Money matters after a death
When a person close to you dies, it can be difficult to deal with the many things that have to be decided and done at a time of such considerable stress. However, there are issues such as possible social welfare entitlements, tax and other money matters that may need to be addressed.
Access to money
If you were married to, in a civil partnership or living with the deceased you may need immediate access to the deceased's money. You may also be the beneficiary of an insurance policy or entitled to a pension. You will find information on accessing money here.
If the deceased was getting a social welfare payment or you were claiming for them as a dependant, or you were getting a Carer's Allowance to look after them, it's important that you notify the Department of Social Protection of the death. There are also payments provided by both the Department of Social Protection and the Health Service Executive (HSE) that are available to help out families during this difficult time.
There are specific rules about taxation in the year of a person's death, for example, a tax refund may be due. There are also extra credits for widowed parents in the years following the death of a spouse/civil partner. If your PPS No. is the same as your spouse's number , but with a W at the end, you may need a new PPS No. to claim new tax credits or refunds. Read here for more information about tax in the year of death and the years following a death.
Bills and loans
You need to make sure that all your essential ongoing bills are changed into your name (if not already so). A phone call is all that is needed for electricity, gas and telephone accounts. If you have a mortgage or other loan that was in joint names, again you will need to inform the lender of the death.
Where personal loans are concerned, you are only liable for those debts that you yourself have signed for. If you are having difficulty making the payments, you should let the company know what has happened and ask for time to work out what you can actually afford given your changed circumstances.
If you are asked to take over the payments on a loan in the sole name of the deceased, you are not legally obliged to do so as this should be paid out of the estate - seek advice from one of the agencies listed below if you are not sure what to do.
Deceased person's estate
When a person dies, his/her property passes to his/her personal representative. The personal representative then has the duty to distribute the deceased's money and property in accordance with the law, the will - if there is one - or the laws of intestacy if there is no will. Find out how to deal with the deceased person's estate here. The rights of the spouse/civil partner and children to inherit the estate are described here.
If your deceased spouse/civil partner made a will you have an automatic right to a share in the estate which is often called "a legal right share". Find out more about marital status and inheritance rights here. If you are separated your inheritance rights may have been renounced or extinguished. Once a decree of divorce/dissolution is granted, inheritance rights are automatically extinguished. Read about the succession rights following a separation or divorce here.
Cohabiting couples in Ireland have no automatic right of inheritance on the death of either partner. Here you can read about the inheritance rights of cohabiting couples.
The deceased may have had an account in a bank or building society which had not been used for some time. A dormant account is defined by the Dormant Accounts Act 2001 as one where no customer-initiated transactions have taken place within a 15 year period. If the financial institution concerned can't contact the account owner in these circumstances, then the money in the account is transferred to the Dormant Accounts Fund. The proceeds of life insurance policies, which are considered dormant, are also transferred to the fund. The funds are used to help alleviate poverty and provide services to people with disabilities. Find out what you should do if you think the deceased had a dormant account here.
Dealing with the deceased's debts
Any debts must be paid out of the estate before anything else. Where there is not enough money in the estate to pay all outstanding bills or debts, those concerning the funeral, administration of the estate and concerning the will take priority, followed by debts that have security (such as housing loans) and lastly unsecured debts (e.g. personal loans) Some debts may be covered by loan protection insurance in the event of death (e.g. credit union loans).
Help with money matters
If you are experiencing financial difficulties following a bereavement, it is important to deal with these at an early stage as ignoring the problem will only lead to matters getting worse.
You can get advice from your local Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) as to how to go about this. Each MABS is a free, confidential, independent service staffed by trained money advisers. Contact details are available in your local telephone directory or on their website (www.mabs.ie).
FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) is an independent, voluntary organisation that operates a network of legal advice clinics throughout the country. These clinics are confidential, free of charge and open to all. Contact your nearest Citizens Information Centre for information on FLAC services in your area. FLAC also runs an information and referral line during office hours for basic legal information.
FLAC has produced a series of basic leaflets on various areas of law which may be useful. These are available from your local Citizens Information Centre and from FLAC or can be downloaded from the FLAC website.
Voluntary financial information services provide free confidential advice to people unable to afford the professional services of accountants through part time clinics around the country. Details of clinics are available through your local Citizens Information Centre (CIC).