Bereavement due to traumatic death

Financial and practical matters

After someone dies many financial and other practical matters have to be sorted out. If the deceased made a will, the executor of the will (also called the personal representative) is responsible for making sure that all debts, taxes and expenses from his or her estate are paid and for sharing out what is left according to the will. The executor's role can be complex and daunting, particularly as executors are often close relatives of the deceased and have their own grief to deal with, though a solicitor may do some of the work. Sometimes, if an estate is large or complicated, it is necessary to employ a solicitor. It is possible to complete probate using the coroner’s ‘interim death certificate.'
 
Insurance claims may be complicated too; especially if a loss adjuster is involved. Karen discovered this after her mother died in a fire. Loss adjusters are independent claims specialists who investigate complex or contentious claims on behalf of an insurance company.
After someone has died, the deceased person’s bank, the tax office, insurance provider, and many other organisations need to be informed. See our dying and bereavement resources for links to information about what to do after someone dies. Informing organisations, such as utility companies, can be exhausting. Josefine sympathised with older people struggling with these practical matters and suggested there should be someone appointed by social services to help them.
People who are bereaved may have financial difficulties. They may feel unable to work for a while yet have to pay funeral costs and other expenses. Thus they may need to claim government benefits or find other means of financial help. Some people had received financial help through their insurance or from the company that had employed the deceased person. Some had received government benefits, or financial help from one of the special funds for bereaved relatives. However, others had financial problems and many found practical matters difficult. Dorothy said that getting the correct benefits from a government department for her daughter-in-law was an ‘absolute nightmare’.
The relatives or dependents of someone who has died as a result of a criminal injury may be able to get compensation under the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme. The bereavement award is a fixed payment of £5,500 (in 2014), but if a claimant is the only person qualified to claim then the payment doubles to £11,000. It may not be easy to obtain this compensation, partly because people only receive compensation if it is clear that the person who died had no criminal record themselves. Some people we talked to found it easy to get compensation but others found it very difficult.
After Martin’s wife was killed by a bus he had to look after their children. He found it impossible to work, struggled to pay the bills and found housekeeping difficult.
After someone dies, bereaved relatives usually sort out the dead person’s belongings and decide what to do with them. This can be distressing. Some people we talked to almost felt guilty about moving their relative’s things. People gave things to relatives, some gave things to charity, some sold certain objects, and some decided not to touch them.
If a traumatic death occurs abroad, other practical issues arise. Insurance may pay for all the expenses that are incurred, or the dead person’s employer may offer support, but after a terrorist attack people may not be covered by their holiday insurance. Susanna explained that after the Bali bombing the Foreign Office only paid to fly home an ‘intact’ body, not other body parts identified later. She also said that because people had died abroad, relatives were not eligible for Criminal Injuries Compensation. 
If a person’s family member or friend has died abroad the Foreign and Commonwealth Office may help people cope with the practicalities of a death overseas. See our dying and bereavement resources for links to further information about what to do if someone dies abroad.

Relatives can contact the Bereavement Register, a free service which will arrange for the dead person’s name to be taken off mailing lists and databases in the UK. 

Last reviewed October 2015.

Last updated October 2015.

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