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Recovery of funeral costs from a person's estates

About recovery from estates

Recovery from estates is how we recover Funeral Support Payments if the person who died was aged 18 or over and had money or assets in their estate.

The debt team deals with all recovery from estate cases. But first, we need to get some information from the client.

When we would try to recover Funeral Support Payments

Funeral costs have a special legal status as a ‘priority debt’. This means money from the estate of the person who died may be used to pay for funeral costs before other debts are settled or inheritance is paid to anyone.

Funeral Support Payments are treated as a funeral cost. If the person who died had money or assets in their estate, they may need to be used to repay any Funeral Support Payment.

How much we should recover

The debt team will consider if the available estate allows for:

  • a full repayment
  • a partial repayment
  • no repayment

The debt team considers this on a case-by-case basis.

Any money already considered in the application process for Funeral Support Payment would not be taken into account for recovery purposes.

For example, if the person who died had £200 in their bank account (that was available to be used for funeral costs and accessible) when the application was made and this had been deducted from their Funeral Support Payment, it would not count for recovery purposes.

Questions to ask the client

The client should not attempt to repay using their own money. This is because they may not have known about the value of the estate when they claimed Funeral Support Payment.

We need to know who is managing the estate of the person who died. This person is known as the executor or administrator.

To help the client identify who is managing the estate, you could ask them if someone has applied to the courts for permission to:

  • collect any assets
  • pay any debts
  • sort out any remaining assets belonging to the person who died

Once you know who is managing the estate of the person who died, ask for their:

  • first name(s)
  • last name
  • address
  • postcode
  • phone number

We also need to know about any assets that the person who died had. This includes money, savings and property.

If the client has not already provided this information, ask them to supply any relevant information about the deceased's:

  • bank, building society, Post Office and National Savings accounts
  • National Savings Certificates (NSCs)
  • National Savings Premium Bonds
  • Unit trusts, stocks and shares (including government stock)
  • Personal Equity Plans (PEP), Tax Exempt Special Savings Accounts (TESSA) and Individual Savings Accounts (ISA)
  • property or land in the UK or abroad, including home addresses
  • prepaid funeral plans
  • insurance policies – including endowment policies and who they’re payable to
  • cash other than at the bank

When money does not form part of the estate

In some situations, life insurance money might not form part of the estate. If it’s ‘written in trust’, then it’s not counted as part of the estate and would not go towards the funeral expenses.

This may also apply to death-in-service benefits or pension lump sum benefits, which are often paid to one or more nominated people.

It is the role of the executor to confirm whether such policies form part of the estate. You must clarify this with the executor.

Moveable estate

You should also ask the client about the deceased’s “Movable estate”. It includes all property that can move, unlike buildings and land, owned at the time of death.

Please note that funeral expenses should always be paid from the deceased’s moveable estate first.

Examples of movable estate include, but are not limited to:

  • money in the deceased’s bank account
  • cash in the deceased’s house or purse
  • money held in a savings account under the deceased’s name
  • furniture and personal effects
  • stocks and shares held in the deceased’s name
  • motor vehicles – cars, motorbikes, caravans etc.
  • computers
  • equipment
  • clothing
  • jewellery
  • works of art
  • state benefits
  • insurance policies held in the deceased’s name
  • digital media
  • lifetime tax refund
  • debts due to be paid to the deceased
  • the deceased’s interest in an executory or trust
  • other

Next steps

If the person who died had any cash or assets, you’ll have to refer the case to the debt team.

If the client needs more information

If the client needs more information or wants to talk about the details of the estate of the person who died, they can either:

  • be transferred to the debt team to talk through their circumstances and arrange a repayment plan
  • contact the debt team at:
    Social Security Scotland
    PO Box 10306
    DD1 9GB

If the client does not pay back the money

If the client does not contact us within 90 days of the date on the first letter, civil action may be taken against them in the Sheriff court. The client may end up with extra costs and penalties.

For more information on civil action, visit the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service website.

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