Planning ahead eases burden on grieving partners

18 April 2016
A new report, 'Losing a partner – the financial and practical consequences' has revealed that seven in ten people were financially or practically unprepared when their partner died.

And while death is the only certainty we all face, only one in ten felt both financially and practically prepared. Just two out of five had made a will, and only three in ten had talked about their funeral with their partner, according to the Royal London report, which Dying Matters contributed to. The report also revealed that while a quarter of people said they had discussed the prospect of their partner dying, very few had taken any practical steps or actions. 

Five hundred people who had lost their partner in the past five years were interviewed for the report, with many making a clear case for action not just words. One respondent said: "It would have been really useful if there had been a list of phone numbers to use, or knowing what [my partner] wanted.”  Another respondent encouraged couples to “try and put things in order” as: “It won’t do you any good… if your [partner] did it all and you’re left.”

The report also found:

  • One in five recently bereaved people said the financial impact of lower income was the most difficult to deal with.
  • Around one in six said they did not know what to do about the funeral; and
  • Around one in six found it challenging to look after the house following the death of their partner; a third said it was difficult to cook and nearly four in ten struggled with household tasks such as washing and ironing.

Steve Webb, Director of Policy at Royal London, said: "The first-hand experiences of bereaved families make powerful reading. Whilst nothing can prepare you for the loss of a loved one, families who have experienced a loss are clear that there are things they wish they had done to ease the practical and financial consequences of bereavement. There are steps that we can all take now that would make life easier for our loved ones after we have gone."

Claire Henry, Chief Executive of the National Council for Palliative Care and Dying Matters, added: "We shouldn’t be afraid to talk about death, but this report makes clear that putting clear financial plans in place is essential as well. Having the ‘big conversation’ is an important first step to getting our plans in place, but it’s only a first step. We never really stop grieving for someone we loved who has died, but that doesn’t mean we should have to suffer the financial consequences for years as well.

"Financial and practical planning is as important as thinking about the care we want to receive, making a will, lasting power of attorney, or our funeral plans. Talking about death won’t make it happen, and getting our plans in place enables us to get on with living."

To help prepare financially and practically, Royal London advises talking to your partner about where they keep their key financial information. Agree a shared place for all information, from mortgages to bank accounts, and consider putting bills and accounts in both of your names. 

Additionally, discuss the tasks each of you is responsible for and whether your partner would know how to carry them out if one of you were to die. This could be anything from organising car maintenance to paying utility bills. 

If you or your partner has a will, check it is up to date and reflects any changing circumstances, and make sure you both know where they are kept. Royal London also advises discussing any insurance policies you have and whether they will give enough cover. Funeral plans should also be considered. 


Download the full report

Download the infographic

Let your loved ones know what you want for your funeral using our free form

Download our useful leaflet: Putting Your House in Order

Planning ahead for the end of life

Planning ahead resources

What to do after someone dies


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