One of the most significant and traumatic awakenings we all experience is the childhood realisation that we have no choice about the inevitable: all that lives must die. However, while death is unavoidable this shouldn't mean that we have no choice about how we die and how our passing is handled.
The experience of many bereaved people can be disappointing at many levels: from concern over financial issues, such as fees and costs for probate and funerals, to more intangible aspects such as the level of service received from agencies handling the death and feelings of disempowerment.
But the aftermath does not have to be impersonal or out of our hands.
In terms of the funeral, while their presence is perhaps obvious we do not need to go the way of the large funeral chain. There is a choice.
It is perhaps a drawback of the British character that we are often so unwilling to "shop around" for funeral services. After all, it seems like a pretty vulgar and glib thing to be doing while dealing with grief. But surely it is a matter of education and perspective. As a culture and a society we should be doing more to look plainly at what options are available so that come the time of death we are prepared to choose; we don't have to feel like we are doing something wrong in seeking the best service.
Independent funeral directors are often long-established family run businesses offering a sensitive, personalised service and typically providing better value and a more tailored service than that of the larger corporate-led firms.
It is only once a person experiences the level of detail and personal attention provided by a truly independent funeral director that they can understand how superior it is to the offering of some of the larger companies.
However, while some firms might first appear to be independent, in truth they may have been bought out by one of the national firms and are only continuing to operate under the name of the original business without having the benefits of the earlier independent identity.
Nobody wishes to leave their loved ones with excessive bills and poor service in the aftermath of their death. But this is just the reality that many bereaved families face. For example, last year the Guardian newspaper found that the cost of a funeral can "easily exceed £5,000", but its price comparison research revealed that certain large funeral directors (which account for around 30% of all funeral directors in the UK) are known to frequently charge as much as £1,500 more than independent local firms. And this is against the background of increased cremation and burial costs (with each option up by nearly 5% a year).
Fortunately, there are signs that society is beginning to grow up and face the problem. The charity-run Funeral Poverty Pledge, has had some success in encouraging greater transparency over funeral directors fees, and there is a growing movement of older people who are taking pride, and even joy, in planning their own funerals. And independent funeral directors are at the heart of this seachange.
There are also a number of emerging funeral price comparison websites, suggesting that this is another area where online consumer empowerment could make a real difference.
At Oratto, we are already committed to removing some of the opacity and reticence around the financial impact of after-death practicalities. Our probate quote generation system allows executors and family members to receive clear, detailed and highly tailored quotes within minutes, preventing them from ever having to pay over the odds for probate and estate administration legal services simply because of an inability or unwillingness to research the choices during an already difficult and traumatic time.
But we know that you should never engage a funeral director or fixed fee probate solicitor on the basis of price alone. With Oratto's probate quote model, it is possible to read the profile, reviews, testimonies and accreditations of every probate solicitor that is registered with our fixed fee probate quote calculator, and because we have a membership that includes probate solicitors from all over the country, we are able to provide plenty of local options. This means that not only are the users of Oratto saving money on fees, they are also receiving a highly personalised service that puts the power in their hands.
Yes, death is inevitable, but the choices we make at the time of death of our loved one do not have to be.
Contact Oratto on 0845 3883765 to speak with an adviser or use our contact form to arrange a call-back.