Making death notification easier

Losing a parent or elder relative is difficult enough without having to deal with a mountain of bureaucracy immediately afterward while you’re still grieving.

But the reality is, there’s a whole administrative maze waiting for families in the aftermath of a death that can leave even the most organised person feeling stressed and overwhelmed – one of these being death notification.

Fortunately, the digital era simplifies some of these tasks through services like Tell Us Once and Life Ledger, which are designed to streamline the death notification process and alleviate some of the burden.

Read on to learn more about death admin and how to make it a little easier and less stressful.

What is the notification of death process and what is involved?

The notification of death process involves informing various government organisations, financial institutions, utility providers, and others about a person’s passing.

The process should be initiated as soon as possible, ideally within the first few days following the death. Failing to notify organisations and institutions about someone’s death can lead to a series of complications and challenges, which can add to the stress and emotional burden of losing someone. It’s usually best to just get it out of the way early.

Death notification can be complex and time-consuming, and can take months to complete. It is especially stressful and time-consuming when companies make mistakes and mishandle the settling and shutting down of accounts. Some companies and institutions have a bereavement team to help alleviate stress and anxiety through the process but this isn’t always the case, and there are no specific bereavement rules governing how companies behave.

Who can take on the task of death notification?

The initial step of death notification can be taken by anyone in the family.

Following this, banks and building societies will usually need to speak to the executor named in the will. If your parent or loved one died without leaving a will, they will liaise with the next-of-kin or an administrator appointed by law.

Who do you need to notify after a death in the UK?

It depends on the individual, but here’s a list of organisations and businesses you’ll typically need to inform when someone dies:

  • Financial institutions: Banks, building societies, credit card companies, and loan providers need to be informed to temporarily freeze, and then eventually close or transfer accounts and address any outstanding debts.
  • Government departments: This includes HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), the Passport Office, and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), among others. Use the Tell Us Once service, which reports a death to most government organisations in one go – more on this shortly.
  • Insurance companies: Notify life, health, home, and car insurance providers to terminate policies or process claims. This also applies to any other insurance policies the deceased may have had.
  • Utility and service providers: Inform electricity, gas, water, broadband, and telephone providers to close or transfer accounts. Also, cancel any ongoing service contracts, such as those for gardening or cleaning.
  • Employers and pensions providers: If employed, the deceased’s employer needs to be notified of any final salary payments or death in service benefits. Additionally, pension providers should be informed, especially if the pension is to be transferred to a surviving spouse or partner.
  • Subscription services and memberships: Cancel memberships to clubs, associations, and subscription services, including magazines and online streaming services. Most of these are cancelled upon closing someone’s bank account.

What information do you need to gather for notification of death?

To streamline the notification process, ensure you have the following information about your parent or elder loved one:

  • Full name and any aliases: The complete legal name and any other names used by the deceased.
  • National Insurance Number: Essential for identifying the deceased within government systems.
  • Date and place of birth and death: These are required for most official notifications to verify the deceased’s identity.
  • Addresses and contact details: The most recent address, especially if linked to any services or accounts.
  • List of providers and organisations to notify: Draw up a spreadsheet of all the specific organisations, services and companies you need to notify so you can easily keep a track of who needs to be notified and what the current notification status is. This also helps you divide actions and share the status more easily with other family members.
  • Account numbers: Details of account numbers with banks, utilities, and other service providers.
  • Insurance policy numbers: Needed for contacting insurance companies regarding any existing policies.
  • Death certificate copies: Multiple copies of the death certificate will be required by various organisations to process the notifications.
  • Legal documents: Include the will, any trust agreements, and other relevant legal documents.

How can Tell Us Once, Life Ledger and other services help?

Tell Us Once is a government service that allows you to report a death to government organisations in one go. After registering the death, the registrar will give you a Tell Us Once reference number, which allows you to use the service to notify departments like HM Revenue and Customs, Department for Work and Pensions, Passport Office, and your loved one’s local council. This service is not available in Northern Ireland, but is available in the rest of the UK.

There are also several free platforms that provide a one-stop notification service for notifying multiple private sector companies about a person’s death. However, not all companies and services are signed up with all of these platforms, so you will likely have to use more than one, and contact some companies and services on your list directly.

  • The Death Notification Service was launched in 2018 by the financial sector to allow banks and financial organisations (including insurance providers) to be notified about a death via a single, secure online form. Banks and financial organisations that are signed up can be found here. The individual firms will then respond to you with details of next steps.
  • Life Ledger was launched in 2020 by Ruth Blakemore and Tremayne Carew Pole, after it took Ruth nearly a year to close the accounts of her late mother.  Life Ledger has over 1,000 companies across the UK connected to its platform. The process is simple – you fill in an online form with your details and the details of the deceased, select the companies you need to notify, and Life Ledger takes care of the rest. Companies signed up to Life Ledger include energy and water companies, streaming services and telephone companies.
  • Settld is an award-winning service launched in 2021 by CEO Vicky Wilson, who founded Settld following the death of her grandmother. Settld can notify more than 1,200 service providers about a death when you sign up with them, including social media companies, subscriptions services, energy firms and mobile providers. The basic service is free, and includes helping users close, transfer or amend accounts and obtain date of death balances for probate. They also offer other services to help ease the burden of death admin through partners.  

Why is prompt notification of death important?

The consequences of not providing timely notifications can vary depending on the nature of the accounts or services involved, but they typically include the following:

  1. Financial risks: If financial institutions are not informed about a death, accounts may remain active, making them vulnerable to fraud and identity theft.
  2. Accumulation of debts: Utility services, subscriptions, and other regular expenses will continue to accrue charges if they’re not cancelled or transferred in some way.
  3. Legal complications: Certain legal obligations, such as tax filings and debt settlements, require prompt attention following a death. Delays in notifying the relevant authorities can result in penalties, interest on unpaid debts, or more severe legal repercussions.
  4. Extended probate process: Probate, which involves distributing the deceased’s assets to their heirs, can be prolonged if accounts and assets are not properly managed. This delay can hinder the distribution of inheritances and the closure needed by the family.
  5. Delays in receiving support: In some cases, survivors may be eligible for benefits, such as life insurance payouts or government assistance. Failing to notify the relevant organisations promptly can result in delays in receiving this kind of support.

In summary

It’s a sad fact that the death of an elder parent or relative comes with such a huge administrative burden.

No one wants to handle paperwork when their loved one dies – but it has to be done and the sooner the better.

On the upside, death notification has become a little bit easier in recent years thanks to services like Tell Us Once, Life Ledger, and The Death Notification Service which simplify the process, helping you save time and reducing the stress.

Common questions

What does Life Ledger do?

Life Ledger provides a platform that enables individuals to notify multiple companies about a loved one’s death in one go. This service aims to simplify the process of informing banks, utility companies, subscription services, and others, reducing the administrative burden on the bereaved during a difficult time.

Is the Death Notification Service safe?

Yes, the Death Notification Service employs strict security measures to protect personal data and ensure the privacy of its users. It uses encryption and follows industry-standard data protection practices to safely convey death notifications to participating banks and financial institutions.

How quickly should I use services like Life Ledger or Tell Us Once after a death?

Using these services is advisable as soon as the death is registered and you’ve obtained the necessary documents, like the death certificate. In fact, you can already sign up and start the process on Life Ledger before you even have the death certificate, so you’re ready to press send when it arrives.

Prompt notification can help prevent identity theft and unauthorised transactions and start the process of closing accounts and settling the deceased’s affairs.

Can these services notify all organisations I need to contact?

While the Government’s Tell Us Once service and platforms like Life Ledger cover a broad range of institutions and organisations, they won’t include every company or entity you need to notify. It’s important to review the list of partners on each service’s website and prepare to contact any additional organisations directly if needed.

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