Coping with finances and grief when a loved one dies

Coping with the death of a loved one is one of life’s most stressful events imaginable – not only because of the psychological grieving process, but because of the financial challenges that can be incurred as well. According to the ONS, an average of 44,803 people die in the UK every April, which means that potentially hundreds of thousands of people will be grieving this month. Losing a loved one or preparing to lose a loved one is always going to be extremely difficult, but there are things you or they can do to slightly ease the process.

Talk To Someone

Talking to a family member or friend is a good way to begin the healing process and work through the many complex emotions that go hand-in-hand with the grieving process. If you’d rather not speak to someone you know, then GriefChat is a free online service which connects you to a bereavement counsellor who is specially trained to listen to you and to point you in the direction of further help and support. It’s available Monday to Friday, 9am to 9pm.

Look After Yourself

As well as the well-known emotional effects, grief can take a huge physical toll on those suffering from it. Exhaustion, aches and pains, a lowered immune system, weight loss (or gain) and trouble sleeping are all known symptoms of grief. Meditating, listening to relaxing music, getting a good night’s sleep and eating a healthy diet can help. If you don’t feel like cooking, then ask friends and family to help you prepare meals and see your doctor if you need further advice.

Make To-do Lists

Financial affairs can seem like a small issue when the immediate, emotional reality of a loss kicks in, but once the death has been registered, things need to start moving fast on the financial side. The funeral needs to be arranged, insurance companies, pension providers and banks need to be informed, and the executor of the will needs to be contacted. If possible, have the conversation with loved ones before they pass away about who needs to be contacted should they die, so you can focus as much energy as possible on the grieving process. There are many online checklists you can use as well to ensure you’ve covered everything.

Take Control

Death is an inevitable part of life. If you are fifty and over a funeral plan can help you get your affairs in order now, so you don’t need to worry about the costs of your own funeral falling to your loved ones or that they will spend unnecessary money on the service you may not have wanted.

It also means you can get the send-off you want by choosing what you want now, you can always revisit your choices later if you change your mind. Foresters Friendly Society has partnered with Dignity to offer a comprehensive range of plans that are uniquely tailored to your needs, and that provide access to a network of 1200 respected funeral directors delivering the highest levels of care.

Paul Osborn, Chief Executive for Foresters Friendly Society commented: “With today’s ageing population and continued pressure on our finances, financial consideration of the cost of a desired funeral service is of growing importance. While from the outset it may seem difficult or impersonal to talk about a loved one’s passing, having open and practical conversations whereby financial plans are put in place is crucial. Not only do these go a long way to avoid unexpected high costs, but they also help to ease some of the emotional toll when coming to the tedious process of formalising not only funeral documents but taxes and inheritance too.

Being able to offer our members access to Dignity’s range of funeral plans and having peace of mind the service provided is of the highest quality is key. As a mutual organisation, ensuring the services we offer are valuable and support members throughout their lives is at the heart of our organisation and everything we do.”

Paul Toghill, Director of Distribution & Partnerships, Dignity Pre Arrangement Ltd says “As one of the first companies to offer funeral plans in the UK, we are proud to have helped over 824,000 customers plan their funeral arrangements in advance. A funeral plan is a valuable part of sensible financial planning for anyone over 50, allowing individuals to put their affairs in order and get on with enjoying life, safe in the knowledge that everything they’ve specified will be taken care of. With a Dignity Funeral Plan, Foresters’ members can rest assured that this will be done with the highest standard of care.”

After fuel poverty, is funeral poverty next?

With funeral expenses now costing an average of £7,622*, there has been an increase in demand for ‘paupers’ burials’, prompting recent media coverage asking ‘Can you afford to die?’ So, what’s going on?

None of us like to talk about death – particularly about our own. That’s just human nature. But recent stories in the press have highlighted why it’s something we really need to start talking about – particularly if we don’t want to leave a legacy of funeral expenses for our loved ones.

How much does a funeral cost?

This year, it is estimated that more than 100,000 people will struggle to pay their funeral costs, according to research from the University of Bath. This is not surprising when you discover that the average cost of a funeral and its associated expenses is now a staggering £7,622. In fact, over the last decade, the cost of a typical funeral has risen by a whopping 80%, a trend that looks set to continue.

If you can’t pay, can’t you get financial help?

Although there are grants known as Social Fund Funeral Payments available to assist those on low incomes with the cost of bereavement, Bath University’s report questions whether these are actually widely available and effective.

The reality could mean having to opt for a ‘Public Health Funeral’ for a loved one. These are set up by local authorities when family members are not prepared to organise or pay for a funeral. Requests for these are on the rise – but does this indicate that ‘paupers’ burials’ are losing their stigma, or is it the case that more and more people simply have no other alternative?

Why is this happening?

The report’s lead author, Dr Kate Woodthorpe, explains: “People are living longer, which requires larger incomes and pension pots to ensure these extra years can be afforded. Whether or not these will stretch to cover funeral costs is unclear. At the same time, the younger generations have less ready cash to call on, so they can’t necessarily be relied on to pick up the bill either.”

So what’s the answer?

Essentially, to stop avoiding the issue and start talking about it. Baroness Sally Greengross, Chief Executive of the International Longevity Centre – UK says: “As a society, we don’t talk enough about dying. But nor do public policy makers. We must find a way to open a debate about dying early and ensure that we and our families are as prepared as we possibly can be.”

Why is Foresters talking about this?

This story has caught our eye at Foresters because we’ve been supporting families for 180 years and helping them to plan for their future at all stages of life – including this one. We have a policy for over 50s to help people make financial provision for loved ones in the event of their death, which can assist with funeral expenses.

While none of us really like to think about this, there is peace of mind to be gained from knowing that you have put your affairs in order and your legacy to your loved ones won’t be a big funeral bill that they’ll struggle to pay. Then you can tell them that you’ve got it all sorted and can put it out of your mind!

*Source: The University of Bath Institute for Policy Research, January 2014.

This blog is intended to provide information, not financial advice, to help you make an informed decision about savings and investments. We do not offer financial advice. You should contact a financial adviser, who may charge a fee, if you want financial advice.