• Costs for closing investment accounts after death can run to thousands

  • Many firms continuing to charge for months after death

  • 22 out of 49 largest savings providers offer no way for bereaved to close accounts online, forcing customers to queue on the phone or in branch

A number of the UK’s largest investment platforms are continuing to charge consumers long after they have passed away, according to a new report by Fairer Finance and Life Ledger.

The majority of investment platforms charge customers both a platform fee, as well as any fund management charges, until the account is closed – which can be many months after the customer has died.

In addition, many firms charge for the money to be released from the account when a person dies, or charge hefty fees to provide a valuation needed for probate. AJ Bell, Barclays, BestInvest and Halifax are among a number of brands that charge customers to pay the money out of their accounts when they die. While BestInvest and Pilling & Co charge £10 and £12 per holding respectively, to provide a probate valuation of an account. For investors with a large number of holdings, this could lead to a four figure charge.

The report also found that the process for reporting a death and closing an account remains laborious in many parts of the financial services sector – piling misery on grieving consumers.

22 out of the 49 largest savings provider have no way of reporting a death online – and instead require customers to phone or see someone in branch. This is a process that many bereaved relatives find distressing, particularly when they have to go through this many times.

Fairer Finance and Life Ledger are calling on government and regulators to ban ongoing charges for customers when they die, and to force companies to provide quicker, easier ways for the bereaved to close accounts.

The report also calls on companies to sign up to a new charter which commits them to raising standards now – ahead of any new regulations or legislation.

James Daley, managing director of Fairer Finance, said: “Managing a loved ones affairs when they die shouldn’t be a bureaucratic and traumatic nightmare. In the 21st century, we should be making better use of technology to simplify the process and to remove some of the burden on families who are grieving.

“There’s little incentive on companies to get this right. Indeed, our research shows that many have no qualms about continuing to charge customers after they have died – and there’s nothing to stop them doing so. Government and regulators need to join forces to ensure fairer treatment for the bereaved.”

Tremayne Carew-Pole, founder of Life Ledger – a one-stop shop death notification service, says: “Through our work we see the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to helping families through the bereavement process. The ugly can be appalling: dedicated bereavement lines that ring and ring, call centres where communication is rushed and unintelligible, and cold, unempathetic staff who cannot deviate from a standard script.

“By commissioning this report we wanted to help shine a light on how companies are dealing with the bereaved, how they respond to families when they most need help, and how we can all work together to improve the situation.”

Notes to Editors

To speak to James Daley, managing director of Fairer Finance, email media@fairerfinance.com or call 020 3026 8542.

To speak to Tremayne Carew-Pole, founder of Life Ledger, email tremayne@lifeledger.com or call 07775 656825.

Life Ledger is a death notification service which looks to lift the administrative burden of bereavement on families. It provides a one-stop shop for death notification in the private sector, and works with companies to improve their death bereavement processes. www.lifeledger.com

Life Ledger sponsored the Fairer Finance report, but full editorial control remained with Fairer Finance.

Fairer Finance is an independent consumer group, which campaigns for a fairer financial services market for consumers, as well as the businesses that serve them. www.fairerfinance.com