Incompetent UK firms pile pressure on the grieving.

Incompetent UK firms pile pressure on the grieving.

Sun Life has issued a rallying call for firms to do more to ease the financial and emotional burdens being felt by the bereaved. According to their survey, around half of those dealing with the administration of an estate think companies should be much more helpful.

We certainly agree: in our experience, most firms deal with professionals who know the ropes and where to go reasonably well. But some seem to go out of the way to raise pointless barriers, and others supply incorrect information. Members of the public probably wouldn’t even realise the information was wrong, which could lead to an incorrect probate application or inheritance tax return.

Apparently 38% have had to pay bills associated with deceased’s’ estate from their own pocket often over £500.

In an ideal world, everyone should follow the tips here to at least ease the administrative burden of their passing.

SunLife’s 2014 Cost of Dying Report finds the cost of dealing with a death have risen   to an average of £8,427, an massive 10.6% more than in 2013.

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 earnings.

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.”