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The hidden costs of grieving

Posted on 19 October 2014

SunLife highlights the emotional and financial burden left on bereaved families

  • Rallying call for firms to do more to ease the financial and emotional burdens being felt by the bereaved
  • Survey shows almost half (48%) think companies should be better at dealing with people administering an estate
  • Nearly two in five people (38%) have had to pay bills associated with loved ones’ estate from their own pocket – and almost half of those paid more than £500

SunLife, the expert in later life planning, today launches a campaign to highlight the emotional and financial burden left on thousands of bereaved families across Britain.

The findings of SunLife’s annual Cost of Dying Report1 shows that the costs associated with dying have continued to soar above inflation to £8,427, an increase of 10.6% in just a year.

But the company has also explored the substantial ‘hidden’ financial and emotional costs that can be passed on to those left behind2.

Dean Lamble, SunLife Managing Director comments:

“Extra, unexpected bills and sudden demands on time can cause real financial and emotional challenges to people administering an estate if plans and funds are not already in place.

“And, at what is already an emotionally challenging time, our research reveals that some businesses are not helping to ease family’s distress – with 18% of people saying they are actually making things significantly worse.”

The research found 38% of people had to pay for a bill out of their own pockets, with 24% having to pay energy bills from their loved ones’ address and 23% spending over £100 on petrol or public transport – with no guarantee they will be reimbursed from the estate. Administering the estate also meant significant demands on time, with almost a third (31%) having to take at least five days paid or unpaid leave from work to deal with the extra administration. If unpaid, for the average full-time worker this would mean £517 in lost earnings3.

In addition to these extra costs, nearly one in five of those administering an estate agreed they had experienced significant distress due to the treatment they’d had from companies when administering their loved ones’ estate. Over a quarter (27%) said they found it difficult to speak to the right person at a company with almost half (48%) agreeing companies should be better at dealing with people administering an estate. Common experiences included:

  • Correspondence and calls repeatedly asking for the deceased
  • Inexperienced, bureaucratic staff with a ‘debt collecting’ attitude
  • Companies requesting obscure or unclear account details and information

SunLife is calling on companies across Britain to do better and has devised a four-point manifesto on how businesses can make things as simple and straightforward as possible for bereaved families:

  1. Please don’t ask to speak to the account holder
  2. Make it clear on your website and through other communications channels what documentation is required
  3. Make any administration costs clear, simple and up front
  4. Be flexible and sensitive – a little understanding can make a big difference at a time of grief

Dean Lamble, Managing Director at SunLife comments:

“As anyone who’s gone through the process of administering a loved one’s estate knows, it’s an emotionally draining time. Especially with the real financial demands that keep coming in.

“Although these have to be dealt with, you don’t expect companies to add to the burden. Some companies do a good job of helping ease people’s distress, but practices such as repeatedly calling asking to speak to the deceased are unforgivable. Bureaucratic and insensitive behaviour can add significantly to the distress at what is already a difficult time. That is why we are launching this research and manifesto to make costs clearer and the services more sensitive.”

ENDS

Notes to Editors

1 Figures taken from SunLife Cost of Dying Survey 2014

2 Research of 1,181 UK adults conducted by SunLife and YouGov conducted between 26th September and 2ndOctober 2014

3 £517 is the average amount a full-time employee is paid before tax each week according to the Office of National Statistics Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings – 2013 Provisional Results

Read the annual survey of hours and earnings 2013

About the research

The research was commissioned by SunLife and was established using two surveys an online survey of 1,181 UK adults who were responsible for planning a funeral and administering an estate within the last four years.

About SunLife

SunLife is a business that helps people make the most of their lives. We’re part of AXA, a global company, and one of the biggest insurance companies in the world. SunLife distributes a number of straight forward financial products including over 50 life insurance, funeral plans, life insurance, ISAs and Will writing services.

††Source: Average of quotes for standard funeral arrangements from a sample of funeral directors. YouGov, July 2014.

Here's the information that you need to know about who we are and the other companies that we work with in order to provide our products and services.

Who are SunLife?

Phoenix Life Limited trades as SunLife and is the provider of the Guaranteed Over 50 Plan, SunLife Insurance and the life insurance policy payment option for Funeral Plans. Phoenix Life Limited’s registered office is at 1 Wythall Green Way, Wythall, Birmingham, B47 6WG (registered in England, no. 1016269). Dignity Funerals is not authorised or regulated for this activity by either the Financial Conduct Authority or the Prudential Regulation Authority. Dignity Funerals Ltd is a member of the National Association of Funeral Directors.

SunLife Limited distributes financial products and services and is a company limited by shares, registered office: 1 Wythall Green Way, Wythall, Birmingham, B47 6WG (registered in England, no. 05460862). SunLife Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and is entered on the Financial Services Register (registration no. 769427).

You can contact us by post at SunLife, PO Box 1395, Peterborough, PE2 2TR or by phone on 0800 008 6060.

If you choose to add Funeral Benefit Option to your Guaranteed Over 50 Plan the funeral services are arranged and provided by Dignity Funerals Limited. Dignity Funerals Limited is a company registered in England and Wales No. 00041598. VAT registered No. 486 6081 14. 4 King Edwards Court, King Edwards Square, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, B73 6AP. Telephone No. 0121 354 1557. Fax No. 0121 355 808. Part of Dignity plc. A British Company. Dignity is not authorised or regulated for this activity by the Financial Conduct Authority or the Prudential Regulation Authority but is a member of the National Association of Funeral Directors.

Who provides the Funeral Plans?

Dignity Funerals Ltd arranges and provides the funeral services. Dignity Funerals is not authorised or regulated for this activity by either the Financial Conduct Authority or the Prudential Regulation Authority. Dignity Funerals Ltd is a member of the National Association of Funeral Directors.

The life insurance policy that pays for your funeral will be provided by Phoenix Life Limited, trading as SunLife.

Who provides My Smarter (ISA)?

My Smarter (ISA) is provided by Scottish Friendly Asset Managers Limited. Authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Details can be found on the Financial Services register, registration No. 188832. Member of The Investment Association. Registered Office: Scottish Friendly House, 16 Blythswood Square, Glasgow G2 4HJ.

Who provides the Will writing services?

Hugh James is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA Number:303202).

The information contained on this website is based on Hugh James' understanding of the law of intestacy in England and Wales only as at April 2014. The law in Scotland and Northern Ireland is significantly different. This is for information purposes and is not intended to be legal advice.

Who provides Family Life Insurance?

SunLife Family Life Insurance is provided by Scottish Friendly Assurance Society Limited which is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Details can be found on the Financial Services register (registration number 110002). Registered Office: Scottish Friendly House, 16 Blythswood Square, Glasgow G2 4HJ. 

Who provides SunLife Pet Insurance

SunLife Pet Insurance is arranged and administered by BDML Connect Limited. BDML Connect Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (No. 309140). Registered in England and Wales Number 02785540. Registered Office: 45 Westerham Road, Bessels Green, Sevenoaks, Kent, TN13 2QB.

Who provides SunLife Home Insurance

SunLife Home Insurance is arranged and administered by BISL Limited and underwritten by a panel of insurers. BISL Limited are an intermediary authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered in England no. 03231094. Registered office Pegasus House, Bakewell Road, Orton Southgate, Peterborough PE2 6YS.

Who provides SunLife Car Insurance

SunLife Car Insurance is arranged and administered by BISL Limited and underwritten by a panel of insurers. BISL Limited are an intermediary authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered in England no. 03231094. Registered office Pegasus House, Bakewell Road, Orton Southgate, Peterborough PE2 6YS.