It’s readily apparent that the source material for his article on the costs of probate, funerals etc originated from Sun Life Direct because they’re selling funeral plans (‘In a survey of 1000 people, 44% had not planned for their funeral because they expected family and friends to organise and fund it.’)
Unfortunately neither the article nor Sun Life’s website (at the time of writing) provide any sort of breakdown of the ‘average’ figure of £7248, though a wide variety of news and industry sites reported the results. The Sun Life website suggests that the figure for a basic funeral is only about £2,500 – so where does the other £5,000 go?
The ‘press release’ website pressrelease101.co.uk has a slightly longer article, states the figure includes ‘the preparation of legal documents such as wills and Lasting Power of Attorney’s and finally end of life care.’
This sort of survey result – finding out that the very product the commissioning company sells is a really good idea – is not new to anyone but I think the article is also reflective of the attitude of many within the funeral and probate industry. Getting people to pay up-front is sold as a kind of insurance against all sorts of terrible things happening, like the beneficiaries of your will having to pay your funeral expenses. In reality of course, it may be better to invest the money elsewhere during your lifetime and let the executors root out the cheapest deal when the time comes. Similarly many will-writing firms (including solicitors) have viewed persuading the client to insert them as executor as a money-spinner; however any good solicitor will point out the downsides as well, such as the solicitor’s firm perhaps not providing the best value probate service.
I think such products appeal to people who are used to, and want, fixed-price services where the cost is agreed up front.
I note Sun Life’s affiliation to the Co-Op funeral services; I have blogged before about the general perception that the Co-Op will target the probate market heavily once the Legal Services Act will allow it to bring solicitors into its existing set up.
Fixed-fee probate work is available without these cosy arrangements, though. We aren’t the only solicitors who offer this sort of pricing but without the baggage that such arrangements have – though we do try to be the best value.