Cost of dying hits record high

4 September 2013
Funeral costs have risen by 80 per cent since 2004 with the average bill now £7,622, according to the annual Cost of Dying report published this week.

The report, produced by insurer Sun Life Direct, shows that Londoners pay the highest costs at £9,556, while the least expensive place to die is Wales, where the average price is £6,096. Nearly one in five people polled said they would struggle to foot the bill, with the average shortfall rising from £1,246 to £1,277 year on year. 

In the last year alone, the average price per funeral, including probate, headstones and  flowers, has risen 7.1 per cent, compared to the current 2.8 per cent rate of inflation. Sun Life Direct predicts that it will shoot up further in the next five years. 

The insurer has found that burials are significantly dearer than cremations with the average burial at £3,914 costing almost £1,000 more than the average cremation.  

The main increases in costs have come from disbursement fees, such as burial and cremation fees - which are usually set by local authorities, and doctors' and ministers' fees. Since 2007 burial fees have risen by 69 per cent and cremation fees by 51 per cent. 

Sun Life Direct spokeswoman Melanie Rees said: "As over 100,000 people struggle to pay for a funeral this year, an important message for everyone should be to do something to prepare, however small.

"As funeral poverty has increased 50 per cent in just three years, something must be done as a matter of urgency before more families are unable to give their loved ones the send-off they deserve."

Alan Slater, chief executive of the National Association of Funeral Directors, said the report reflected its own research which showed an increasing number of people falling into "funeral poverty", with big shortfalls between the support available from the government's Social Fund and the cost of a basic funeral.

"Sadly, this is often leading either to the bereaved being forced into the arms of payday loan companies or, increasingly, leaving funeral directors with unsustainable levels of debt," Slater said. "The NAFD has long campaigned for increases to the Social Fund. The average payment of £700 plus disbursements has not increased since 2003, and less than half of those who apply are successful anyway."

Dr Kate Woodthorpe, lecturer in Sociology at the University of Bath, said: “People need to realise that death is one of the few certainties in life and must be addressed ahead of time so that plans can be made with regard to who will pay for their funeral, and how.

“Not everyone has to choose the same funeral and costs can vary, but these need to be discussed with family and friends to ensure appropriate provisions are made.”


Plan for your funeral now using Dying Matters' simple My Funeral Wishes form

View the full Cost of Dying report

Information and advice on planning your funeral - external resources

National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD)

NAFD is an independent trade association with the broadest membership within the funeral profession. It offers help and advice to anyone arranging a funeral.

Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF)

SAIF specialises in regulating independent funeral directors, predominantly family-run businesses.

The Natural Death Centre

A charity offering free, impartial advice and support with family-organised, environmentally-friendly funerals, and natural burial grounds.


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