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UK Families At Risk Of Financial Shock As Death Remains Taboo

The taboo of mortality and a growing culture of “living in the moment” has left UK families woefully unprepared for the financial impact of death, Aviva’s latest Family Finances Report reveals.

Aviva’s data shows almost two in three UK adults (62%) feel death is a taboo subject, which makes it hard for people to discuss their concerns. While 43% say they talk openly about death and do not view it as a taboo subject themselves, more than half (51%) say they don’t want to think or talk about it because they just want to enjoy their life.

Funeral arrangements (18%) or life-changing illnesses (14%) rank among the topics people are most uncomfortable talking about with their wider adult family, alongside conversations about their sex life (55%), debts (22%) and general finances (21%).

Few have made the necessary practical preparations to protect their family in the event of their death, because of the discomfort and unwillingness to discuss the subject. Only 14% of parents have a formal, written plan of who will care for their children if anything was to happen to them, compared to 27% who have an organ donor card.

Couples with one child are the least likely to have a formal plan (11%), which may suggest that new parents are unlikely to have thought about making such provisions.

More worrying still is the fact that more than half (54%) of parents have made no plans whatsoever, including more than a quarter (28%) who don’t think they will ever need or want a plan for childcare if they were to pass away.

While one in five (20%) parents have an informal plan for contingency childcare which they have had conversations about, 13% have not discussed these plans with anyone yet.

Financial preparations stuck on families’ to-do list

Many families still haven’t made financial preparations for death, despite being aware of the need for these. More than half (55%) of UK adults feel they should have a will but have not yet arranged one, even though there is only a low cost attached.

Nearly six in ten (58%) have not yet made a list of financial arrangements and providers to help their family sort out their affairs should they die, despite feeling they should have. This rises to 61% of single parents raising children alone, who would arguably benefit most from these arrangements.

A similar proportion (57%) of all families recognise the need to have an accessible list of online account details but have not yet done this.

Some do not think making financial arrangements is even necessary: 14% do not think they will ever need or want a will, rising to a quarter (25%) of people who have not yet considered their own mortality. An even higher proportion don’t think they will ever need or want life insurance (26%) or death in service cover (44%), despite the fact that one in eight males and one in 12 females die during their working life.

Lack of practical preparation extends to parents’ wishes

Almost two in three (62%) adults whose parents are still alive have not had any conversations together about their wishes in the event of their death. Of these, most say it is because they’ve never thought about having this type of conversation (63%) although 14% say it is too upsetting while 13% do not want to upset their parents. One in ten (11%) say their parents find it too upsetting or uncomfortable.

Among those who have had these discussions, the majority have only done so because their parents initiated it (40%). Just 15% were responsible for bringing it up in conversation themselves. Even fewer have fully discussed the details of their parents’ funeral (13%) wishes and just one in five (20%) have fully discussed the details of their will.
Even among those who have already experienced the death of one parent, more than half (56%) have not discussed their remaining parent’s wishes, with 59% of these never thinking about having this type of conversation.

Louise Colley, managing director, protection, Aviva said, “It’s been said that there are only two things certain in life: death and taxes. It’s perfectly understandable why people are reluctant to talk about the latter, but if we can’t talk about something then it is impossible to plan for it."

“No-one likes to think of death, but it’s equally discomforting to think of family members being left financially vulnerable or unsure what to do if you were no longer around. There are certainly steps that can be taken to ease the practical and financial challenges that arise after the death of a loved one."

“We need to change the approach to conversations about mortality. Having honest and open discussions around financial and practical arrangements can really help to avoid even greater hardship if the worst should happen. Making sure your finances are in order – and taking appropriate steps to plan for the unforeseen – will provide peace of mind and mean you can continue to protect and support your family even after you are gone.”

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