Breaking the taboo. Why we need to talk about death.

Benjamin Franklin is credited with the idiom “nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

Whilst many people are quite happy doing a bit of tax planning, talking about death – and what we want to happen to our wealth when we’re gone – remains a major taboo for most people. The big problem here is the stress and worry we risk leaving behind for our loved ones to deal with, on top of their emotions. Could we reduce that stress by talking about things? And why don’t we?

We spend a lot of time, effort and money protecting and insuring ourselves and our loved ones against things that might never happen, yet we often avoid the conversations that could help our loved ones deal more easily with life’s only certainty.

In their recent report The Last Word, MetLife (a global life insurance company) looks at the problem and explores some of the reasons behind it.

You can read the full report here: The Last Word: New Research on the Taboo Surrounding Death and Funeral Planning | MetLife


Having the last word.

MetLife’s research showed that 25% of people said that they struggled to make decisions whilst grieving, and 31% said that planning a funeral was a difficult experience that increased stress at an already difficult time. 

What that tells us is that if we pass away without leaving precise instructions about what we want to happen after our death, we’re adding to the burden our loved ones must carry. So, what stops us making these plans?

Less than half of people taking part in MetLife’s research (44%) said they had discussed their death with their loved ones, and they cited a number of reasons:

  • 22% simply don’t want to talk about it
  • 14% find it too uncomfortable
  • 14% believe it will upset people
  • 6% are worried about causing tensions and arguments
  • 21% don’t know where to start or how to broach the subject
  • 8% didn’t want to ‘tempt fate’
  • 4% worried their wishes wouldn’t be understood

Among the practical impacts of these, and other reasons to avoid the topic, is that 1 in 3 people had not even thought about what their funeral wishes might be. 

But it goes way beyond funeral planning. 

85% of families were vulnerable to someone dying without a Will. And only 14% of people had shared vital information with their families about where to find important documents after their death.

Someone dying intestate (without leaving a Will) causes major headaches for families and can have a significant impact on the wealth that’s passed on to them. At the very least, it adds to the administrative burden, but it can also have an impact on inheritance tax, and cause family disagreements. In extreme cases, it can make it difficult for wealth to be passed on at all – and HMRC is always willing to take it off your hands!


What legacy will you leave?

At Talis IFA, we’re used to having the conversations that many people find difficult. MetLife’s report also showed that people tend to be more comfortable talking to their friends about death than their siblings or spouse/partner.

As independent financial advisers, we spend time getting to know our clients well – primarily so that we understand their needs and aspirations, but also so that we build the level of trust that enables people to have honest, open conversations with us about their future, including after their death.

Planning what you want to happen to your wealth is an important part of managing your finances, to ensure that it goes to support those you care about, rather than into the pockets of the tax man. 

Inheritance tax, and ways to minimise it, is often where these conversations begin for us, and we frequently find that once a client has started to talk about their hopes (and fears) for what will happen to their estate after their death, it becomes a lot easier.

You can read more about how we help our clients to begin those conversation here:

Wealth Succession- how to start the conversation about planning for the next generation – Talis Independent Financial Advisers (


If you’d like to start a conversation with us about your estate planning, get in touch. Click here to find a Talis IFA.

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