Practical Support

Support When a Partner Has Died

This advice will support you to make practical and financial arrangements for your family after your bereavement. There are some things you need to think about straight away that should be made a priority. The information below will help you think about the most pressing issues. You may need advice on benefits and tax credits, childcare, or your rights at work. Gingerbread is here to help you and your family adapt to your different circumstances.  

Checklist

Use this checklist as a quick guide to what to do and when.

Right away

  • Tell friends and family 
  • Tell their employer 
  • Arrange time off work 

Within a few days

  • Register the death within 5 days. 
  • Buy extra death certificates when you register.  
  • Make funeral arrangements (unless there is an inquest, which can delay things) 
  • Tell the government about the death using Tell Us Once. 

Within a couple of weeks

  • Contact other organizations 
    • bank
    • pension scheme provider 
    • insurance company 
    • mortgage provider, housing association or council housing office 
    • utility companies 
    • GP, dentist, optician and anyone else providing medical care 
    • mobile phone company 
    • anyone they made regular payments to (e.g. subscription services, charities) 
    • the Bereavement Register 
  • Claim financial support 
    • Benefits, including bereavement support 
    • Life insurance 

Later on

  • Deal with their estate 

Who You Need to Tell 

Family and Friends 

Obviously, you need to discuss what has happened with your children, which will be difficult. Do your best to use plain language, be honest, and encourage questions. Try and answer any questions they have as honestly as you can. Avoid euphemisms, as this can be confusing, especially for young children. 

When telling people in general, you may want to ask a relative or close friend to handle this for you, so that you can look after yourself and be with your children. Some people make a lot of phone calls, but sometimes people make an announcement on social media or send out a mass text message to everybody. 

Government organisations 

You’ll need to let a number of government departments know about your bereavement. You don’t need to do this immediately but you should try to address it within a couple of weeks

The government’s Tell Us Once service means that you don’t have to contact all of them – they will do this for you. Letting government departments know as soon as possible is really important. It can be difficult, but it will help to ensure that you’re receiving as much financial support as possible. 

When you register the death, the registrar will either complete the Tell Us Once service with you, or give you a reference number so you can use the service online or over the phone.  

In addition to the Tell Us Once reference number, you’ll also need some key information, including: 

  • the name and date of death of the person who’s died 
  • the name and address of the hospital, care home, or hospice if they died there 
  • your details as next of kin, including date of birth, address, and if possible National Insurance number
  • details of the person or company dealing with the estate (property, belongings and money) 

If possible, it would also be helpful to have the person who died’s National Insurance number, as well as details of their passport, driving license, and vehicle registration if they had them.  

If the person who died was claiming any benefits you may be asked for the name of their local council and what benefits they were claiming, such as Universal Credit, if you know them. 

Contacting other organisations 

The person who died will have had bank accounts and other services they were signed up with. While you don’t need to take care of these right away, it is better to take care of them sooner rather than later, especially when finances are involved.  

Organisations you may have to contact include: 

  • bank 
  • pension scheme provider 
  • insurance company 
  • mortgage provider, housing association or council housing office 
  • social services 
  • utility companies
  • GP, dentist, optician and anyone else providing medical care 
  • mobile phone company 
  • anyone they made regular payments to, such as subscription services or charities
  • the Bereavement Register, which removes details from mailing lists and stops most advertising mail 

You may find it helpful to make a list of these and work through them a few at a time. 

Taking time off work after a bereavement 

Being with your children after the death of their other parent will probably be your top priority. Talk to your employer to see if they offer extra time off as part of your contract. This time off is often called ‘Compassionate Leave’ and may be paid. Although there is no legal right to compassionate leave, many employers do offer it. If they don’t, you could ask for paid annual leave or consider taking sick leave if you are not ready to return to work. 

In the longer term, you may need to think about changing your work patterns to adapt to your new circumstances. See our information on your rights in the workplace to find advice on negotiating with your employer. 

Registering the death 

You should register the death within 5 days (including bank holidays and weekends). Gov.uk’s page on registering a death can help you find out how to do this. The registration should be done by a relative of the person who died. Usually, you will contact your nearest register office to register the death. 

When you go to the register office, you’ll need to take with you the medical certificate showing the cause of death, signed by a doctor. If possible, also take the person’s: 

  • birth certificate 
  • NHS medical card or number 
  • marriage or civil partnership certificate 
  • driving licence 
  • proof of their address. 

You will have to tell the registrar: 

  • the person’s full name (and any other names they had, such as a maiden name) 
  • the person’s date and place of birth 
  • their date and place of death 
  • their usual address 
  • their most recent occupation 
  • whether or not they were receiving any benefits, including State Pension, and the name, occupation, and date of birth of their spouse or civil partner. 

When you register a death you’ll get: 

  • a Certificate for Burial or Cremation (the ‘green form’) – gives permission for burial or an application for cremation 
  • a Certificate of Registration of Death (form BD8) – you may need to fill this in and return it if the person was getting benefits or a State Pension (the form will come with a pre-paid envelope so you know where to send it). 

Sometimes a death is reported to the coroner, usually if the death was unnatural or if it was sudden with no known cause. This may mean you need different documents to register the death. You can find out more about this on gov.uk’s page on ‘when a death is reported to a coroner’. 

 If you need to you can buy extra death certificates. These will be needed for the will and any claims to pensions, savings, etc. It’s best to pay for several copies, because copies requested at a later date may be more expensive. 

Arranging a funeral 

If the person who died left funeral instructions in their will or a letter about their wishes, then you can follow these. If there aren’t any clear wishes, decisions will be made by you or the executor. An executor is a person named in the person who died’s will as responsible for dealing with their affairs after they die.  

It will have to be decided if the body will be cremated, buried, or otherwise, and what type of funeral will take place. 

Funerals can be arranged with the help of a funeral director, but you may prefer to arrange things yourself. 

Finding a funeral director 

Check that the people you talk to are registered with at least one of the following organisations. Make sure you get more than one quote. 

Ask funeral directors for quotations to help you decide which company to use. Ask for an itemised quote which includes: 

  • the funeral director’s services 
  • a coffin 
  • transfer of the person who died from the place of death, and care of them before the funeral 
  • a hearse to the nearest crematorium or cemetery 
  • all necessary arrangements and paperwork. 

There may be extra charges for third parties such as the crematorium, clergy, celebrant and doctors. Funeral directors may ask for these fees to be paid upfront. 

Arranging a funeral yourself 

You don’t have to use a funeral director if you don’t want to – you can have a ‘do-it-yourself’ funeral. 

DIY funerals can be less expensive, more environmentally friendly as well as more personal and intimate.  

This type of funeral often takes place when someone makes their wishes clear before their death and plans for it themselves, as it can involve more advance planning. 

Contact your local council if you want to arrange a funeral in your local cemetery or crematorium. 

Paying for a funeral 

Funerals can be expensive. If you’re paying for the funeral, think carefully about what you can afford. 

The funeral can be paid for by: 

  • you or other family members or friends 
  • a lump sum from a life insurance policy or pension scheme the person paid into 
  • a pre-paid funeral plan the person took out 
  • the person’s estate (any money, property or assets they left). Funeral costs take precedence over other debts 
  • money the person had in a bank or building society, although they don’t have to release the money until probate (the legal process of distributing the money, property and possessions of the person who’s died) is granted. If there’s a delay, you may need to pay the costs in the meantime. 

Help with funeral costs 

If paying for funeral expenses is difficult because you are on a low income, you may be able to get a funeral payment to help pay for the costs. To qualify you must be receiving a benefit, such as Universal Credit. You can find out more about funeral payments on the Turn2us website. 

If you don’t qualify for a Funeral Payment – or it doesn’t cover the full costs of the funeral – you may be able to get a Budgeting Advance or Budgeting Loan. These are interest-free loans of between £100 and £1500 that you repay from your benefits. 

Financial help 

How you’ll cope financially can be a huge worry after the loss of a partner and thinking about how you’ll manage on your own can be daunting. Financial support is available, so try to make sure you get all the help you can for you and your family. 

Bereavement support payment

If you were married or in a civil partnership you could be entitled to a bereavement support payment.  

The Government has stated it will change the law so that parents who live together but are not married or in a civil partnership will be able to receive Bereavement Support Payment. This is because of a successful legal challenge to the current position that someone has to be married or in a civil partnership to qualify. The change in the law will need to be approved by Parliament. It may be beneficial to put in a claim now, even though the law hasn’t changed yet. . See this advice on bereavement support for co-habiting parents for further details
 

As a parent with a child under 16, you will qualify for the higher rate of bereavement support payment. This is paid as an initial lump-sum of £3,500 followed by up to 18 monthly payments of £350.  

You can apply for Bereavement Support Payment by calling the Bereavement Service helpline on 0800 731 0469 or you can apply by using a paper form which you can download here. You should try and fill in the form within 3 months of your partner’s death to get the full amount of money. After 3 months, the DWP will count your application as late. You’ll lose one monthly payment for every month your application is late. 

To get the lump sum, your application must reach the DWP within 12 months of your husband, wife or civil partner’s death. 


Note that you can only claim Bereavement Support Payment if your partner died on or after 6 April 2017.  If they died before this, you may be able to claim  Widowed Parent’s Allowance instead. If you were living with your partner but were not married or in a civil partnership see this advice. 


Other benefits 

You may be able to claim other benefits due to the change in your circumstances. 

You can use the Turn2us online benefits calculator to check if you are entitled to any other benefits and tax credits. If you’d like to talk about your particular circumstances with an expert adviser, you can call our free helpline. 

Dealing with their estate 

A person’s “estate” is the legal term for all their money, property, possessions, and debts. What happens to this will need to be arranged. 

If there is a will 

If the person who died left a will, this explains what should happen to their estate. The will should specify who the executors are – the people who should sort out the estate.  

Each executor needs to apply for a grant of representation at the local Probate Registry to give them the legal right to deal with the estate. The right to deal with an estate is known as ‘probate’. You can find a list of Probate Registrars on the Ministry of Justice website. 

If there isn’t a will 

If there is no will, the person is said to have died ‘intestate’ and there are different rules (known as the rules of intestacy). 

In general, the spouse or civil partner automatically inherits all their personal possessions and the first £270,000 of their estate. The spouse or civil partner is also entitled to half of the remaining estate, with the other half of this remainder divided equally between any surviving children. 

However, the rules for this are complicated. If you are dealing with the estate yourself, you should seek legal advice. See our page on getting legal help  for advice on this. 

Further Help

For more information on practical support, you can always contact our advice team on our free helpline or online webchat.

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