Our work at Finders International means we often work to trace the rightful heirs to the estates of those who have died alone and intestate.
Dying alone is an increasing phenomenon, and Bridget Jones put it astutely – voicing a horror of dying alone, only to be found three weeks later half-eaten by an Alsatian.
Sadly, the fictional Bridget’s fear isn’t so “out there” as recent cases proved – Anne Letrim who wasn’t found until six years after her death (neighbours thought she had moved) and Joyce Carol Vincent whose body was found in her bedsit almost three years after her death, surrounded by the Christmas presents she’d been wrapping and with the TV still on.
The charity Dignity in Dying notes that dying alone is British people’s number one fear about death. But changes in society, an ageing population and the way we live mean dying alone is much more likely. At present, nearly half (49 percent) of people aged 75 and over live alone.
In a response to reports that more people in Wales are drying alone than ever before, Age Cymru said they found it incredibly sad that more people than ever were drying with no known next of kin and no-one to make funeral arrangements on their behalf.
Dying intestate is common too – of the 50 million adults living in the UK, 26 million (52 percent) have not written a will.
Here at Finders International, a lot of the time we find that the rightful beneficiaries to estates had no or very little knowledge of their relative and most express deep regret that their relative died in such lonely circumstances.
Our ageing population means there is no easy solution to this modern-day phenomenon, but keeping in touch with relatives and embracing the community spirit by keeping an eye on elderly neighbours is a start.