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Probate ‘causes financial and mental health issues’

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Written by: Emma Lunn
12/04/2021
Dealing with the administrative side of death causes financial issues for one in four people, and mental health problems for two in five.

In its first annual Bereavement Index, Exizent found that 25% of people dealing with the administrative side of death suffered financial difficulties as a result. Four in 10 (40%) saw their mental health decline, with women (61%) twice as likely to be impacted as men (38%).

A quarter (25%) experienced financial difficulty when administering an estate. On average, it takes about five months to complete probate, but in one in 11 (9%) of cases it takes at least a year. More than half (52%) of those who recently dealt with probate said it took longer than they’d expected. In at least one in four (25%) cases the process was delayed.

Of those who recently dealt with probate for a loved one, 36% said it was harder than they’d expected. Overall, 87% found the process stressful – and of those, 20% found it extremely stressful.

Legal professionals themselves are also seeing how the administration involved when someone passes away affects people. Two thirds (64%) said their clients become visibly stressed by the process, with 39% saying that most clients dealing with bereavement need emotional support from someone within the firm.

The task of estates administration is complicated further when the deceased’s financial affairs are not in order. The Bereavement Index shows that 37% of accounts are only discovered during probate, and in one in 20 (5%) cases, no assets are known at the start of the discovery process.

Most legal professionals (60%) say that on average, less than half of their clients have all their affairs in order when they die.

One in seven estate executors (15%) only learned of their assigned role after the person had died, which is worrying given that solicitors rely on the knowledge of the executor and the documentation they provide to verify assets and liabilities.

Nick Cousins, founder and CEO of Exizent, said: “Death is a difficult time for everyone. And sadly, as we have discovered in our report, the processes that come with it can be lengthy, repetitive, and complicated, dragging things out for everyone involved. At an already challenging time, handling estates administration is an added burden for the bereaved, with legal professionals themselves admitting that the probate process is not fit for purpose.

“We believe estates administration should be simpler, and that modern technology solutions can make this a reality. We are also pushing for ‘open finance’ for the deceased to make asset discovery much easier, because – as our research shows – this is a major cause of stress and delay.

“We want to make it easier for legal services firms and institutions to work together to sort out what is so badly needed to ease the burden on the bereaved.”

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