How death is experiencing a digital awakening

Founder of Life Ledger, a digital solution to death notifications, Tremayne Carew Pole, talks about the evolving industry of Wills and the rise of digitisation.

Death is one of the last sectors to be truly digitally disrupted. The strangely analogue world that it continues to inhabit may be due in large part to the age of many of its customers, with life expectancy in the UK being 80, and a generational gap of 30 years, most of those affected by death are in their 50s, and considerably less digitally literate then the following generation.

The last five years, though, has seen the rise of a new generation of digital estate planners, administrators and legacy securers. The Farewills of this world have crested the legal tech wave offering a simple fill-in-the-blanks solution to will writing. Why pay hundreds of pounds to a firm of lawyers to guide you through making a will, when you can be coached gently by intuitive technology that will achieve the same outcome at a fraction of the cost. 2020 has seen, and I’m sure 2021 will continue the trend, an increase in people considering their own mortality, and not just at a mid-life stage, instead reaching into the digitally native millennial generation. Digitisation has bred democratisation, with prices tumbling, wills are now available to almost everyone, and indeed some online will writers, such as Bequeathed are offering a free will writing platform. Although wills are still something the majority of the UK’s adult population decide to ignore.

As wills move online, so too do the supporting cast of administrative services. From digital vaults, like Once I’ve Gone, to death planning tools such as Life Ledger’s Register a Life service, which provides a platform to ensure that when death comes, everything the executors and administrators need is in place to ensure that probate is a super smooth and efficient process.

Then, once a death has occurred the sclerotic world of funerals is proving resistant to change. Although fleet of foot firms like Farewill see it as ripe for disruption and are breaking the stranglehold on traditional approaches, processes and prices. The new Registration of Births and Deaths Bill, currently in consultation, builds on the Coronavirus Bill 2020, and should allow the remote registration of a death. Hopefully what will follow on from there will be the digitisation of death certificates.

Before you get to probate there is the notification of both public sector organisations and private sector companies of a death, whose process is so fragmented, laborious and frustrating that it leaves many recently bereaved families reeling under the weight of the administrative burden. Change is happening here too. New start-up Life Ledger’s Register a Death platform allows both individual and professional users to send notifications of death to multiple companies in multiple sectors from one place. Currently working with over 650 UK companies, executors can communicate directly with them through their secure portal and bring back account balances to start the probate journey.

Probate too is beginning to undergo a nascent digital awakening. The newly launched Exizent platform is bringing all the traditional probate searches, documentation and form filling into one place, while Farewill (yes, them again) are challenging the incumbents with a more streamlined and cost-effective probate solution directly targeting the consumer.

What is for certain is that before the decade is out death will have become a truly digital process, from the writing and storing of wills to the registration of death, closure of accounts and onward probate process. The wheels are in motion, but they’re still gathering momentum.

Today's Wills and Probate