Dealing with general household bills after a death

Dealing with general household bills after a death

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Overwhelmed at the thought of dealing with all the practical household bills after a death? We have so many services in our homes to make life run that little bit easier. But when you stop to think how many services need to be contacted after a death, you realise what a huge task this can be.

This post provides tips and suggestions as to how to break down the task of dealing with general household bills and services after a death.

What do you need to do with household bills and services?

Firstly, you should try and gather information of what types of services and bills need to be processed. Consider the following – this list is not exhaustive:

  • Doctors, Dentists and Opticians
  • TV Licence
  • Mobile phones
  • Landline telephone and Broadband services
  • TV services – Sky, Virgin Media, Netflix
  • Internet subscription services such as Amazon and music streaming services
  • Milk and vegetable box deliveries
  • Wine and beer delivery services
  • Food home deliveries such as Meals on Wheels or other subscription services
  • Newspapers and Magazines subscriptions
  • Season tickets for travel or sports
  • Memberships such as the National Trust, Heritage or Wildlife organisations
  • Alarm, CCTV or Home Security systems
  • Charity subscriptions
  • Lottery subscriptions
  • Gym and Sporting Memberships
  • Private Health Care Plans

Decide whether any of these services are still required. If you are continuing to reside in the house, you may want to keep some or all of these services. However you will need to contact the various companies to discuss your change in circumstances, your ongoing service requirements and payment details.

If these accounts are no longer required, you will need to go through the process of contacting each service to discuss closure of the accounts.

With any home security services, if the property will be vacant, you will need to provide new contact details, in case of an emergency at the property.

Some daily services such as newspaper deliveries or milk will need to be cancelled as soon as possible.

Any build up of these items could indicate to others that the property is vacant, causing a further security risk to the property.

What information will you need to help to discuss these services?

  • Try to locate the details of each service, including any account numbers, payment methods and what services are being provided
  • Decide what needs to happen for each account – transfer the service in to another name – or close the account altogether?
  • Create a list of services – and make a plan to call each of them. Spread this over a period of time so you do not feel overwhelmed
  • Have an electronic copy or photocopy of the Death Certificate, Grant of Probate or Power of Attorney if applicable. This is not always required for these type of accounts however if there was a formal contract in place, some companies may insist on this

How should you deal with contacting the different services?

The process will be fairly similar for each company. However before you begin, remember this can be a difficult process as you have to explain yourself and the situation multiple times. See if a family member could help you with the telephone calls. Some of these may be services may accept being notified in writing. Do you have someone who could write and send the letters for you?

Larger companies may have specialist bereavement teams, who are trained to deal with these situations compassionately. They will be able to guide you through their specific rules around closing or transferring accounts – and what this means for your situation.

You may think that some of these don’t need to be notified, especially if the payment was an annual subscription and you simply will not renew. However if you do not notify them, the person will likely still receive future correspondence such as Opticians check up reminders or requests to renew annual memberships, which can cause you further distress months down the line.

Some services may have been provided by arrangement of the local authority or home care service, such as medication deliveries or meals on wheels. It may be worth contacting the Social Worker or Carers to ask if they can cancel those services on your behalf. They may also be able to arrange to collect any unwanted medication and physical aids that could be safely returned back to the GP or local health department.

Payment for services and refunds

Upon notifying a Bank of a death, all regular direct debits and standing orders will be stopped. Service providers will not be aware of the death unless you notify them.  

Notify services that draw regular payments e.g. charity subscriptions or travel passes. These may continue to try and draw payment or send letters chasing for missed payments.

It is worth remembering that some services may become void if payment is not received. Therefore the sooner you contact each provider and discuss the situation; any continuing service arrangements can be discussed. If you need to continue to use the services, discuss any changes you may need to what is being provided and agree payment terms moving forward.

If the services need to be cancelled, discuss any penalties for cancellation. It may be easier to let the service run if it is already paid for but cancel any future renewals and correspondence.

There may be refunds due from any advanced services that may have been paid for, such as travel season tickets. You may need to apply for this. You will also need to provide information as to how the service can return any refunds to the Executor of the estate.

Re-directing Mail and Unsolicited Mail

When you contact each company, you can request that any future correspondence is re-directed to the address of the Executor or a family member. This will ensure you are receiving important mail and avoid a build up of mail at the property. You can arrange for mail to be re-directed to you with Royal Mail. The current costs for this service and how to arrange this are online.

To stop unsolicited mail, contact the Deceased Preference Service. This is a free service and can reduce further distress when post arrives in their name.

Create your practical End of Life Plan

There are lots of practical tasks to deal with when someone dies. This can be very overwhelming whilst trying to grieve and deal with all of the legal, financial and personal issues at the same time.

Think about who would need to unravel these practical issues if you were gone? Think of your family members that you may have to do this for one day? Do you know what services and subscriptions they have – to help you work through all of this? Have positive and important conversations about practical arrangements and make sure you have up to date information available in their home to help in future.

Create your Sunset Plan today and record all of your useful family and household information in one place. Encourage your friends and family members to do the same and be death positive. Create your own practical End of Life Plan, to ease the process for others in the future. 

Why not share this post on social media and encourage your loved ones to plan ahead?

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