Settling utility bills after the death of a loved one
04 December 2020
By Head of Probate Gavin Holt
When a loved one passes away, there is an awful lot that needs to be done. Amongst other things, you need to inform friends and family, register the death, arrange the funeral, and then turn your attention to probate if it's needed.
In amongst all of that, it’s very easy to forget about comparably minor matters, such as dealing with the deceased’s gas, electricity and water bills. These are commonly known as utilities.
If you lived with the person who died and you are going to continue living in the property, there probably won’t be a great deal for you to do. If the bills are in the deceased person’s name, you will need to contact the companies involved and ask them to transfer the bills into your name, but that’s about it.
But if your loved one passed away leaving a house or flat that is now unoccupied, you may have to do a little more.
Credit and debit on utility accounts
It’s important to note that if utility accounts are in credit at the date of death, they are considered to be assets of the deceased’s estate. Similarly, utility accounts that are in debit are liabilities (or debts) of the deceased’s estate. Assets and liabilities need to be reported for probate and inheritance tax (IHT) so it’s important to ensure that credit and debit balances are not overlooked.
First of all, you will need to locate the meters and take readings. This should be done as soon as possible after the date of death. You will then need to contact the utility companies to give them the readings and to inform them that your loved one has passed away. The companies will send you final bills up to the meter readings you have given, and the balances can be paid to or from the Estate.
It is the balances on these bills that will need to be reported for probate and inheritance tax. The companies will then open new accounts in the name of the person who's responsible for dealing with the estate, which may be you. You will need to look after the bills on the new accounts right up until the house or flat is sold or transferred. At this point you will need to take further meter readings and contact the companies again to ask them to close the accounts and send you final bills.
Dealing with utilities during probate
As well as the utilities, there are a great deal of other bills to consider, such as council tax, TV licencing and telephone and internet providers. Despite these being day to day things that everybody deals with, they can be surprisingly overwhelming when you have just lost a loved one.
Settling utility and other bills is just a very small part of dealing with the estate of a loved one, but it is nevertheless important that they are dealt with correctly.
At Co-op Legal Services we can take away all the pressure and stress of administering an estate, and we are more than happy to deal with utility and other bills for you. We charge a fixed fee for our probate complete service which deals with matters from speaking to utility companies to dealing with inheritance tax, administering the estate accounts and distributing the estate assets to the beneficiaries.
Best of all, we will agree our fixed probate fee with you upfront, so you won’t need to worry about paying any hourly solicitor fees.