Money Advice Service

Adjusting to life after the death of your partner is not easy. Between your grief and all the things you suddenly find yourself responsible for, it can feel overwhelming. To help you deal with this new situation, we’ve outlined some of the important financial areas that you will need to think about and take control of.

Taking over the household bills and budget

It’s likely that your household income changed or possibly even dropped when your partner died. But there are things that you can do to make sure that you can take over the finances and keep paying the bills and living within a changed budget.

Transfer and pay the bills

If your late partner took care of the bills, it’s important that you quickly take over this job. Otherwise, you might find yourself faced with high late payment fees, or even debt collection for missed payments.

To get on top of the household bills:

  • Gather all the bills, making a note of when and how much is due.
  • Check your bank account(s) to see if you have enough money to cover these bills.

Bills that are:

  • Paid from your joint account will continue as normal (if you decide to keep the joint account)
  • Paid from your partner’s individual account may not get paid, as the account will likely be frozen once the bank is aware of the account holder’s death. You’ll need to contact the companies to change the payment details so that it’s taken from your account instead

You’ll also need to change any bills that were solely in your partner’s name to your name.

You may also want to change any bills that were in both names, to your name only later on.

If you think you’re going to struggle to keep up with the bills, there is help and advice you can get to deal with this.

Learn more about The best way to pay your bills.

Transfer from a joint to individual bank account

If you had a joint bank account with your partner, you can continue to still use it as normal.

You just need to notify the bank or building society that your partner has passed away, so that they can amend the account details.

But you may want to consider changing it at some point into an individual account in your name.

This should make it easier to manage your money and see whether you have enough every month to pay the bills.

You can contact a number of financial institutions, including most major banks and building societies, even if you didn’t know about the account, using the free online Death Notification Service.

Make a budget

With a list of your household outgoings, you have the first part of putting together a budget that fits with your new financial situation.

Top tips to reduce your costs

1. Claim a discount on your Council Tax or Rates (for Northern Ireland) if you now live alone.
2. Move to a cheaper tariff or provider to help cut your energy bills.

The next steps are:

  • To add up all your regular income - this may come from, benefits, a pension, wages or even savings
  • Use our Budget Planner to work out your income against your spending.

If you end up with income left over after the bills are paid, then you may want to consider saving to build an emergency fund.

But if you have more money going out than coming in, there are some things that you can do to reduce your outgoings:

Deal with any credit card, loan or mortgage debts

If your partner had credit or store cards, a personal loan or a hire purchase agreement in their name, these could still have an outstanding balance.

It’s therefore important to deal with them as soon as you can. Similarly, with the mortgage.

Start by putting together a full list of these debts and how much is still owed on each.

This will help you prioritise the debts so you can start to deal with them.

Read Dealing with the debts of someone who’s died for help on how to do this.

Taking over the mortgage

The first step is to speak to the mortgage lender to let them know that your partner has passed away.

They can then help you work out your mortgage options.

Normally, the mortgage is one of the first debts that is paid out of the estate.

Or from life or mortgage payment protection insurance that your partner may have bought when the mortgage was taken out.

But if there isn’t enough money to cover this debt, you have a couple of options.

One of the options is taking out a mortgage in your name.

You should consider this if you think you can afford the repayments on your own.

Unfortunately, you can’t simply ‘transfer’ the mortgage into your name, even if you had a joint mortgage with your partner.

You’d have to go through a review process as though it’s a fresh mortgage application.

You’ll need to provide evidence of your current finances to the mortgage lender.

They’ll assess this and your ability to keep up with repayments. Find out more in How to apply for a mortgage.

If you’re not approved for a mortgage and you’re unable to pay it back in full, you may have to face the option of having to sell your home to clear this debt.

You may want to read more about selling a home.

There is some government help if you find yourself struggling to make your mortgage repayments.

Find out more in Government help if you can’t pay your mortgage.

Taking over the insurance

If any of the household insurance policies are in your partner’s name, it’s very important to check these policies.

You should pay special attention to:

Most policies terminate on the death of the main policy holder.

If this applies to you it means that you’re unprotected should anything happen.

Car insurance

If you’re a named driver on the car insurance policy, you need to check with the insurers if you’re still covered.

If not, you’ll need to get a new policy in place. Most policies terminate on the death of the main policy holder, and this will leave you uninsured.

You don’t have to use the same company. Shop around to find one that gives you the best deal.

Remember, car insurance is necessary if you wish to continue driving a car.

You run the risk of a large fine or even worse, if you drive without any insurance.

Find out what to look out for when shopping for car insurance.

Home insurance

You need to let your home insurance provider know that your circumstances have changed.

Depending on how your partner’s estate was distributed, you may have inherited more or even less after their death.

This will affect how much cover you need and also how much you pay for your home insurance.

You could also take this opportunity to shop around for a new home insurance deal that better suits your new circumstances.

Life and protection insurance

If you have joint life insurance or your own insurance, you need to contact the provider to update your policy.

You may need to change the beneficiaries of the policy, or even change the amount of cover it gives.

If you don’t have life insurance, this is a good time to start looking into getting one.

It’s important to have some life insurance to protect anyone dependent on you, should anything happen.

You may also want to consider taking out more protection insurance, such as income protection or illness cover.

Learn more about life and protection insurance.

Planning your finances for the future

Once you’ve gotten into a regular routine of managing the household finances, you should start thinking about making financial plans for your future.

It may take you a while to feel ready to face the future without your partner, so there’s no need to rush planning your financial future.

When you’re ready, you can learn more in What should I do with my inheritance?

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This article is provided by the Money Advice Service.