Simplify the final affair

Department of Internal Affairs

Help reduce the administrative burden and stress placed on others when a loved one dies.

This opportunity is about exploring how information is collected from individuals before they die, stored until needed, and then shared appropriately with the individuals and organisations that need to know.

Loved ones have time to grieve, instead of worrying. Winding up affairs is easy and stress free. Organisations and agencies can keep their systems and services up to date, and prevent piling an additional burden on next of kin as they navigate this challenging time.  

Marilyn’s experience

 

Marilyn’s mother recently passed away from cancer. It came as a shock, despite her mother recently shifting into a temporary care facility. They were supposed to have had more time.

Marilyn and her mother lived in different islands, and most of their interactions involved reminiscent phone calls reliving when Marilyn’s father had been alive.

When Marilyn started talking to the funeral director, she realised that those calls had never touched on her mother’s preferred funeral arrangements.

She had trouble getting the utilities turned off for her mother’s apartment, since she wasn’t named as an authority on the accounts.

When Marilyn ended the lease on her mother’s apartment she had to pay the outstanding rent from her own pocket, as the bank had frozen her mother’s.

Now, several weeks down the track she still hasn’t been able to find her mother’s will, despite cold calling several law firms.

When Marilyn reflects on how happy her mother was during their phone calls, she wouldn’t have changed a thing. However, the stress of winding up her mother’s affairs is starting to show, and she has fallen into debt.  She doesn’t feel like she will be able to properly grieve until this is all behind her.

Problem’s experienced

Customers:

  • Individuals don’t have comprehensive, authoritative information on how to prepare for end of life
  • Next-of-kin often don’t know how to locate will or solicitor, turn off accounts or benefits, how to select a funeral director, or what the bereaved’s funeral preferences would be.
  • Next-of-kin may continue to receive correspondence or benefits for the bereaved from private and public sector organisations that haven’t been notified about end-of-life. Each letter can trigger a new grief response. Overpaid benefits will have to be repaid.
  • Next-of-kin may struggle financially, and not be aware of government entitlements that could help them get through.

Other stakeholders:

  • Organisations and agencies sustain extra costs and administration burden when unnecessary services or support are provided and then have to be recouped
  • Organisations and agencies cause additional stress to next of kin by trying to communicate with the bereaved unknowingly
  • Funeral directors have to gather and share information from different sources using paper forms

Why is this the right time?

Around 30,000 people die in New Zealand every year. Many do not have a will or plan for their own death, especially young people.  Most New Zealanders will experience the stress associated with winding up the affairs of a loved one during their lifetime.

‘End-of-life’ has been recognised as one of the top five priorities for the Service Innovation Working Group. The Department of Internal Affairs is leading a team of public and private sector organisations who want to reduce the issues experienced by next of kin and organisations around end-of-life. There are plans to repurpose a new platform developed for information sharing around beginning-of-life for this purpose.

This opportunity is play a key part of the discovery phase for the DIA project. There is management support and a pre-existing network of interested parties that are already engaged and ready to help, as well as the chance to get involved with life event service delivery which is transforming the way government services are delivered to New Zealanders.

What does success look like

A successful solution would involve individuals, next of kin, organisations and government agencies.

Individuals know how to prepare for end of life, and find it easy to do so. They have peace of mind that their information will be stored and maintained securely, and shared as appropriate.

Next of kin have what they need to wind up affairs more quickly and easily and can get support if they need it. They don’t experience shocks, unexpected costs, or administrative frustrations.

Agencies and private organisations provide more accurate, lower costs services. Their relationships with next-of-kin are protected, and their administrative burden is reduced.

A solution to this problem would:

  • Use information from public and private sector sources
  • Reuse existing capability  and follow the Service Innovation concept for life event solutions
  • Have potential to expand to other countries where similar complexities exist
  • Follow government rules for any on-selling of authoritative death information