Death is undeniably cruel, but the pain felt by surviving relatives is made worse when scant details are left about how to manage an individual's legacy.
One person who knows this all too well is Ian Dibb. Eighteen years ago, his 28-year-old sister took her own life. Two years later, his 57- year-old mum died of lung cancer, having never smoked.
Dealing with all the subsequent administration was a nightmare. Neither his mum nor sister had left any funeral plans, final wishes or organised their estate. Although his mum had written a will, it proved difficult to locate.
Planning: Try and leave final wishes such as the preferred type of funeral and music for the service – as well as personal videos and messages for loved ones
It set Ian, 44, on a mission to help other grieving families swamped by 'death admin'. The result is Once I've Gone – a service he has created that allows people to digitally store personal and financial information about themselves which can be accessed after their death by 'trusted contacts'.
The information might include a copy of a will, property deeds and details of bank accounts and any pensions. Also, final wishes such as the preferred type of funeral and music for the service – as well as personal videos and messages for loved ones. Ian says his service resolves a common problem when there are 'no breadcrumbs' leading surviving relatives to a particular account or asset.
Probate specialists, who wind up the financial affairs of the dead, often struggle to track down all their accounts. According to research by insurer Direct Line, more than a quarter of executors face this problem. There is also a risk of families missing out on their inheritance if accounts cannot be traced.
After registering his mum's death, Ian was asked by the funeral director what kind of service she would have wanted. It created immense pressure to get the answers right.
He took a deep dive into filing cabinets and shoe boxes before eventually finding his mum's will. 'I put all grief on hold,' Ian recalls. 'I don't think I even cried at my mum's funeral because there was so much I had to do. I needed to find the will, talk to solicitors and the banks.
'Having to deal with such tasks is hard but it should be easier.
'People plan for christenings, weddings, birthdays and Christmas, but they often fail to organise for death – even though it is inevitable. It makes life harder for our loved ones.'
Ian's business was given a boost in 2019 when a number of angel investors agreed to back it. Once I've Gone works with charities, financial planners and companies that want to offer the service to clients or employees as a benefit.
It does not sell anyone's personal details, there are no pop-up adverts, and staff cannot access customers' accounts. Ian adds: 'We guide and signpost people to where accounts can be found so the family can get on with grieving. It's not going to take away their pain, but it will make their lives just that little bit easier.'
Customers of Once I've Gone can choose either a free or 'premium' service. The free option allows for the storage of information – for example, a record of important accounts and final wishes, such as funeral type and service details.
The premium option costs £49 a year and allows for document storage of any kind, including videos and messages for loved ones.
Ian, who lives in Cornwall with his wife, daughter and stepson, says: 'There are trigger points in your life that make you realise how fragile we are. I now know that leaving messages behind and getting financial affairs in order is an absolute gift, one of the best we can give to those we leave behind.'