24% of Brits have inherited a £1,500 debt after bereavement

Debt magnified

Some 24% of people in the UK have been landed with a debt of £1,450 within a week of the death of a loved one.

Four out of five of those who faced such a debt were unaware their family member owed any money, according to the research by funeral plan provider Perfectchoicefunerals.com.

While 64% discovered the debt in the first week, a further 10% said it took more than a year for the debt to come to light.

The study, which looked at bereavements over the past five years, found that of the debts inherited (excluding mortgages), 61% were from credit cards and 54% came from bank loans. A further 32% came from store cards, 25% from overdrafts and 18% from payday loans.

On average it took relatives seven months to repay the inherited debt, faced by 38% of partners, 21% of siblings and 15% of the deceased's children.

While personal debt cannot normally be inherited if it was taken out in an individual’s ‘sole name’, there are two exceptions. The Bereavement Advice Centre explains that the first is when the debt was guaranteed by a third party, who then becomes liable after the death of the debtor.
The second is “if the deceased had gifted money not long before the death which could be interpreted as an attempt to avoid payment to creditors from the estate”.
However, debts held jointly – such as a mortgage – will be inherited by the surviving partner, who must continue with the repayments. In the case of a mortgage, where money is owed from the estate, a charge may be placed against a jointly owed property so that when it is sold the creditor will be paid as a priority.

Don't hide debt

Emma Simpson of Perfectchoicefunerals.com said: "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."