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What to do about tax and benefits after a death

After a death, there's a lot to manage at a distressing time. However, it's important to deal with tax and benefit affairs as soon as you can so that you receive any money you're entitled to and pay any taxes on time. Sometimes timescales are short.

On this page:

Bereavement guide - online questionnaire

This short, simple online questionnaire will give you a tailored guide to the steps you need to take when dealing with the tax and benefit affairs of someone who has died. The guide will be of most use if the financial affairs of the deceased, their spouse or civil partner are straightforward but it will give a helpful starting point to anyone who is beginning to deal with a bereavement.

Bereavement guide

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Telling government departments

Tell Us Once

A new service has been introduced in England, Scotland and Wales called 'Tell Us Once'. This service isn't available in Northern Ireland. If your local authority offers this service they'll tell you about it when you go to register the death. Using this service means the information you give is shared with other departments and services that need to be told. Use the link below to find out more about the service and whether it's offered in your area.

Organisations you need to contact and Tell Us Once on the GOV.UK website (Opens new window)

Contacting HM Revenue & Customs

If you haven't used the Tell Us Once service, any close relative of the deceased can tell HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) about the death. This should be done as soon as possible so that HMRC don't send mail that might cause distress.

HMRC will need the deceased's full name and address, and National Insurance number, if possible. You'll also need to give the name and address of the person who's dealing with the estate - the 'personal representative'.

Contact details for HMRC

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Changes to payments or benefits

National Insurance contributions

The deceased may have been paying:

  • voluntary contributions to make up a gap in their National Insurance record
  • National Insurance contributions by Direct Debit if they were self employed

Once HMRC have been told about the death they will make arrangements to stop collecting National Insurance contributions. You may also want to contact the deceased's bank or building society yourself though to stop any payments being made.

If you're the spouse or civil partner of the deceased person you may need to report your change of circumstances to HMRC if you have a National Insurance 'reduced rate election'. Find out more in the link below.

National Insurance - changes you need to report

Tax credits

If you're claiming tax credits - or your spouse or partner was - and your child, spouse, or partner dies, your payments may change. You'll need to tell the Tax Credit Office within 1 month of the death. If you don't, you might get too much money and have to pay it back or not get all the money you're owed.

How and when to tell the Tax Credit Office about changes

Child Benefit

If your child has died, Child Benefit payments will carry on for a short while after the death, and could help with extra costs at this difficult time.

If your child died before you'd claimed Child Benefit for them, you can still do so. Child Benefit may be paid for up to 8 weeks. But you'll need to make your claim within 3 months of the date your child died to get payment for the full 8 weeks.

Read more about Child Benefit when a child dies

Read more about Child Benefit if 1 or both parents die

Child Trust Fund payments

When a child dies, any money in their Child Trust Fund account - including any payments they have received from the government - usually passes to whoever inherits the child's estate.

Other benefit payments

Not all benefits are dealt with by HMRC. You can find out who to contact by looking at paperwork belonging to the deceased.

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The 'personal representative'

When someone dies, the 'personal representative' is responsible for settling the deceased's financial affairs and for dealing with their estate.

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland this person is called the:

  • 'executor' - if the deceased left a will
  • 'administrator' - if there's no valid will

In Scotland the term executor is used whether or not there's a will. The term personal representative covers both roles as the responsibilities are the same.

Appointing someone else to act on behalf of a personal representative

If you're the personal representative and you want HMRC to deal directly with someone else such as a professional adviser, a friend or family member, you'll need to let HMRC know. Sometimes you can do this by signing a declaration on 1 of the forms that you've been asked to fill in such as form R27 or form IHT400. Other ways to tell HMRC can be found by following the link below.

How to deal with HM Revenue & Customs for someone else

More about the responsibilities of personal representatives

Wills, probate and inheritance on the GOV.UK website (Opens new window)

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Probate and Inheritance Tax

Probate (confirmation in Scotland) is the system that gives a personal representative the legal right to administer and distribute the estate according to the deceased's wishes. Probate may not be needed if the estate is a low-value estate or passes to the surviving spouse or civil partner.

Inheritance Tax forms are part of the probate process, even if the estate doesn't owe Inheritance Tax. Inheritance Tax is usually only due if the estate - including any assets held in trust and gifts made within seven years of death - is valued over the Inheritance Tax threshold of £325,000 in 2014 to 15.

More about Inheritance Tax and the probate process

More about Inheritance Tax

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Tax up to the date of death

The personal representative will need to settle the deceased's tax affairs up to the date of death. The deceased might have paid too much Income Tax in the tax year in which they died. If so, and you're the personal representative, you'll be able to claim a tax refund on their behalf. You'll also be able to claim a refund if they paid too much tax in any of the previous four tax years.

HMRC may send you form R27 to complete for the period up to the date of death when they know about the death. If any tax is due you may be able to make an informal payment without having to fill out a Self Assessment Tax Return.

Read about form R27 and Income Tax if someone has died

Find out more about tax when someone dies if you are the personal representative

If the deceased completed tax returns

If you're the personal representative, you'll need to complete a Self Assessment Tax Return if the deceased completed tax returns in previous years. The return will cover the period from 6 April to the date the person died.

You'll need to complete this tax return for the period from the previous 6 April to the date of death.

How to deal with a tax return for someone who has died

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Tax due on money received after a death

The period that runs from the day after the date of death, until the personal representative finally settles all of the financial affairs is known as the 'administration period'. During this time the deceased's estate may still be receiving income - for example from interest from savings or rental income from property. Most of this income will have been taxed already such as interest on bank and building society accounts and dividends on company shares. But Income Tax will be due on any untaxed income such as rental income.

There may also be Capital Gains Tax to pay if the assets increase in value after the death, and are sold or disposed of by the personal representative during the administration period.

If you're the personal representative you may be able to make an informal payment of these taxes. You'll need to get in touch with HMRC and they'll tell you how to pay any tax due. However If the estate's tax liability is not straightforward or is likely to be more than £10,000 you'll need to complete a Trust and Estate Tax Return.

Tax records needed when someone dies

Completing the Trust and Estate Return

Find out more about Capital Gains Tax when someone dies

Contact details for Income Tax and Self Assessment bereavement enquiries

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Pension scheme lump sum payments following a member's death

Lump sums are usually paid if a pension scheme member dies while they're still working. The personal representative should contact HMRC if the member's pension scheme savings are more than the lifetime allowance (£1.25 million in the 2014 to 15 tax year).

Lifetime allowance following a member's death

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Tax implications for the surviving spouse or civil partner

If you're the surviving spouse or civil partner of someone that's died, you may get extra money from income such as pensions, annuities or other benefits. This extra money may affect how much tax you need to pay. HMRC may issue the P161(W) Bereavement Benefit Coding Form to you to find out this information so that they can make sure as soon as possible that you don't overpay or underpay tax. You can follow the link below to find a copy of this form to fill in and send.

Find Form P161(W) Bereavement Benefit Coding Form

Changes to your income - how and when to report them to HMRC

Bereavement benefits

You may be able to claim certain benefits and one-off payments if you lived with or were dependent on the deceased. There are time limits, so you need to apply as soon as possible. Some bereavement benefits are taxable. If you receive a taxable bereavement benefit, you'll need to let HMRC know.

Death and benefits on the GOV.UK website (Opens new window)

See when bereavement benefits are taxable in the guide to taxable and non-taxable income

Married Couple's Allowance

If you or your spouse or civil partner were born before 6 April 1935 you may have been claiming the Married Couple's Allowance. If one of you dies, you'll still get the Married Couple's Allowance you're due for that tax year but not the year after.

More about Married Couple's Allowance

Blind Person's Allowance

If your spouse or civil partner was claiming Blind Person's Allowance and they didn't have enough income in the year they died to use up all the allowance, you can ask HMRC to transfer what's left to you for that tax year.

More about Blind Person's Allowance

Request for interest on savings to be paid without tax taken off

Some people who have a low income have registered to have their interest on savings paid tax-free. If your income goes up your tax-free allowances may no longer allow you to do this. If this happens it's important you tell your bank or building society straight away so they can start taking tax off your interest. Otherwise you may have a tax bill at the end of the year.

Tax on bank and building society accounts

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Guardian's Allowance

If you've been made the guardian of a child whose parents have died, you might qualify for Guardian's Allowance.

Find out if you qualify for Guardian's Allowance

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Inheriting money, assets or property

If someone has died and left you money, assets or property, you might, in certain situations have to pay tax.

Find out about tax when you receive an inheritance

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If you're the trustee of a trust established by the deceased

The deceased's will or the rules of inheritance that apply when there is no valid will, may have provided for some or all of their assets to go into a trust when they died. Or part of their estate may already be held in a trust that they set up during their life. The responsibilities of a trustee are different to those of a personal representative, although sometimes the same person will take on both roles.

More about trusts and how they work

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Further help and advice

Useful contacts

The Child Benefit Office

The Tax Credits Helpline

The Child Trust Fund Helpline

The Probate and Inheritance Tax Helpline

The Deceased Estates Helpline for specialist advice about Income Tax and Capital Gains Tax on the estates of deceased persons

Find bereavement services from your council (Opens new window)

More help

Death and bereavement on the GOV.UK website (Opens new window)

What to do after someone dies on the GOV.UK website (Opens new window)

When someone dies - Money Advice Service website (Opens new window)

What to do when an employee dies (Opens new window)

Find out what to do about VAT when someone dies

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