Bereavement Index Survey 2023 research reveals process inefficiencies and impacts on bereaved people
The annual Bereavement Index Survey, conducted by Glasgow-based bereavement technology firm Exizent, researches the processes involved in bereavement in the UK as experienced by consumers, legal services firms and financial institutions. 2023 is the third year the holistic work has been published.
This year’s edition once again highlights material issues caused by the way that estate administration is conducted in the UK today.
Distressingly we continue to see that the mental wellbeing of grieving individuals is substantially impacted. Last year, 55% of individuals reported that the process caused them to suffer mental health problems, a steep 15% increase from 2021. The results from this year’s survey show only marginal improvements with 51% of bereaved individuals still attesting to mental health issues as a result of the process, raising valid questions about whether enough is being done to improve the situation for bereaved people.
Despite 64% of legal services participants reporting that they’d enhanced a particular area of their probate process within the last year, more than double that of 2022 (30%), 94% of bereaved individuals surveyed continue to find at least part of the process stressful, and 18% find it extremely so – compared with 95% and 23% respectively in 2022.
Research uncovers problems within legal services and institutions
The research showed there exists clear recognition among individuals responsible for an estate’s administration of the value that legal professionals bring to estate administration, with 92% of individuals stating they would use a professional again. However, 94% of professionals themselves think their firm could handle probate and estate administration more efficiently than they do today, a 42% increase from last year’s report. Over a quarter (26%) of these professionals’ also report that their firm is currently under resourced and struggling with the workload, and a further 39% stating that staff retention and recruitment is a strain.
But legal services firms are not the only ones struggling to improve their processes. Rated the top two causes of delay by legal practitioners for the third consecutive year, financial institutions’ processes and slow speed of response are highlighted as causing substantial overall estate administration delays. Coming in a close third place was institutions unable to provide all the information needed. Encouragingly for the future however, just over half (52%) of financial service professionals surveyed stated that they knew their company had plans to improve the bereavement journey. The requirement on financial institutions to uphold the new FCA Consumer Duty regulations that came in on 31st July 2023 and the need to evidence outcomes particularly when dealing with vulnerable customers such as bereaved people, should give companies further impetus to focus on transforming bereavement journeys.
Solutions proposed included dedicated technology, better communication, and standardising processes
Legal services professionals surveyed think more can be done to improve the service they offer to clients. When asked what would improve their processes, legal services ranked better communications with financial institutions (53%) and executors (46%), faster responses from HMCTS/HMRC (49%), and a dedicated software solution (45%) as some of the top solutions. For the third year in a row, they rated technology as their number one investment priority – perhaps partly because only 26% reported using dedicated specialist software.
Traditional concerns about change such as cost and time to learn new tools were cited by legal professionals as barriers to technology adoption – despite the fact that modern, accessible, secure and highly usable software is available that makes it easier to adopt new tools, use data intelligently, reduce administration, support flexible working and enable cross team collaboration.
For Financial Services, bereavement journeys are in the spotlight like never before. Consumer and regulatory expectations are increasing, and bereavement represents a critical service interaction at a time of inter-generational wealth transfer. The Bereavement Index identified two key ways that firms can improve experiences and empower those colleagues supporting the bereavement journey to deliver the best possible service. These were embracing 3rd party solutions to upgrade bereavement journeys and cross industry collaboration.
Nick Cousins, Co-founder, and CEO of Exizent commented:
“Following the loss of a loved one, the last thing individuals need is a lengthy estate administration process that causes them additional stress including both mentally and financially. But sadly, the Bereavement Index findings this year prove that there remains a long way to go for this not to be the case.
The good news is that I know from conversations with financial services companies over the last year that many are planning to improve their processes associated with a customer’s death – and our research backs this up. The benefits of doing so are now recognised in meeting regulatory obligations, improving operational efficiency, and importantly because it is the right thing to do. I look forward to Exizent helping them through our software in 2024.”
Aleks Tomczyk, Co-founder and Managing Director of Exizent added:
“Improving the experience of bereavement processes for all involved is Exizent’s core purpose. The Bereavement Index is a unique study that helps us all understand the ‘state of the nation’ and what can be practically done to improve matters for all. We hope that all stakeholders find the research valuable.
Our specialist software has been helping legal services professionals perform their estate administration tasks for almost three years now to the ultimate benefit of their clients. Our users are driven to grow their businesses, improve efficiency, make their employees’ jobs easier, and add value to their clients. We love the feedback we get on our product including the suggestions we get on how to make it even better.
We thank all those who contributed to the Bereavement Index Survey this year including individuals, legal practitioners, and financial services professionals. Your views and opinions are very important to us and in helping move the sector forward.”
To read the full Bereavement Index Survey report, please download it here.
LawWare and Exizent.
LawWare is a specialist legal practice management software provider. It has teamed up with Exizent to integrate both market-leading platforms, providing LawWare users with seamless access to Exizent’s deep specialist functionality. This allows firms across the UK to conduct their estate administrations more efficiently, delivering higher levels of service to clients.