Why overwhelmed beneficiaries rely deeply on those they trust

Published on Apr 18, 2023

When a loved one passes away, families struggle with grief, as well as the financial, legal, and administrative tasks they must complete to settle their affairs.

Empathy’s Cost of Dying Report surveyed 1,485 Americans who experienced a recent loss, and the findings show just how time-consuming their new responsibilities can be:

  • In the immediate aftermath of loss, the average family spends nearly 5 hours a day just on funeral planning.

  • As time goes on, 47% of bereaved employees say their work performance was negatively affected by loss.

  • And 80% of bereaved employees spend over an hour each workday handling their grief and their estate duties.

Part of the reason why these tasks are so overwhelming is that they are all new to them.

Navigating unfamiliar, complicated tasks while dealing with the deep pain of grief can leave beneficiaries feeling lost—making established relationships all the more important to them at this time.

Keep in mind, beneficiaries are spending their days dealing with people and processes where there’s no rapport and no trust. In comparison, talking to a provider that is familiar and offers real support can offer a true respite during a difficult day.

To better understand what beneficiaries are dealing with, here are just a few of the tasks they must tackle in the days, weeks, and months after their loved one passes away.

It is within this context that they’ll be contacting their life insurance provider—and why the kindness and support of a trusted, reassuring presence in their lives can make all the difference to them.

Closing accounts

Every step of the way, there are policies to learn, deadlines to meet, and documents to find and submit.

This is true for each household account, financial account, and service provider—from their bank to their electric bill to their gym membership.

For many accounts, an official copy of the death certificate is required before it can be closed. In fact, most families will need to obtain more than 20 copies from their county coroner’s office, which typically costs $5 to $25 per copy.

Dealing with their home and belongings

Clearing out a loved one’s home is one of the most emotionally draining tasks a family will have to face. In addition, there are a number of professionals a family may need to hire to help them.

For valuable items, an appraiser and an estate sale specialist may be needed, and to clean out the house families can seek professional help with everything from sorting to hauling to cleaning. But that involves finding workers the family can trust, hiring them, and working with their schedules.

Paying bills and taxes

Dealing with the IRS more than once a year is not something anyone wants to do. But bereaved families have a number of IRS items on their to-do list, starting with establishing a tax ID for the estate. And of course, they’ll need to file their loved one’s final income taxes.

Dealing with painful emotions and navigating unfamiliar tasks can leave beneficiaries feeling lost—making established relationships all the more important.

In addition, to handle the affairs of the estate, the executor (which is often the spouse or adult child of the person who passed away) will need to set up a method for paying recurring household bills using estate funds during the probate process, keeping a close accounting of all expenditures.

Handling aggressive creditors

Dealing with new and unfamiliar entities is hard enough. When it comes to creditors, families often must fend off aggressive appeals and even threats.

Settling a loved one’s debts must be done in an order prescribed by state law. During the probate process, debts are paid in the court-mandated order. If the estate runs out of funds before all creditors are paid, those debts will not be repaid.

Knowing this, some creditors try to get paid by convincing the family they are responsible for the debt and persuading them to pay.

Relentless phone calls from unscrupulous creditors can make a difficult situation unbearable.

But it is important to remember that a positive experience can be just as memorable for a beneficiary—especially if it is the rare moment when things make sense and their needs are understood.

That can be a moment of deep connection with a beneficiary who is overwhelmed, exhausted, and at the limit of their ability to cope. By truly being of service in that moment, a provider can forge a deep, powerful connection for generations to come.

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