The Cost of Dying

Grief may be a deeply personal and inward experience, but logistics complicate things. We often don't acknowledge what a tall order it is to expect a griever to do these seemingly simple tasks. —
David Kessler, grief expert and author of Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief

Grief may be a deeply personal and inward experience, but logistics complicate things. We often don’t acknowledge what a tall order it is to expect a griever to do these seemingly simple tasks. — David Kessler, grief expert and author of Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief

Recently, my wife and I have been attending many funerals for family members and parents of our good friends. Many of the survivors get lost in all the logistics that follow.

According to a report commissioned by empathy.com, a family member will spend approximately 13 months, totaling an average of 420 hours caring for the deceased’s business. Dealing with someone’s estate can devastate the survivors, and we see the cost of handling a loved one’s death in three areas.

Financial Costs:  Dying is expensive. The average funeral cost is $7267, which continues to rise. In the last five years, the price has increased by 7.6%. The family will pay an average of $5,846 for lawyers, financial advisors, realtors, and other professionals. If the family had to go through probate, the lawyer fees almost doubled (the average cost of a lawyer with no probate was $3910 / the average legal cost when probate was needed $12,464.)

In Empathy.com’s report, 79% of the respondents had to use their personal funds to pay for expenses because they could not access funds of the deceased. Younger people and lower-income families report that covering the cost impacted their finances. 21.3% of 18-to-29-year-olds borrowed, and 12.3% sold possessions, while 15.8% and 13% of those with incomes under $50,000 had to borrow funds or sell possessions.

Time: Taking care of someone’s final affairs is very time-consuming. Nearly half of those polled confirmed that.  Duties include spending a lot of time on the phone: 62% of respondents made at least four phone calls a week, totaling over 220 hours just on phone calls over the 13 months it took to handle all the details. Estate executors made more than six calls a week on average; for those whose estates went through the entire probate process, that comes to a total of 520 extra calls over an average of 20 months.

Because we only have a finite number of time in a week, something is affected by spending this time dealing with phone calls, making court appearances, working with real estate professionals, reviewing papers, and making more calls. Time with your loved ones is impacted along with your work.

 Diminished productivity and reputation at work can deepen grief: 76% of employed respondents reported harm to their performance or status at work, and 12% reported a decline in reputation. Many said that they had difficulty focusing on their job and were constantly distracted.

Mental Health: Bereaved family members face a lot of confusion and stress. Because we were unprepared for this, over 30% of the survey reported that they needed to figure out what to do and feared making mistakes. This number is significant because errors in these cases could cause the estate to lose money and cause personal legal issues for the executor causing additional stress.

Over half (57%) of the respondents suffered from at least one clinical symptom of stress. The average person suffers from three or more such symptoms, including stress headaches, stress-related fatigue, and panic attacks. These numbers were higher for people under the age of 45.  

Most peoplewant to limit the impact on their loved ones. How do you do this?

  1. Take care of your plans: Prepare a plan, so that family and friends do not have to wonder about your wishes.
  2. Engage an estate planning lawyer: Loved ones who could lean on a professional had less anxiety about making mistakes and had clear directions.
  3. Plan for how you want to handle your remains: The cost of burial continues to increase. If possible, you can pre-pay for these expenses so that your loved ones do not have to carry the costs.

To see the entire “The Cost of Dying Report”, click here to download.

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