Paying Utilities on a Deceased’s Empty House
15 May 2019
When someone dies who had been living alone, there is likely to be a period of time where their home remains unoccupied. You may be wondering what happens to utilities, insurance and other services during this time, and who is responsible for covering these household costs. To make things simpler for you, we've put together some brief guidance.
Notifying Utilities Companies
After someone dies, there are a lot of people to tell and there is a lot to take care of. Calling up the gas or water company is not likely to be high on your agenda, but it is important to notify utility companies of the death as soon as you can.
Anyone can make this phone call, it doesn't necessarily have to be the deceased's next of kin or their Personal Representative. So if you're in this position and you're finding yourself overwhelmed by how much there is to do, this is a job that can be handed over to a friend or relative.
If you instruct Co-op to deal with a deceased's Estate then our team can take care of notifying utility companies on your behalf. In addition, we can also assist with closing down social media accounts and supressing junk mail to the deceased's address, taking some of the weight off your shoulders.
When they are informed of a death, most utility companies will have set processes that they follow. They will be able to delay payment requests and freeze accounts if necessary. Banks will freeze the deceased's direct debits once they are notified of the death, meaning monthly bill payments will automatically cease. If the utility companies are aware of the situation, then they will be able to ensure that supplies don't get cut off to the property as a result of these missed payments.
Paying the Utility Bills
If a property is left empty following the owner's death, it's a good idea to turn the heating on periodically so that the property remains warm and dry, otherwise it could become damp. It's also likely that electricity and water will be used while the house is cleared and prepared to either be sold or transferred to a beneficiary. For this reason, final utility bills cannot be settled until this process is complete.
Responsibility for paying bills on the deceased's property usually lies with their Estate. It is not normally the responsibility of the Executor or any of the deceased's relatives to settle these bills out of their personal finances.
If the property is being sold, then the utility company will issue a final bill based on the final meter reading on completion of the sale. The bill will then be settled from the Estate before the Final Accounts are prepared and the remaining Estate can then be distributed to those entitled to inherit it.
Paying Insurance Bills
An important point to consider is that many home insurance policies become void after the property is left unoccupied for a certain period of time. For this reason, it's also very important to get in contact with the insurer in question, to notify them of the death and find out what needs to be done to ensure the property remains insured.
As with utility bills, home insurance bills will also usually be settled from the Estate. The Executor of the Estate is responsible for ensuring that all outstanding bills and other debts are settled before the remaining Estate is distributed to the Beneficiaries. It's important that the Executor is clear on this and their other duties, as they can be held personally liable for any mistakes made. For more information, see Executor Duties Explained.
If you're facing this situation and you're unsure of where to start, our Probate Advisors can talk you through the first steps.