What Do Mortality Statistics Mean for Private Client Practitioners?

Every year the Office for National Statistics (ONS) releases national mortality data, which includes a wide variety of information including underlying causes. Understanding the underlying causes of deaths in the UK and observing the changes in trends over time provides valuable insight for a variety of professional sectors, but what insight can private client practitioners gain?

Charting the number of deaths by underlying cause helps to visualise contributing factors. Perhaps unsurprisingly cancer, heart disease and respiratory diseases feature as leading general categorisations. Looking in greater detail though, Mental Health & Behavioural Disorders are a growing category, with Dementia alone listed as the underlying cause of nearly 50,000 deaths. By including Alzheimer’s, classified as a disease of the nervous system, this makes a combined total in excess of 70,000.

The number of death attributable to these two diseases has seen an increase when compared to 2011 data published by The Guardian1. This may be due to a general increase in these diseases, greater awareness, changes in classification or a combination of all three. Nevertheless, when looking at the Leading Cause of death (different categorisation to Underlying Cause), Dementia & Alzheimer’s together reflect the most likely causes of death in our population.

Categorised by demographic the number of deaths is overwhelmingly individuals who are 80 or older, where Dementia & Alzheimer’s are most prevalent perhaps adding some bias to the statistics around leading cause. Nevertheless, as longevity is set to increase and the number of deaths attributable to Dementia & Alzheimer’s appears to be growing it is likely we can expect this trend to continue.

For private client practitioners increasing longevity and the resulting increase in instances of Dementia & Alzheimer’s undoubtedly leads to a greater need for professionals knowledgeable in elder law. Professionals capable of supporting vulnerable people and their families in managing finances and assisting supported decision making will be in demand.

It’s foreseeable that advice and guidance on asset preservation and care fees will be a key area, given the uncertainty around long term care funding. Following the successful promotion of Lasting Powers of Attorneys by the Office of the Public Guardian, arguably there will be a correlating increase in contentious issues, misuse of power or possible fraud among attorneys, which seems a common menace often going unreported.

Similarly, increasing instances of Dementia & Alzheimer’s as the underlying cause of death could lead to issues in estate administration. With Mental Health or Behavioural Disorders more commonly being registered as a cause of death on the death certificate, this opens possible challenges to testamentary capacity or the distribution of an estate. Once again, requiring Professionals to either mediate or advise in litigation.

Within the second biggest demographic, individuals between 50 and 80, the most common cause of death is Ischaemic Heart Disease. Often characterised as a heart attack this can result in sudden or unexpected death, creating issues where the individual has perhaps not properly previously organised their affairs. In such circumstances the knowledge of Professionals in helping efficient estate administration and advising on tax issues will undoubtedly be of relevance and value.

At Estatesearch we see data as being key to gaining insight and understanding. That’s why we are working to connect private client practitioners with the information and services they need to support their clients. To find out more about what we do visit www.estatesearch.co.uk or email [email protected]

This article was submitted to be published by Estatesearch as part of their advertising agreement with the Today’s Wills and Probate. The views expressed in this article are those of the submitter and not those of Today’s Wills and Probate.

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