Adrian Matthews: I sat there on a bright sunny day with a coffee in my hand thinking 5, 6, 7 death certificates

Earlier this year, MetLife UK published ‘The Last Word, Tackling the death and funeral planning taboo’, revealing that only 15% of adults in the UK had written a will outlining their funeral wishes.

Related topics:  Funeral PLanning,  Death
Tabitha Lambie | Editor, Protection Reporter
22nd September 2023
Two men talking
"At the moment, insurers say they’re really sorry for your loss, here’s a cheque. What they don’t take into account is the stress it puts on the family. "
- Adrian Matthews, head of employee benefits at MetLife UK & Europe

Protection Reporter spoke with Adrian Matthews, head of employee benefits at MetLife UK & Europe, about the importance of practical support for bereavement. In October 2022, MetLife added Everest’s funeral concierge to its group life proposition. This support is split between ‘pre need’ and ‘at need’, giving customers access to comprehensive end-of-life planning services and extensive support to help their families in the event of their death. “We wanted to provide something that went beyond the cheque because that’s important, it’s vital, but we want to provide some practical support too,” Adrian explained.

“The scary thing is that we provide insurance for work-age people, anyone between the ages of 18 to late 60s, and the vast majority of people will work one day and not the next.”

Although most insurers offer some sort of emotional support, MetLife found that nobody was offering practical support. By partnering with Everest, MetLife can offer bereaving families access to a professional adviser who acts as a consumer advocate. “It’s not like the GP where you’ve got three minutes in front of them, we’ve had calls that go on for hours, supporting customers for weeks, months, however long they need.” Alongside this service, MetLife offers a digital lockbox which is a cloud-based, digital vault to store documents, passwords, photos, and personal mementos.

“I’ve lost count of the number of people on LinkedIn whom I get reminders for each year. ‘It’s [insert name]’s birthday today,’ and I’m like no they’re dead.”

Adrian said that passwords are often forgotten about, leaving loved ones unable to suspend accounts. MetLife’s report revealed that 86% of adults in the UK hadn’t shared or told family members where they could find important documents, resulting in denied access to social media, bank accounts, and photo albums. “It’s a crying shame that people in the UK are so unprepared for the inevitability of life.”

Discussing the importance of tackling the death and funeral planning taboo, Adrian felt that one of the biggest hurdles was the fear of upsetting loved ones. MetLife’s report showed that when asked about their final wishes, 22% simply ‘didn’t want to think about it,’ while 14% said it was ‘too uncomfortable to talk about’ and that discussing plans would upset people. Likewise, 6% were concerned their wishes would cause tension and arguments amongst loved ones, 12% weren’t sure ‘where to begin,’ 9% didn’t know how to bring up the subject, 8% didn’t want to ‘tempt fate, and 4% were concerned their wishes wouldn’t be understood.

Personally, Adrian discussed his funeral and final wishes with his family at the end of last year. “We said we need to talk to you about our will and what we want and my daughter physically put her fingers in her ears and said I don’t want to hear this.” This was a natural reaction but he felt it was more important to talk to them as they would be “picking up the pieces when I’m gone.”

Adrian felt that the importance of talking with family had been amplified by the recent passing of a loved one. “One of the hardest decisions I had to make last year was how many copies of the death certificate we needed […] You can get them afterwards but it’s easier to get them upfront.”

“I sat there on a bright sunny day with a coffee in my hand thinking 5,6,7 death certificates.”

In the end, Adrian googled how many certificates he needed while thinking to himself, why am I spending my time googling this when there’s someone who knows the answer?

“One thing we can be certain of in life is our death and the inevitable impact this will have on our families, so it’s important that we open up the conversation so that we can help minimise the impact on those left behind,” he concluded.

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