A quarter of Britons discover that a family member had outstanding debts, averaging £1,450, following a death. Furthermore, the majority were completely unaware of the financial situation prior to the person’s passing.
A survey conducted on behalf of Ecclesiastical Planning Services – providers of Perfect Choice funeral plans – polled 1,784 British adults, both male and female, who had suffered with a bereavement in the past five years.
National Debtline advises: “When someone dies, debts are recoverable from any assets or money left behind. This is known as the ‘estate’. No one else has to pay for the debts unless they are already liable under the terms of the original agreement. A person can be liable, for example, if the debt is in joint names or if someone has signed as a guarantor.”
Participants in the survey were asked whether they had discovered debts following the passing of a family member, to which a quarter (24 percent) stated that they had. Of these, only one in five (21 percent) of these people were aware of their family member’s debts prior to their death.
The survey then asked the 79 percent who were unaware to indicate how soon after the death they discovered the outstanding sum. The majority (64 percent) stated that they had learnt of the debts within a week of their loved one’s passing. A further ten percent confessed that it had been over a year before they had been aware of debts left to settle.
In order to understand the various debts left behind, the survey then asked all respondents to disclose the types of debt (excluding mortgages). Respondents were able to select all answers they felt were applicable, which yielded the below top five:
1) Credit cards – 61%
2) Bank loans – 54%
3) Store cards – 32%
4) Overdrafts – 25%
5) Payday loans – 18%
The results indicated that the average amount of debt was £1,450.
Asked to reveal the relation to the deceased, those who dealt with the debt were most likely to be partners of the deceased (39 percent), followed by siblings (21 percent) and children (15 percent).
Marketing manager at Ecclesiastical Planning Services, Emma Simpson, made the following commented: “Whether expected or not, the death of a family member is usually an incredibly difficult time, so revealing any debts that might exist can be a difficult subject to handle on top of all the other emotions that the relatives are going through.
“Obviously, we strongly believe in planning for the future and including the subject of debt within that is important, to spare relatives more pain than they already have to go through.”
Ecclesiastical Planning Services administers funeral plans for a large network of independent funeral directors across the UK and is a strong advocate of the benefits to family members and friends of taking the time to pre-arrange a funeral so those left behind will not have the financial pressures of a funeral service, when the time comes.