Death notification services: How to tell companies and organisations when someone dies

·5-min read
Photo credit: ljubaphoto - Getty Images
Photo credit: ljubaphoto - Getty Images

As anyone dealing with the loss of a loved one will know, it can take a huge amount of time and energy working through all the official death notifications: from utilities, banking, pensions, insurance to TV, broadband, social media… the list goes on. Typically, there could be as many as 20 calls to make when you are closing, transferring or freezing the accounts of someone who has died – and all at a time of huge distress.

A survey conducted by the Bereavement Standard Campaign last year showed that an overwhelming majority of people found the process of dealing with companies after a death “time-consuming, stressful and complicated”. Less than 18% of people described service providers as “helpful” or “efficient” while 24% called the process “traumatic”.

Have your say: the 2021 Bereavement Standard Survey is currently open for feedback so if you want to share your experiences of how companies across the UK have been treating grieving customers during the pandemic, click here.

While there’s the Tell us Once* service that notifies government and public sector services in one go, and the Death Notification Service which will inform a number of banks and building societies, until now there hasn’t been a single port of a call for all the private sector companies, including financial services.

How do I tell companies and service providers my loved one has died?

Settld

When Vicky Wilson and her mother Julie were faced with the onerous process of notifying everyone about the death of a close relative two years ago, they decided to set up a new ‘say it once’ online service called Settld. “Tragically, more families than ever have suffered bereavement over the last year as the pandemic has claimed more than 125,000 lives. That means more people have had to deal with banks, insurance and utility companies, mobile and broadband and other household suppliers, to notify them of a death,” said Vicky.

“Dealing with end-of-life admin can be hugely stressful and can take a great deal of time and energy. While some companies offer better treatment than others, often additional pain is caused by poor staff training, processes and service,” she added.

There are already more than 700 household, digital and financial services companies involved in the service Settled provides. 'We charge professionals to use the service and that means we can keep it completely free for bereaved individuals and families,' says Vicky. 'Our job is to take away as much of the stress and the hassle and pain so you can focus on the things that matter.' Julie adds: 'We reckon we save solicitors 97% of the time they would spend on this task, so this is a saving to the customer."

Tell us once

A registrar will explain the Tell Us Once service when you register the death and either help you fill in the form or give you the unique reference number you will need to do this yourself online or by phone. Services notified include: HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), Passport Office, Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), Local council - to cancel Housing Benefit, Council Tax and remove the person from the electoral register and Veterans UK - to cancel Armed Forces Compensation Scheme payments. Tell Us Once will also contact some public sector pension schemes, including My Civil Service Pension, NHS Pension Scheme and Armed Forces Pension Scheme.

The Death Notification Service

This is free service which allows you to notify a number of banks and building societies of a person's death, all at the same time. The financial institutions covered are listed on the website and include Bank of Scotland, Barclays, First Direct, Halifax, HSBC, Lloyds Bank, M&S Bank, Nationwide Building Society, Natwest, Royal Bank of Scotland, Santander and Scottish Widows. Not every bank and building society is a member.

Why we need a Bereavement Standard

There is also a campaign for a Bereavement Standard. This calls for a set a time limit for account closures, the standardisation of documents required (with digital copies accepted where possible) and would ensure service providers have dedicated bereavement channels, with properly trained staff, available to customers. The campaign was co-founded by Settld with Cruse Bereavement Care, and supported by charities like Sue Ryder, Marie Curie, Hospice UK, At A Loss, WAY Widowed and Young, along with the National Association of Funeral Directors, and wills, probate and funerals experts, Farewill.

The Change.org petition set up by Julie and Vicky has had over 93,000 signatures and an early day motion received cross-party support from 50 MPs. Sign up at change.org.

Where can I get further help?

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*Tell Us Once is not available in Northern Ireland. Find out who to tell about a death in Northern Ireland.

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