It is something that most people understandably put off but the importance of preparing a Will can’t be overestimated. As Spencer Lynch, Director of Strategy and Business Development of Bereavement Services, explains, leaving a Will prevents a difficult time for family and friends from becoming even more trying. “People believe that when they die, everything will automatically pass on to their spouse but that’s not necessarily the case,” says Spencer. “If there is no Will, intestacy rules apply which means that someone else will decide what goes where. A spouse may only receive a portion of the estate while a co-habiting partner may not receive anything. The estate may also be subject to tax and legal implications.”
Equiniti is raising awareness of the importance of preparing a Will. Indeed, in-life education is the first stage in a new customer journey concept that Equiniti has created. It is a particularly pertinent issue for organisations as they look to examine the relationship they have with their customers. “The customer journey comprises education, the notification of death through to estate distribution,” continues Spencer.
We provide the ability to help organisations transform what they see as an account closing process into a supported, enhanced journey for the friends and family of those who have passed. We take the mantra of treating customers fairly to a higher level in that we treat the friends and family of those customers fairly.
Through multiple channels, Equiniti provides professional guidance and support during the account closing process, which can transform a traumatic and stressful experience to one that is more transparent and empathetic. Guy Brodie, Head of Bereavement Services, explains that friends and family may not be aware of what is required of them in the aftermath of a bereavement and Equiniti can explain the complexities that lie ahead.
“We can provide the first point of contact for friends and family and we educate them about what must happen next,” says Guy. “So, for example, the deceased’s estate may need to go through probate according to government regulation and we explain what that means. We can also identify additional assets and money is often repatriated in those situations.”
The final stage of the customer journey is the least supported part within organisations: the distribution of the estate. “There seems to be a stigma around death in the UK, perhaps not so much in other countries, but for whatever reason, the conversation has always been avoided here,” says Spencer. “The majority of organisations simply say send me the death certificate and we’ll close the account, but if you support people at such an important time of need in their lives, only good things can come from that.”
Throughout the entire process, Equiniti ensures that the relationship with friends and family is managed in a very ethical way. If there is a requirement for probate for example, Equiniti can offer a range of bespoke, fixed cost services, which helps to empower friends and family to make their own decisions. “From a business perspective, if you get those bits right, it helps with a reinvestment opportunity,” adds Guy.
There is a natural opportunity around 6–9 months after the bereavement when the estate is settled and payments have been distributed to its beneficiaries. If you maintain that interaction and level of contact, there are further opportunities.
Providing the right advice at the right time means that organisations can deliver a better customer experience, and this helps to retain wealth and attract new customers. “It is typically the biggest single lump sum of money that anybody will receive in their lifetime,” says Spencer. “It’s incredibly rewarding to work in an environment where you can help people at what can be a very difficult time.”