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Updated: 5 Jul 2018

New service notifies banks of a loved one's death with a single click

We explain what to do when someone dies

If you've lost a relative or close friend, you may find yourself facing a mountain of paperwork - but a new service aims to cut down on the red tape.

Managing someone's estate after they've died can be a lengthy process. Even the most simple cases often involve multiple banks, loan providers and government institutions.

The recently launched Death Notification Service allows you to alert six financial providers at the click of a button.

Which? explains how it works, as well as other top tips for managing someone's affairs after they've died.

  • Do you need help executing someone's will and managing probate? Which? Probate can give you a helping hand.

What is the Death Notification Service?

If you're named as an executor in someone's will, you'll be responsible for tying up loose ends, identifying all their assets and distributing them according to their wishes.

One of the first steps you need to take is alerting financial institutions that the person has died. But this can be surprisingly complex, even for modest estates. A person with a current account, savings account, credit card and mortgage may have been dealing with four or more different banks.

The Death Notification Service allows you to submit a single online form to notify a number of banks at once.

So far, the following banks and building societies have signed up:

  • Barclays PLC, including Barclaycard and Barclays
  • HSBC UK, including First Direct and M&S Bank
  • RBS group, including NatWest
  • Santander UK, including Cahoot
  • Lloyds Banking Group, including Bank of Scotland, Halifax, Lloyds Bank, Scottish Widows andClerical Medical
  • Nationwide Building Society, including The Mortgage Works, UCB Home Loans Ltd andThe Mutual

Find out more:DIY probate - how to administer an estate

How does the Death Notification Service work?

To use the service, you'll need to provide the person's full name, date of birth, date of death and last address on the free online portal.

You're also able to include account details, although this is not necessary. Indeed, one of the benefits of the service is that banks will try to identify all the accounts of the deceased, not just those that you're aware of.

To verify your identity, banks will ask you to provide some information about yourself, including your full name, address and date of birth. They'll check these records against Experian data to make sure you exist (but this won't register as a credit check).

Banks will also check the General Records Office to confirm the death.

You don't need to be the person dealing with the estate - ie the executor or estate administrator - to use the service. But if you are, you'll be contacted within 10 days by each institution that the deceased had an account with to discuss next steps.

Keep in mind that you'll need to obtain a grant of probate to access someone's accounts. We explain how in our grant of probate guide.

When you need urgent access

In some cases, you may need money from the estate quickly - for example, to pay for funeral expenses or support a dependant.

Given the 10-day turnaround, it's best to speak to the financial institution directly if you require funds in a hurry.

Identifying other accounts

At the moment, the Death Notification Service only covers the banks mentioned above, so you'll still need to check the deceased's records to see whether they banked with any other institutions.

You should also check their paperwork and online records for any loans, investments, shares or other debts.

Where they had other financial products not covered by the notification service, you'll need to contact each provider directly.

We explain the process in our guide to administering an estate.

Tell Us Once service

The Death Notification Service deals with financial institutions, but you'll also need to let government bodies know about the death.

The first thing you should do after someone passes away is register the death.

You then need to inform government organisations, including HMRC and the Department for Work and Pensions.

To do this quickly and easily, you can use the Tell Us Once service, where you submit a single form that will alert all government services to the death.

To cover as many bases as possible, you'd need to use both Tell Us Once and the Death Notification Service.

What else do you need to do?

Usually, people don't have any experience with managing someone's estate until a loved one dies - at which point the process can seem daunting.

If you don't have the capacity to manage it yourself, you can hire a probate solicitor to act on your behalf, or seek help from a legal service.

Which? Probate provides packages offering varying levels of help, depending on what you need.

Alternatively, you can choose to do it yourself. Our guide to DIY probate sets out all the steps you need to follow from start to finish.

Dealing with administration can be especially complicated while you're struggling with feelings of grief and loss - the Which? Elderly care guide to coping with bereavement can give you tips for how to adjust.