Money matters after a death

Introduction

When a person close to you dies, it can feel overwhelming. You may find it difficult to focus on practical things like accessing money and applying for financial help.

For many people, the loss of a loved one can lead to a decrease in the amount of money that is available to support you and your family. Help is available. This page has information on some of financial issues you might have to deal with following a bereavement.

If the deceased person was your spouse or partner, you may need to access their money as soon as possible.

Social welfare and tax

If the deceased person 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, you should notify the Department of Social Protection (DSP) that they have died. You do this by sending a death certificate (if you have one) or a death notice from a newspaper to the section of the DSP that was paying them.

There are also payments provided by the Department of Social Protection that are available to assist families with funeral costs. You may also be entitled to a death related benefit (for example, a Widow’s, Widower’s or Surviving Civil Partner’s Pension).

Tax

There are rules about income tax in the year of a person's death. For example, a tax refund may be due. You may also be able to claim extra tax credits in the years following the death of a spouse or civil partner.

Loans and debts

You may be concerned that your loved one left behind debts that have to be repaid.

Personal loans, credit cards and overdrafts

You are only liable (responsible) for those debts that you yourself have signed for. If you are having difficulty making repayments on a loan in your own name or in joint names, you should let the company know what has happened and ask for time to work out what you can afford, given your changed circumstances.

Repayments on a loan in the sole name of your loved one should be paid out of the estate. If you are asked to take over payments on a loan that is in the sole name of your loved one, you do not have to do this. Get advice if you are not sure what to do. MABS provide free, confidential and independent advice on a range of financial matters. You can contact MABS on 0761 07 2000, 9am to 8pm, Monday to Friday.

Credit cards, bank overdrafts and personal loans are known as ‘unsecured debts’. With unsecured debt, the creditor (the institution that is owed) does not have the right to take a particular item of property if the debtor does not pay. These debts are repaid from the estate. You only have to repay debts yourself if they were taken out in joint names.

If there is not enough money in the estate to repay unsecured debts that were taken out solely by the person who has died, and the debts are not covered by an insurance policy, the creditor cannot ask anyone else to repay the debt.

Mortgages

If you have a mortgage that was taken out with your loved one, you should check if repayments are covered by mortgage protection insurance.

If it is not covered, then you have to continue repaying the mortgage. If you have difficulty in paying, you should talk to your mortgage provider. You can also get advice from MABS.

The deceased person’s estate

When a person dies, their property, known as their estate, passes to their personal representative. The personal representative then has the duty to distribute the deceased person’s money and property in accordance with the will (if there is a will) or the laws of succession if there is no will.

If your deceased spouse or civil partner made a will, you have an automatic right to a share in the estate which is called a ‘legal right share’. If you are separated your inheritance rights may have been renounced or extinguished. If you are divorced from the person who died, or your civil partnership was dissolved, you no longer automatically inherit from the estate.

Cohabiting couples in Ireland have no automatic right of inheritance on the death of either partner, but you can apply to the courts for provision to be made for you from the estate.

Help with money matters

If you are experiencing financial difficulties following a bereavement, you can get advice from your local Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS). 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.

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.

Free Legal Advice Centre

85/86 Upper Dorset Street
Dublin 1
D01 P9Y3
Ireland

Tel: +353 (0)1 906 1010
Page edited: 21 April 2021