A survey carried out by consumer advocacy group Which? Surveyed 1,600 of their members who had acted as an executor to a will in the last two years. The survey uncovered some truly shocking complaints against banks who have been making serious mistakes when dealing with bereaved families.

In some cases, the consumer group found that some banks had lost death certificates and failed to close accounts of deceased customers, a problem that has only got worse since the pandemic began. Those surveyed complained that they had found it harder to get in touch with their banking provider since the lockdown began and incredibly dozens of people explained how their bank had lost the death certificates of their loved ones. In one case a bank lost the death certificate of an elderly gentleman, whose daughter had to pay in full for his funeral.

For one bereaved partner, the bank sent out letters to her deceased spouse and after complaining to them, several weeks later her late husband received a new credit card. The bank apologised for the mistake and offered compensation, but this must have been incredibly distressing, especially during these unprecedented times we find ourselves in. The survey also revealed a lack of knowledge and expertise of staff in some banks of the probate process. The banks that scored the lowest for customer satisfaction were Barclays and HSBC.

Money editor at Which? Jenny Ross said: “Our research has exposed unacceptable mistakes by banks cropping up again and again during the probate process, leaving bereaved customers even more distressed and potentially out of pocket because of avoidable errors and delays. Banks must ensure they treat executors with compassion by communicating sensitively and making sure their processes are as efficient as possible.”

Dealing with someone’s estate and the probate process can be a difficult and challenging time, especially if you have been affected by the pandemic. Which? recommends the following tips when dealing with probate:

  • Try to gather the details of your loved one’s accounts when they are still alive.
  • Order multiple copies of the death certificate.
  • Consider getting professional help to accurately value the estate.
  • Keep detailed records as you will be dealing with lots of different organisations.
  • Keep beneficiaries updated.
  • Complain if things go wrong. You can escalate issues to the Financial Ombudsman Service.