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:
- Please don’t ask to speak to the account holder
- Make it clear on your website and through other communications channels what documentation is required
- Make any administration costs clear, simple and up front
- 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.”
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
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.
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.