Debt

The main feeling that will pervade your confused mental state at this time is one of panic.

Panic about money.

You will be wondering how you pay for everything; the mortgage, household bills and loans. You will be wondering how you are going to earn enough to live on now that your husband is gone. If you were not employed at the time of his death, then you are going to have to think about getting a job, and if you have children then you are going to need someone to take care of them whilst you are at work. All these things need addressing; figures and bills will swim before your eyes but you will be too out of it to make any sense of them.

What you need more than anything at this time is sensible financial advice and there are many ways of getting it before you have to resort to paying for the services of a financial advisor. If you are lucky your parents will be desperate to help you in any way they can – so let them. If they offer to give you a loan to help to tide you over then take it, even if that means that you have to endure your mother’s cooking every Sunday, or listen to your father telling you what a wastrel your husband was. And if all they offer is advice, then you should listen to them – unless they are both compulsive gamblers, in which case I think it might be best to ignore them.

Your husband’s employers may well offer assistance and, once again, you should take it. Alternately there may well be a friend who has knowledge of financial planning, and if they are trustworthy you should make every effort to seek their advice. But if there is nobody that you feel you can turn to at this time, you will have to seek the help of strangers, and you should think very carefully before you put your affairs in the hands of somebody who may not have your best interests at heart.

This is the time when you are at your most vulnerable. You will feel like kissing the feet of anyone who offers to give you anything, and if they are twisted enough to have an ulterior motive then you will not see it coming. You wouldn’t see it coming even if it telephoned you beforehand to tell you it was on the way, and then arrived wearing a t-shirt saying, ‘I’m an ulterior motive and I’m going to take advantage of you.’

So I would strongly urge you to seek help at the Citizen’s Advice Bureau. http://www.nacab.org.uk/ They employ experts in a variety of different fields and you will be amazed at what they will be able to help you with.
You will soon discover that almost every financial aspect of your husband’s life that you try to bring to a close will require a death certificate. The bank will need one, your husband’s credit card providers will demand one in order to close his account, and his pension provider will require one. I would strongly recommend you get at least three copies, so that you can send out more than one at a time, because photocopies will not be accepted. You will get the death certificate back eventually – but always make a copy of any correspondence concerning your husbands affairs, because with the amount of mail coming and going it is easy to lose important documents – and in your position you can’t afford to do that. What you need right away is a cash lump sum to tide you over and you will get one courtesy of the government just as soon as you have informed them of your entitlement. You can make a claim at your local Social Security office and this should be done as soon as possible. The lump sum presently stands at £2000, and shortly after you have received that you will be assessed for your regular Bereavement Allowance. If you are in receipt of a means-tested benefit you may also be entitled to a funeral expenses payment from the social fund.

The benefits system can be very complicated and it is vital that you find out exactly what you are entitled to. Hertfordshire County Council Money Advice Unit have produced a very useful and easy to understand fact sheet on Bereavement Benefits, which can be found at http://www.hertsdirect.org/benefits/bacpdf/?view=Benefits

You can also contact Jobcentre Plus, the Department for Work and Pensions, or your local Social Security office for more information.

When you collected the death certificate, the registrar should have given you a leaflet – IR23 Income Tax And Widows and if not you can pick one up from your local tax office. The leaflet will explain about your taxable status as a widow, but once again if you are at all unsure about anything regarding benefits payments or tax, you should contact the Inland Revenue at: http://www.inlandrevenue.gov.uk/ or call in at your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau.http://www.nacab.org/
It is most important to find out if your husband had life insurance, because that will make a big difference to your financial situation. If he died at work you might also be entitled to a Death In Service Payment – the amount that you are awarded will depend on how much your husband was earning at the time; it will be a percentage of his annual salary, but the exact amount varies from company to company. Once again, the Citizen’s Advice Bureau will help you with any queries on this matter or any other financial advice that you might need.