Dealing with utility accounts after a death

Dealing with utility bills after a death

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, we may receive a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.

If you have recently lost a loved one, you may have been dealing with immediate funeral and legal arrangements. You will have been providing comfort and support to your family and friends, as well as trying to care for yourself. In the weeks that follow, the harsh reality of unravelling someone’s practical life can hit home hard.  As household bills continue to arrive in the mail, those statements can be a further unwanted reminder of your loss.  

This article looks at some of the more practical issues that need to be dealt with when someone dies. Here we will look at some hints and tips as to how to deal with utility accounts after a death.

Contacting suppliers

This may not seem like the most urgent task. However it is helpful if you can notify the various suppliers of the death as soon as possible. 

The companies will not know of your loss. So by letting them know, they can adjust their communication methods to you in a more sympathetic way.

What do I need to do with their utility accounts?

Every situation will be different and unique to your own circumstances. This article will cover the three most common routes for the future of a utility account after a death. Ask yourself this general question about the future needs of those services:

  • Will there be people continuing to live in the house?
  • Was the property rented? If so, does it need to be returned back to the landlord by a specific date?
  •  Will the property be vacant and need to be sold?

Your answer here will determine what general route you need to take.

In any of these cases, remember that a Bank will stop all direct debits and standing orders being drawn from the deceased’s account once, they are notified of the death. Any regular payments that are due to be drawn will automatically stop.

This is why although it may not seem like the most pressing task, it is important to let the various suppliers know what has happened. This is to ensure they do not cut off services to the property because of failed payments from a closed or suspended account. They will not be aware of the death unless they are informed.

What information will I need to help me discuss these accounts?

Before contacting any utility company, it is helpful to have a plan in place.

Make a list of what services are provided to the property. This may be a property that you are familiar with. If so, you may need to do a bit of exploring through paperwork or around the house itself. You may think this is obvious – everyone has gas, electric and water right? Not necessarily.

In rural areas, there may not be a mains gas supply and the house may have an oil tank instead. Some properties have electric heating only. Some properties may not be connected to mains sewerage or water supply and have a septic tank.  Does the property have solar power and provide a power supply back to the grid?

Now try to locate the latest bill for each of these service providers. Nowadays many people opt for paper free billing to reduce paperwork in the home. A recent bank statement may be helpful here to show regular payments that draw to various services. If you can locate the relevant utility account paperwork, this should give you the suppliers name and account numbers.

If you still cannot locate the gas or electricity supplier information, you can find out the supplier via the meter number. For further details click here to link to the Ofgem site.

Check out our other Blog Posts for information relating to the similar processes for Dealing with Insurance accounts and other regular household bills.

Gather up to date meter readings for the gas and electric meters. Make a note of these readings and include the date they were taken.

How should I deal with contacting the different providers?

The process will be fairly similar for each company. However before you begin, remember this can be a difficult process as you will have to explain yourself and the situation multiple times. See if a family member could make the calls on your behalf to support you through this.

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 specific circumstances.

A quick internet search for the utility providers name and ‘Bereavement Team’, should locate the direct number you need. Alternatively just call their Customer Services Team and ask to be transferred to their Bereavement Team.

It is fairly standard practice that companies will ask for a copy of the Death Certificate.

If possible, see if you can scan a copy so this can be sent to them electronically. This will save you time and cost. 

If you are dealing with a Grant of Probate or a Power of Attorney, again having electronic copies to email across can speed up the process for both sides.

Council Tax

Most UK Local Authorities have a system called the Tell Us Once service. When registering a death, the Registrar will provide you with details as to how to use this service – if it is available in your area.

This service notifies your Local Authority and various Government agencies such as DWP for benefits and the local council regarding Council Tax.  If your authority is not part of this service, you will need to inform the local Council Tax office directly yourself.

Each local authority will have specific rules around Council Tax rates after a death so the sooner you are able to communicate with them and discuss your circumstances, they can advise you of the information applicable to you. These will vary depending on whether someone is continuing to reside in the property, if the property is being vacated or being sold. As each circumstance is unique, direct contact is the best way to find out what the relevant rules are.

If the deceased claimed any Housing Benefit and /or Council Tax benefit or reduction, discuss this with your local Council Tax and Benefit Teams. This may need to be reviewed based on your change in circumstances.

Gas and Electricity Suppliers

If you are continuing to reside in the property

  • Request the account to be in your name only – either transferring from the deceased’s name to your name – or removing their name if it was set up in joint names
  • Update the contact details on the account including up to date telephone numbers and email addresses
  • Provide meter readings from around the date of death, so that any debts owed by the estate are properly assigned
  • Check the current payment method – amend any direct debit and bank details to ensure payment continues
  • Check the current tariff to ensure you are on the best one available for  your needs

If the property is being vacated imminently

  • Call the suppliers and provide final meter readings including the date the property will be being vacated. Keep a note of these readings and dates for your records
  • Provide up to date Executors contact details – to ensure the final bills reach the person responsible for dealing with the estate. Note this may be a different address to the supply address. This will also save you having to return to that property to collect mail if someone new has since moved in
  • Discuss and close any existing payment methods to ensure that no further attempts are made to take payment from the closed bank account. Agree to maintain in regular contact until the account is fully closed

If the property is being sold and may possibly be empty for some time

  • Contact the suppliers to provide up to date meter readings
  • Provide contact details and an address for the Executor so correspondence can be received
  • Provide a copy of the Death Certificate, Grant of Probate or Power of Attorney as applicable
  • Discuss and close any existing payment methods to ensure that no further attempts are made to take payment from the closed bank account. Agree to maintain in regular contact until the account is fully closed
  • Ask what their process is for providing up to date meter readings and information as to the sale of the property progresses – agree regular check in points so they are informed of the progress
  • Check the existing tariff. If it is on a standard tariff but the supply is still needed, for example the heating may need to be left on low during winter possibly months – it may be worth asking to switch to a better tariff in the interim period
  • When the property is sold, provide final meter readings on completion of the sale so the final bill can be issued to the Estate. Please note – it is not normally the responsibility of the Executor any of the deceased’s relatives to settle these bills out of their own personal finances

Water Suppliers

Follow the same process as above with gas and electricity suppliers. Contact their bereavement team with up to date meter readings, payment and account information as well as the future plans for the account and property.

It is important to consider the practical issues of water supply, if the property will be empty for a length of time. In periods of cold or extreme weather, beware of potential issues with burst pipes. It may be worth consulting with a Plumber to discuss the possibility of draining the system and disconnecting the water supply, if the house may be empty for a long time.

Consider any existing insurance policies as to whether water issues are covered such as water leaks, escapes and burst pipes.

Create your own household information file 

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 resolve your affairs if you were gone? Think of your other family members that you may have to do this for one day? Do you know where all of their information is to help ease this process?

Create your Sunset Plan today. Store all of your practical household information in one place to help others deal with daily life in an emergency or after a bereavement.

Why not share this post on social media? Encourage your friends and family members to create their own practical emergency household file. 

Share this post