should be paying the rent or mortgage - use our directory to find a local advice centre.
Responsibility for paying the rent or mortgage if the property is not in your name
If the property you live in isn't in your name, and you are not the spouse or civil partner of the owner or tenant who died (eg you are cohabiting or you are their child) the situation is more complicated. You will need to check if you have the right to stay in your home - this can depend on whether your home is rented or was owned by the person who died.
You may not be legally responsible for paying the mortgage but you may need to make sure it is paid in order to protect any rights you have in the property, and especially if you want to keep living there.
Responsibility for rent arrears
If the property is rented, when you become liable for the rent, this usually includes liability for any rent arrears built up by the person who died. The only exception is if the person who died was a council tenant with a secure tenancy. In this situation you will not normally be liable unless you have agreed to take on the arrears.
What happens if rent or mortgage arrears build up?
Falling behind on payments could result in:
- eviction or repossession
- your landlord or lender taking you to court to force you to pay off the arrears
- a bad credit rating, which would make it difficult for you to find a new home.
Financial help with housing after a death
If you have a low income, you may be able to claim income support mortgage interest (if your home is owner-occupied) or housing benefit (if the home is rented). Depending on your personal circumstances you may be able to get a crisis loan or a community care grant.
Housing benefit and changes in circumstances
If you have an existing housing benefit or council tax claim, it might be affected by your change in circumstances. You should update your claim as soon as possible, as the amount you are entitled to may change. If you don't inform the council, you might end up being paid too much and having to pay it back later on, or you might possibly lose out on additional benefits.
If you are already receiving housing benefit but are struggling to pay the rent, you could try applying for a discretionary housing payment.
If you are claiming housing benefit to help pay your rent, new rules from April 2013 mean that you can't claim for any 'spare' bedrooms that you have. The death of the person you shared your home with may now mean that you are considered to be over-occupying your home, which means that you have more bedrooms that the rules say you need. The housing benefit you receive will be reduced depending on how many extra bedrooms you have.
However, your claim will not be affected for the first year after the death of the person you lived with. For more information, see the section on the bedroom tax.
Council tax discounts
If you are now living on your own, you may be able to claim a discount in the amount of council tax you pay.
Your change of circumstances may mean that you are now eligible for benefits that you couldn't claim before. Use the Gov.uk benefit calculator to work out if there are benefits you can apply for.