We need to talk about death (and taxes)

A family mourning together in a graveyard. See PA Feature FINANCE Death. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/thinkstockphotos. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature FINANCE Death.
A family mourning together in a graveyard. See PA Feature FINANCE Death. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/thinkstockphotos. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature FINANCE Death.

No one likes to think about what might happen when they’re no longer around.

But a new report suggests that our reluctance to tackle the subject is leaving families significantly underprepared for the financial impact of death.

While some simply haven’t gotten round to discussing their and their family’s wishes in the event of a death, others may find the thought too upsetting.

But not discussing the subject at all could have huge financial repercussions down the line.

Nearly two-thirds (62%) of UK adults feel that death is a taboo subject, according to Aviva’s Family Finances report.

Funeral arrangements and life-changing illnesses rank among the topics people feel least comfortable talking about with their family.

The research also suggests parents are more likely to have a donor card than a formal plan in place for their children.

More than one in four (27%) parents surveyed have an organ donor card, while just one in seven (14%) have a formal, written plan covering who will take care of their children if anything were to happen to them.

The survey of more than 2,000 people aged between 18 and 55 years old also found that more than half (55%) felt they should have a will but hadn’t got round to arranging one.

Meanwhile, 58% had not yet made a list of financial arrangements and providers to help their family sort out their affairs after their death, despite feeling they should have, rising to 61% of single parents raising children alone.

Some 62% of adults whose parents were still alive said they hadn’t had any conversations together about their wishes in the event of their death.

Most (63%) said it was because they’d never considered having this type of conversation, although 14% said they would find it too upsetting, while 13% didn’t want to upset their parents.

Louise Colley, managing director of protection at Aviva, says: “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.”

She continues: “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.”

Here are Colley’s tips on how to broach the topic of death within families:

:: Once you start seeing making these plans as an unavoidable part of life planning, it becomes less of an emotional, and more of a practical, task.

:: Making a list of all the things you need to discuss will help keep the conversation on track. Subjects you might need to talk about include: preferred funeral arrangements, having a will in place, care of any dependents such as your children, planning ahead to save on inheritance tax, assigning a Power of Attorney and preferences in terms of treatment and care.

:: Choose the right time and place to bring the subject up with your partner or friend/relative. Discussing this topic when stressed or under time pressure isn’t likely to bring positive results. You’ll want to discuss it in private, without any interruptions. Gently broach the topic in a general way - for example: “I was thinking the other day we ought to start thinking about making a will.”

If the other person seems uncomfortable, consider discussing this another time.