Families hit by hike in funeral costs

8 February 2011
Councils across Britain have been accused of targeting the bereaved as the cost of funerals far outstrips the rate of inflation.

South Tyneside has increased the price of cremation by 18%, while Renfrewshire has put up the cost of buying a grave plot by 47%.

However, the average cost of a UK funeral has fallen as families hit by the increases cut optional extras such as flowers, according to a report Sun Life Direct.

The average cost of arranging a funeral in 2010 was £6,801 – £297 less than in 2009. This was because discretionary costs fell from an average of £2,156 in 2009 to £1,745 in 2010.

But the overall decrease masks a small rise (4.5%) in the costs of the non-discretionary costs, pushing the basic cost of a funeral up to £2,857. As well as an increase in council charges for burial and cremation, doctors' fees and funeral directors' costs have also risen.

At the same time, figures released by the Dying Matters Coalition found that half of UK adults have not made any financial provision for their deaths or even discussed their wishes with loved ones – leaving behind sizeable funeral expenses for relatives to cope with.

Dying Matters revealed that 60% of adults, including 25% over-65s, have not made a will, 82% do not have a pre-paid funeral plan and 46% have not made any financial provision for their own death.

The research also shows that fewer than 10% of people shop around and seek quotes from more than one funeral director.

Eve Richardson, chief executive of the Dying Matters Coalition, said: "We owe it to our loved ones not to leave a mess behind when we die. We owe it to ourselves to arrange our affairs to our own satisfaction and to plan a funeral of our choosing."

Simon Cox, head of life planning at Sun Life Direct, said: "With the cost of the essential elements of a funeral increasing it is wise to share your funeral preferences and wishes with those close to you and make arrangements to pay for what you want. With plans in place, you can rest easy that when the time comes you will have the funeral you want, without leaving a financial burden."

Dying Matters has published a Put your House in Order leaflet which aims to prompt people to address the problems associated with lack of planning for end of life. So many people fail to address these issues due to lack of forethought, fear and an unwillingness to talk openly about dying and death .

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