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Bereaved customers first - process and paperwork


Publication date:

11 November 2020

Last updated:

11 November 2020


Cruse Bereavement Care

Understanding the needs of bereaved people and the solutions to help them.

The previous blog looked at the size of the admin burden that many bereaved families have to tackle in addition to arranging a funeral, managing their own grief and making any necessary practical adjustments following the death of a loved one. Borrowing the words of someone that Cruse supported a couple of year ago:

“death is really very busy”

Two areas that act together to add or diminish this burden are processes and paperwork.


In regulated industries such as insurance, there is clearly a need for robust processes that comply with current regulations and relevant legislation, but how much of the process is for the benefit of the organisation rather than meeting the needs of the customer? How recently were processes reviewed? Were they designed to deal with a certain type of death such as old age, and what might happen under different circumstances? Do you really need to see an original of the death certificate or are there other ways to establish identity? Any changes that can streamline or simplify processes should benefit your organisation as well as the customer.

All too often we hear stories such as the insurance firm which tried to close down all of a family’s insurance policies when the father died because he was the named account holder, when what the family needed was to transfer them to the mother’s name.

Don’t just consider what information you need for your processes, but also the impact it might have on the person providing it. One lady told us about having to deal with her son’s bank account. Every time she contacted the bank she had to give son’s date of birth and date of death to pass security. Due to various issues she had to contact the bank very many times and each time answer the same questions, until one day she broke down in tears. She explained how hard it was to have to say her son’s dates, how heartbreaking it was to be reminded about the short length of his life, every time she needed to speak to the bank. Everyone understands the need for security questions, but there has to be a more compassionate way to manage that part of the process.


When it comes to paperwork, the key is to keep things as simple as you can and only ask for the information you really need. Remember, the bereaved customer is likely to be getting similar forms to complete from any number of businesses and organisations, so being clear about the information you require, the format that you need it in and why you need it will be very helpful. For example, Cruse was made aware of an energy supplier which asks for copies of people’s wills as well as original copies of their death certificates as a matter of course (which is another burden, as original copies of death certificates have to be purchased when the death is registered, and are expensive). And as recently as two years ago a major financial services company required a faxed copy of the death certificate to close an account.

Cruse recommends:

  • Having multiple channels (not just digital) and very clear instructions on what to do if you need to engage on behalf of a deceased customer.
  • Staying flexible – not every caller will want to close down a deceased customer’s accounts, they might need to change the name on it but otherwise keep it going.
  • Ensuring that complaints processes and compensation don’t get in the way of eliminating broken processes – it can be easier to make a small payment than tackle the root cause.
  • Providing a good general understanding of the needs of bereaved people and the solutions to help them to everyone in the organisation.
  • Exploring opportunities for collaboration between organisations and across industry sectors ,such as establishing best practice guidelines or linking with organisations, such as the Death Notification Service or Settld, who are working to simplify the admin burden for bereaved people.


For more information about the services Cruse offers, including training and consultancy services, please visit or for emotional support call the National Helpline on 0808 8081677.

Please note, that customers based in Scotland should contact our sister charity Cruse Bereavement Care Scotland, Scottish Helpline 0845 600 2227.

This document is believed to be accurate but is not intended as a basis of knowledge upon which advice can be given. Neither the author (personal or corporate), Society of Claims Professionals or Chartered Insurance Institute, or any of the officers or employees of those organisations accept any responsibility for any loss occasioned to any person acting or refraining from action as a result of the data or opinions included in this material. Opinions expressed are those of the author or authors and not necessarily those of the Society or Chartered Insurance Institute.