Challenges with estate settlement for families and executors
The estate settlement process encompasses many tasks, including claiming benefits, notifying agencies, closing accounts, managing assets, paying debts, and keeping strict records. It's a process that can span anywhere from a few months to several years and it can leave families feeling overburdened, especially when careful planning has not taken place.
When it comes to estate settlement, funeral directors are put in a position where they're expected to give advice, yet lack the appropriate:
Funeral homes have 5 main challenges
A series of challenges invite funeral home owners to innovate - and, as we know, the funeral industry has always had to adapt itself to changing times, whether spurred by great wars, pandemics, or new technologies.
Losses to traditional sources of revenue
Funeral homes are facing losses in revenue per client due to increasing rates of cremation & reduced demand for embalming, public services, and merchandise.
Staffing shortages & burn-out
The funeral profession is facing staffing shortages, resulting in over-commitment and burn-out among employees. More people are retiring from the workforce than entering it.
A need to stand out
Heightened competition with low cost funeral providers, independent crematories, and online retailers has negatively impacted funeral home profitability.
Increasing wage costs in a labor-intensive profession
Wages make up the largest expense for the funeral profession, with wages absorbing about 29.5% of total revenue; thus, funeral home owners are finding it difficult to increase staffing levels.
Families requesting help that exceeds scope of profession
Previous research has found that funeral professionals are prone to feeling a lack of control in their work environments, especially given their unpredictable and demanding schedules.
of funeral home revenue absorbed by wages
expected cremation rate by 2040
of women were more likely to report overcommitment vs. 31.8% of men
A funeral director's take on scope of practice:
“I'm not a lawyer, you know? And so . . . when [a question] is not attached to my specific professional responsibility, I don't need to know the answer, but then I will take on the responsibility of saying, ‘Do you have somebody you can call? Do you have a lawyer? Do you need help finding a lawyer?’ You don’t just hit them with this boundary and then say I'm not in a position to support you or help you find it after. I’m just not going to be the person who’s going to provide it.”
Nathan, Funeral Home Owner, Canada
Families and executors have 5 main challenges
Grieving relatives and friends are often forced to make decisions and take actions with incomplete information, little to no prior experience, and limited knowledge about executor duties.
A big learning curve
Grieving relatives and friends are often forced to make decisions and take actions with incomplete information, little to no prior experience, and limited knowledge about executor duties.
Decentralized nature
There is currently no central source of information for notifying organizations, canceling subscriptions, receiving benefits, or closing down a digital legacy.
Laborious processes
Many of the administrative duties around death are manual processes, requiring executors to print/mail forms, wait in government offices and phone queues, and meet with advisors.
Errors back and forth
In our interviews and in previous research, executors have reported confusing terminology, unclear timelines, disordered task sequences, and problematic document formats.
Work while grieving
In our survey, executors reported that grief had the biggest impacts on their abilities to focus, interact with office/agency staff, and absorb new information.
Our own survey revealed nearly 50% of adults would “probably not” or “definitely not” know their responsibilities as an executor if they were to be assigned this role.
of executors encountered mistakes and repetitious back-and-forths
hours to complete post-death paperwork
of all internet queries following death focused on legal and financial aspects of death
“Closing an estate is a full time job. There aren't people who are going to have that kind of time. So either they're going to pay somebody to do it for them or they're going to have it stretch out longer and longer or they're just not going to do it.”
Alex, funeral director
The silver linings of estate settlement
  • Giving family members something to do while grieving
  • Providing a sense of control
  • Getting to know the deceased person better
  • Feeling a sense of accomplishment
  • Feeling grateful towards the deceased person when their affairs were in order
  • Encouraging family members to organize their own affairs
Get the full report
In this white paper, we break down the merits and drawbacks of each of the commonly utilized estate settlement solutions. Our intention is to help funeral service professionals make well-informed decisions about their approaches to administrative aftercare, guiding you to a choice that best serves bereaved families and your bottom-line. The research for this white paper draws on a number of sources.
  • Academic research & grey literature was reviewed
  • A series of in-depth interviews were conducted with funeral service professionals (10), executors (8), and estate lawyers (3) in the United States and Canada
  • An online survey with over 400 participants from Canada and the USA (including > 200 executors) was used