Utility bills after death of spouse with mnd

A friend whose spouse recently died from motor neurone disease has been left with a gas/electric bill with a high outstanding amount that was in her late husband's name.

Her husband required a lot of energy usage to maintain his health and live saving equipment. He also needed the heating on almost constantly throughout the colder months. This has left a substantial amount outstanding and his widow is worried about what will happen with the debt. 
She will likely remain in the property and so will continue to need to use gas/electric.

I have no idea what the system requires in this scenario so any advice would be greatly appreciated. 
The had a low income and no money or assets were left when he died and subsequently the estate has nothing within it to pay the bill either fully or partially.
Will/can the energy company make her transfer the balance from her late husband's name/account into hers? 

I've heard that with some debts, if there is nothing left in the estate of the deceased person, the debt would just go unpaid, but because his wife lived in the same house and also used or benefitted from some of the energy used, would they somehow have her pay for a partial amount of the remaining balance or make her pay all of it? 

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  • victor2
    victor2 Posts: 7,495
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    A friend whose spouse recently died from motor neurone disease has been left with a gas/electric bill with a high outstanding amount that was in her late husband's name.

    Her husband required a lot of energy usage to maintain his health and live saving equipment. He also needed the heating on almost constantly throughout the colder months. This has left a substantial amount outstanding and his widow is worried about what will happen with the debt. 
    She will likely remain in the property and so will continue to need to use gas/electric.

    I have no idea what the system requires in this scenario so any advice would be greatly appreciated. 
    The had a low income and no money or assets were left when he died and subsequently the estate has nothing within it to pay the bill either fully or partially.
    Will/can the energy company make her transfer the balance from her late husband's name/account into hers? 

    I've heard that with some debts, if there is nothing left in the estate of the deceased person, the debt would just go unpaid, but because his wife lived in the same house and also used or benefitted from some of the energy used, would they somehow have her pay for a partial amount of the remaining balance or make her pay all of it? 

    Welcome to the forum. Sorry it's not in happier circumstances.

    It is important that your friend informs the utility company that the account holder has passed away and she wants to take it over. Some utility companies have a "bereavement" number or team who can deal with that. When a relative of mine passed away in similar circumstancesa, the utility company closed the account in his name from the date the death was reported and opened a new account in the wife's name, but on their standard tariff, which was more expensive than the fix he was on (this is some years back).
    I am no expert, but I think the outstanding bills in the deceased person's name will go against his estate. She could perhaps try citizens advice for some help with this if she's not already getting help from somewhere.


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  • Reed_Richards
    Reed_Richards Posts: 3,965
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    Assuming your friend was actually cohabiting with her spouse I think it is likely she will be held responsible for outstanding debts on the utility bills.  She may be able to negotiate a payment plan with the utility provider(s).
    Reed
  • Ectophile
    Ectophile Posts: 7,214
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    It may well depends on how she does the transfer.  In the absence of any debts, the utility companies would normally  be helpful and transfer the existing account to the surviving spouse.
    But in this case, she may be better off opening a new account in her own name, as if she's just moved in to the house.  That will generate a final bill on the old account, which will go to the executors of the estate to sort out.  Whether or not the executors can pay depends on whether or not they can find any money.
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  • QrizB
    QrizB Posts: 13,615
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    Assuming your friend was actually cohabiting with her spouse I think it is likely she will be held responsible for outstanding debts on the utility bills.  She may be able to negotiate a payment plan with the utility provider(s).
    Yes, this.
    As I understand it, the liability for a utility bill lies jointly with the residents, not solely with the named account holder. If your friend was resident, they will become liable for the bill.
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  • Thank you for your replies. They're greatly appreciated 
  • Wicks
    Wicks Posts: 14
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    Hello, my dad passed away in December 2021 (so things may have changed but I doubt by much). Gas and electric was with shell energy in his name only. 

    By going through his bank statements we noticed they had not collected the direct debit for over a year. This was their error and not my dad's.

    I spoke with their bereavement team and a new account was opened in my mums name from the date of death. His estate didn't have enough to pay outstanding  bill. It took about 12 months of speaking with their bereavement team and debt collection team to confirm there were  no estate funds, and the account was written off.

    Mum is still with shell energy over 2 years later, so do speak with the utility providers.
  • MWT
    MWT Posts: 9,099
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    QrizB said:
    Assuming your friend was actually cohabiting with her spouse I think it is likely she will be held responsible for outstanding debts on the utility bills.  She may be able to negotiate a payment plan with the utility provider(s).
    Yes, this.
    As I understand it, the liability for a utility bill lies jointly with the residents, not solely with the named account holder. If your friend was resident, they will become liable for the bill.
    This is correct by my understanding as well, but I would strongly suggest talking to the bereavement team, not the normal CS agents, and see what can be done in the circumstances. 

  • Kim_13
    Kim_13 Posts: 2,197
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    Given the health issues, even if other residents would ordinarily have to pay, surely it wouldn’t be reasonable to expect her to pay all of it. She would not have used nearly as much energy alone - living with a spouse or partner usually wouldn’t put the bill up by much (as they would eat together, often be using the same room watching the same TV, etc.)

    I would be minded to do as Ectophile suggests - are there any other family who can advise the supplier of the death, so that the account can be closed without the supplier trying to pass the debt to the wife at the worst time? Take a meter reading which would be the opening read on the deemed supply the house would then be on.
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