Conversations around dying
Discussions about death are always going to be difficult, but for all sorts of emotional and practical reasons, it’s important to approach this topic with openness and honesty. We wanted to explore whether the UK public are comfortable talking about death, and what arrangements people have in place to protect their loved ones financially.
- Over a third (34%) of respondents have not discussed death and end-of-life preparations with their family.
- Among those who have handled the affairs of a deceased family member or loved one, 37% said they’d encountered legal or logistical difficulties.
- Young people are changing the conversation. 63% of 16-24-year-olds say they’ve discussed death and end-of-life preparations with their loved ones – the highest percentage of any age group.
- The North East had the highest percentage of people (43%) who have made a funeral plan for themselves, followed by Greater London (37%).
Do we discuss death?
For most of us, the idea of a time where we’re no longer around doesn’t bear thinking about. And understandably, our survey suggests that death can be an uncomfortable topic for some.
Have you ever had a conversation with your family about death and end-of-life preparations?
|Yes, at least once||No, never|
While a majority (63%) of the people we surveyed have had a chat with their loved ones about dying, more than a third (34%) haven’t (and the remaining 3% said they’d prefer not to say).
But why is death such a difficult topic to broach? We asked our respondents to share up to three reasons for why they avoid the subject. Among those who gave a reason, here’s what they said.
|Don't see the urgency to talk about it yet||43%|
|Uncomfortable discussing death||42%|
|Fear of the topic||26%|
|Lack of knowledge on how to start the conversation||16%|
|Cultural or societal norms||6%|
Silence isn’t golden
While it’s understandable that people might wish to kick difficult discussions into the long grass, doing so can lead to unexpected consequences.
Of those who have handled the affairs of a deceased family member or loved one, 37% said they’d encountered legal or logistical difficulties at least once. This figure was highest in the North East – 50%.
Strikingly, we found that the practicalities of death had a particular impact on young people. In fact, a majority (57%) of bereaved 16-24-year-olds said they’d experienced legal or logistical challenges.
Few of us would welcome the distraction of legal problems like managing an estate without a will, for example, but having clear conversations beforehand could flag any problems before they arise.
Breaking the taboo
While death is a difficult topic, increasingly it’s the younger generations who appear more open to having these conversations rather than ‘suffer in silence’.
We found that most people across all age brackets have discussed death with their nearest and dearest at some stage. But this trend was most apparent among the young.
Percentage of people who have discussed death and end-of-life preparations with their family (by age)
|16-24 year olds||63%|
|25-34 year olds||62%|
|35-44 year olds||52%|
|45-54 year olds||56%|
|55+ year olds||58%|
Young people are showing preparedness in other ways too. When we asked people what preparations they’d made for their departure, 17% of 16-24-year-olds selected “designating beneficiaries for life insurance or retirement accounts” – the highest of any age bracket.
Time to plan?
Death is one of the few inevitable things in life, but while few would doubt the importance of planning for this eventuality, that doesn’t mean we all have a plan in place.
Do you have a funeral plan in place for when you are gone?
|Yes, a comprehensive plan||Yes, I've partially made plans||No, I've made no plans||No, I don't intend to make plans|
When the figures are rounded up, a net 65% of respondents told us they have made no preparations for their funeral.
Among those who’ve made plans, a net 34% were male and 27% female. Regionally, the North East featured the highest percentage of proactive planners – 43% have made funeral plans, followed by Greater London (37%). Wales had the lowest percentage of people who say they’ve planned for their funeral – 21%.
Opening up the conversation
While of course funeral plans are a key aspect of financial planning in later life, the story doesn’t end there. We asked the public what arrangements they’ve made for their eventual demise, and it turns out that many people are ahead of the curve.
Leaving aside those who said they have no arrangements in place, we asked everyone else about their funeral planning activities (and placed no limit on their number of responses).
|Sort out personal belongings||33%|
|Provide access to important online accounts and passwords||32%|
|Organising financial and legal documents||29%|
|Creating a will or living trust||39%|
|Designating beneficiaries for life insurance or retirement accounts||25%|
|Leaving instructions for my funeral or memorial preferences||24%|
|I prefer not to say||12%|
So, while many people are yet to get round to the formalities of funeral planning, there are lots of ways you can prepare for the reality of ‘life after death’.
And when people do take charge, it turns out that the conversations begin to flow. Among all respondents who have made funeral plans, 87% told us that they’ve shared details of the plans with their loved ones.
It’s never too late to plan
The good news is that even in our later years, we have plenty of time to put the right financial arrangements in place. Here are just some ideas:
- Over 50s Fixed Life Insurance. If you’re aged 50 to 80, you can leave some extra money behind with an Over 50s life insurance policy. Acceptance is guaranteed and there is no medical exam.
- Putting your life insurance ‘in trust’. You can manage the way your beneficiaries receive their inheritance by writing your life insurance policy into a trust.
- Making a will. Writing a will gives you control over your estate and the ability to distribute your money and possessions according to your preferences.
So, while death is not exactly the perfect conversation starter, having clear lines of communication – and a clear plan of action – can protect you and your loved ones when they need it most.