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The Rising Industry That Comforts the Grieving

5 min read • Aug 25, 2020 • Katherine O'Malley

End-of-life services are a hot topic. Once a declining market, it’s now on the upswing as people recognize the importance of end-of-life planning.

A 2019 survey showed a decline of nearly 25% in estate planning since 2017. Welcome to the year of the coronavirus pandemic and now the pendulum has swung the other way. Lantern and Cake—online end-of-life planning resources—have both reported an uptick in the number of users, especially in the millennial and under-45 demographic.

According to the CDC, more than 2.8 million die in the US each year. Add in more than 160,000 COVID-19-related deaths, and the need for end-of-life services comes into focus.

What Are End-of-Life Services?

End-of-life services involve more than specifying who should get your baseball card collection. The older you are and the more you own, the more complex the process can be, but it’s applicable for everyone.

End-of-life paperwork (e.g., lists of bank accounts, passwords, insurance information) and documents (e.g., living wills, power of attorneys) are just part of the puzzle, according to the National Institute on Aging. Online services allow you to create personalized checklists to navigate your end-of-life planning, including documenting nontraditional items like “What advice would you give your younger self?”

End-of-life services also include supporting the grieving process and final arrangements.

Who Needs End-of-Life Planning?

It’s common for people to think they are too young or too poor to engage in end-of-life planning. But in reality, everyone needs it—just ask anyone who has ever been burdened with settling an estate that wasn’t properly planned.

If you are medically incapacitated, advance care directives specify who will make healthcare decisions for you. According to the American Medical Association (AMA), “About two-thirds of deaths attributed to COVID-19 are taking place in inpatient care settings.” Translation? Without paperwork, the person working with the medical team to make key decisions might not be the person you intended. Additionally, power-of-attorney paperwork allows someone else to act on your behalf to complete tasks like paying bills or filing insurance claims.

Estate planning reduces the energy and time required for those settling your estate and tying up loose ends. Do you want your children spending weeks tracking down your pension funds? Or your sister cleaning out your house with her toddler in tow only to discover loaded firearms hidden under couch cushions?

Create End-of-Life Paperwork

Who can create end-of-life paperwork? Depending on your situation, you can hire a professional or do it yourself.

If your estate is complicated (e.g., a blended family, many assets), consider hiring an estate attorney. Using a professional ensures that hard questions are answered and wording that might complicate estate settlement isn’t added into a will.

But do-it-yourself options may be all you need to create advance care directives and wills for your situation. For example, Trust&Will enables you to create your guardianship, will, or trust for under $500.

The question of whether to use a professional or do-it-yourself is like doing your taxes. You can, but should you?

Business Opportunities for End-of-Life Services

So what does all this mean for businesses? It means opportunity. Entire segments of people have not planned at all or have outdated plans. Additionally, the pandemic has made more people willing to talk about end-of-life scenarios and created some niche markets. It has also forced businesses that traditionally operate in-person to shift to virtual solutions.

Planning services, like Cake and Lantern, that walk clients through the planning process and DIY estate planning services, like Gentreo and Trust&Will, have seen an increase in business.

Near has found its market connecting clients with end of life services. This includes traditional services like estate planning, as well as nontraditional services like end-of-life photographers and energy practitioners.

Niche markets include businesses such as Alica Forneret’s. She has found her niche helping companies talk about grief at work—a need that increases as the pandemic continues to impact more people. She also focuses on the BIPOC population for their grief-related needs, which is essential due to the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on minority communities.

More people are turning to death doulas. Death doulas (think death coaches) help “complement the care from hospitals, senior care facilities, and hospices, as well as fill in the gaps that occur during the dying process.”

New Narrative Memorials is an example of a service that has shifted to using technology. It was founded to provide event management services for funerals—essentially the equivalent of a wedding planner but for memorial services. Fast-forward to pandemic-related social distancing rules and New Narrative Memorials pivoted to planning and facilitating virtual memorial services of up to 1000 guests via Zoom.

Other businesses have also shifted to technical solutions to enable social distancing. Funeral homes have transitioned to new products such as drive-by funerals, broadcasting services on the radio, and live-streaming services. Businesses like Memvio and LifeWeb360 offer virtual memorial videos and scrapbooks. Estate lawyers now offer planning sessions via Zoom.

People are seeking help with end-of-life planning and services from the “where to start” tasks to pre-planning funerals to finding support during an end-of-life process. Thankfully, businesses are stepping up to fill those needs and ease conversations and tasks.


Katherine O'Malley

Katherine O'Malley is a contributor to the Lendio blog. A technology geek at heart, she splits her time between traveling, freelance writing, database administration work, and implementing SEO on her travel blog. In her free time, she loves to research the challenges small-to-midsize tourist suppliers face and find ways that technology can help them out.