September 2019 Wills & Probate news: Faster access to Funeral Expenses Payments, the increasing importance of LPAs and the most popular song played at funerals

This month we look at the improvements to the Funeral Expenses Payment claims process, the UK’s favourite funeral song, the rising importance of Lasting Powers of Attorney and much more…

Faster access to funeral financial support for bereaved families 

The processing times for Funeral Expenses Payment claims will be significantly shorter, announced the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Funeral Expenses Payment claims can help cover the cost of burial or cremation fees, death certificates, travel expenses and more. 

Before the changes, bereaved families could only receive payments if they had a funeral date. Funeral Expenses Payment claims can now be made when families have an estimated funeral date. Loved ones can also send a funeral director contract before the funeral, as opposed to an invoice after the funeral, meaning Funeral Expenses Payments can be accessed earlier. 

Will Quince, DWP Minister, commented: “These important changes will make the very difficult time of planning a funeral or cremation that bit easier for bereaved families. Helping families access Funeral Expenses Payments sooner and more quickly means they can focus on the much more important task of arranging a proper send-off for their loved one.”

Probate delay due to a surge in applications and a new IT system

The HM Courts and Tribunals (HMCTS) have announced delays in the probate service were caused by an influx of applications and the new IT system. 

A statement released by the HMCTS showed a 50% increase in the usual number of monthly applications. As a result, there were 45,000 extra applications compared to usual. 

Jonathan Wood, the National Services Director for HMCTS, explained: “The surge coincided with ‘teething problems’ in migrating a new IT system, which lost a number of days’ worth of working time. Since then the Probate Service has increased staffing by 20% to reduce the backlog, and is issuing 1,000 grants per day.”

In the statement, Mr Wood apologised for the delays and claimed that the new online application procedure would make it “clearer and simpler” to use the probate service. 

The Law Gazette stated that solicitors will soon be able to apply for probate online – read more here.

Dementia cases rising, but people aren’t putting legal precautions in place

An estimated 12 million people are at high risk of dementia in the UK, but there are only 928,000 Lasting Power of Attorneys (LPAs) have been appointed. 

A Lasting Power of Attorney is where a person chooses someone they trust to take over their health and welfare needs or property and financial affair if they should lose the mental capacity to make decisions for themselves. 

The report, published by Solicitors for the Elderly, claimed that by the year 2025, there will be 15.4 million aged 65 and over – one million of which will be diagnosed with a form of dementia. Of the entire population, 73% of the population are concerned about losing the ability to make decisions about their health, welfare and financial affairs.

A spokesperson for Solicitors for the Elderly said: “We’re all living longer, which is good news for most people. However, it means the prevalence of conditions like dementia are on the rise. The uncertainty and grey areas that surround mental incapacity are extremely unsettling, which is all the more reason to take immediate action and consider your health and welfare wishes.” 

“My Way” by Frank Sinatra tops the “Funeral Music Chart” for the ninth time

Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” is the number one song played at funerals, according to the latest data from funeral directors. 

Non-movers in the chart included “Time To Say Goodbye” by Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman, “Over the Rainbow” by Eva Cassidy and “Wind Beneath My Wings” by Bette Midler. 

The data is from over 100,000 funerals conducted over the last year and includes some of the more unique song choices such as Meatloaf’s “Bat Out of Hell” and “Disco Inferno (Burn Baby Burn)” by The Trammps.

Funerals are fast becoming a poignant way to reflect an individual’s life and personality, with music being one of the most popular ways to symbolise this. 

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One in ten people would choose a traditional, religious funeral

The latest report from  found that just one in ten people would choose a religious funeral and the number of more personalised ceremonies has increased.

Findings were based on the opinions of 4,000 people and over 500,000 funerals conducted in the last five years. 

More people are opting for unique ways to celebrate their lives – with milk floats, quad bikes and canal boats among the choices of hearse and zoos, buses and cafes as the preferred location for a wake. 

Furthermore, requests for ashes to be turned into keepsakes such as jewellery, paperweights and trees has increased by 21% in the last year alone. 

This emphasises the importance of making sure people make their last wishes apparent. More people than ever before are requesting personalised ceremonies and, as a result, there are thousands of options to achieve this.

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