Dear Santa, I wish dying wasn’t so hard on the living.

Dear Santa, I wish dying wasn’t so hard on the living. Rachel Donnelly December 21, 2022
Dear Santa, I wish dying wasn’t so hard on the living.

I can imagine the emails that you’re getting from other businesses right now contain messages of gratitude, glad tidings, holiday greetings and appreciation for another year. Well, not me. I’m keeping it real this year.

Last week, I went on a tirade against a financial services company. I won’t tell you the name of the company but it starts with an E and ends with an E, and they are now officially and permanently on my NAUGHTY LIST. 

I’ve been working with a client whose husband died earlier this year and is the listed beneficiary of his retirement accounts. After MONTHS of sending and resending the required forms they required to do a simple and straightforward transfer, we’re still in limbo.

Here’s a recap of why this company is on my naughty list, but before that, I think it’s worth mentioning that when you send emails to this company’s beneficiary services team, it usually takes them 1 week to confirm receipt of the email + 2 additional weeks to process documents. 

  • Received instructions on what forms to complete and send back via email
  • The forms were sent along with all requested documentation, including a signed letter of instruction
  • But because there were two accounts, we were told we needed two signed letter of instructions, not just one. Forms are sent again.
  • We were told the signed letters of instructions needed “wet” signatures and not electronic signatures. Forms are sent again.
  • We’re told we didn’t include the decedent’s phone number and email address on the original application. Forms are sent yet again.
  • Company claims they never received the death certificate despite the fact that I have proof I sent it to them multiple times.

At this point I’ve lost count at how many times I’ve gone back and forth with this company. And it’s still not resolved. 

This process of dealing with the business of death both infuriates me and breaks my heart at the same time. Many times than not, family members are left to deal with this on their own while also trying to attend to their grief. 

A few weeks ago, the Washington Post published a perspective piece entitled “After a loved one dies, red tape adds to the grief” which agonizingly details how “bureaucratic delays and paperwork are frustrating, exhausting, emotionally crushing — and often unavoidable”.

While I know I can’t make dying easier on the living (because that’s impossible), I wish we could make the business of dying easier. It shouldn’t have to be this hard. We shouldn’t expect grieving spouses, children, siblings or parents to navigate complicated administrative procedures like this.

If I were to ask Santa for one thing this year, it would be to force companies to do an audit of how they handle deceased customer processes. And once they understand that customer journey, to try and make changes to make it better. Is more training needed? Is there a redundant step? How can it be made better to ensure ease vs. anguish?

In closing, I want to thank you for listening to my tirade but most importantly to express my sincere appreciation for your support of AfterLight this year. I am honored to help clients during some of life’s most difficult moments and I hope to never take for granted or to forget that I was once where they are. 

Wishing you the best during this holiday season.