Five routes to financial help following a sudden bereavement

In this blog, Leticia Williams, Partner and Head of Personal Injury Department for Hodge Jones & Allen – Platinum sponsors of the Sudden Bereavement Helpline – talks about some of the ways to get help with finances following an unexpected bereavement.

In these uncertain times, more and more people are having to cope with a sudden death in the family. This can be a very difficult and upsetting experience. It can cause a variety of issues including money problems, for those who are left behind.

The Estate 

Everything owned by a person who has died is known as their estate. Their estate includes money, property, possessions and debts. If the deceased has left a will, an executor will be appointed to sell any property, pay off the debts and distribute the money to the people named in the deceased’s will. 

If the deceased does not leave a will, the estate must be shared out according to certain rules. These are called the rules of intestacy. A person who dies without leaving a will is called an intestate person. Only married or civil partners and some other close relatives can inherit under the rules of intestacy.

If you are suddenly bereaved and there is no money in the deceased’s estate, here are five main ways you can access financial help during this difficult period:

1) Bereavement support payment

A bereavement support payment can provide financial help when dealing with the immediate costs caused by the death of a spouse or partner. If you are under state pension age (currently 66 years) and if your civil partner, husband or wife died on, or after, 6 April 2017, you may be entitled to receive this payment. The benefit is paid to you at one of two rates depending on whether you are responsible for children.

Higher rate

Paid to pregnant women or if you’re entitled to Child Benefit. You will receive:

  • a monthly payment of £350 for 18 months following the death
  • a one-off payment of £3,500 during the first month.

Standard rate

For everyone else. You will receive:

  • a monthly payment of £100 for 18 months
  • a one-off payment of £2,500 during the first month

Your spouse or civil partner must have made National Insurance Contributions for at least 25 weeks during their working life for you to qualify. Bereavement Support Payment is only paid for 18 months after the date when your spouse or civil partner died so it’s important you claim as soon as possible to avoid losing money. 

If you are getting Bereavement Support Payment it will not affect your other benefits for a year. After then, the income you get from it will be taken into account for means-tested benefits including Jobseeker’s Allowance and Universal Credit.

You can claim from the date when the person dies. Claims can be backdated up to three months only. So, make sure you make your claim within three months of your spouse or civil partner’s death or you might lose some of your payments.

2) Funeral expenses/payment 

If you are on low income or if you or your partner were receiving benefits before they died, you can apply for a funeral payment from the social fund to help towards funeral expenses plus payments to cover the costs of things like burial or cremation fees. Please note if the person who died left any money, you will usually need to pay back any amount you received out of the person’s estate. 

Sometimes there maybe money in the estate to cover the cost of the funeral. If so the executor of the estate will take care of paying the bill. Otherwise, usually a friend or relative will arrange the funeral and then claim the cost back from the estate if there is enough in it. 

If you cannot afford a funeral or there is not enough money in the estate to pay for it, the local council or hospital can arrange a Public Health Funeral. The local authority will decide the time and date and this is usually a cremation. You will be able to attend but flowers and cars are not included. 

3) State Pension 

If both you and your civil partner, husband or wife were getting a basic state pension when they died, you might be entitled to extra pension payments by using their National Insurance Contributions. It depends on the type of pension, the age of the deceased and their beneficiaries. If the deceased was getting a state pension, you should contact the Pension Service to inform them of the death so that their payments can be stopped.

4) Benefits

The sudden death of a loved one can be even harder if you have to live on a lower income after their death. You may be able to claim certain benefits and one-off payments if you lived with or were dependent on the deceased. You might be able to claim Universal Credit to top up your income and help with things like housing costs or bringing up children.

Time limits may apply. If you need financial help you may also be able to get Housing Benefit, Lone Pensioner Allowance, or Rate Relief. Other benefits and help are available depending on your circumstances.

Some benefits are means-tested. This means any savings or income you have will affect whether you are entitled to benefit payments. This includes an inheritance taking your savings over the £16,000 threshold.

It is important to try your best to report the death as soon as you can. This will help you get the benefits you’re entitled to as quickly as possible. To do this, you will need to inform the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

5) Guardian’s Allowance 

Guardian’s Allowance is a tax-free payment for people who are bringing up children whose parents have died. You can only get Guardian’s Allowance if you also get Child Benefit for the child.

One of the child’s parents must also have been born in the UK (or was living in the UK since the age of 16 for at least 52 weeks in any 2-year period)

If you have been bereaved by any kind of sudden death, help is at hand and caring for your own welfare is vital to get you through difficult times. 

For more help and advice on financial matters, please talk to a Sudden caseworker. 

About the author

Leticia Williams: Partner & Head of Personal Injury Department 

Leticia is an experienced personal injury solicitor and Hodge Jones & Allen are proud Platinum sponsors of the Sudden Bereavement Helpline.

If you, or someone you know, has experienced sudden bereavement, Sudden can help. Call us on 0800 2600 400 or contact us at and we’ll arrange for a dedicated caseworker to call you back. We help from day one, onwards, for the first ten weeks of bereavement, when people are often in extreme need of care and support, suffering from shock and huge change in their lives.

Sudden is reliant on donations. We are a charity-run service. If you’d like to contribute to our crucial work, particularly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, then please donate to Sudden. Sudden is run and hosted by Brake, the road safety charity.