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Rising funeral costs: can you afford to die?

The average cost of a basic funeral is now just over £3,000. Lorna Bourke explains how to ensure your loved ones aren't left to cover the bill. 

Rising funeral costs: can you afford to die?

The cost of dying has risen to £7,248 – the equivalent to three months of the average person’s pre-tax salary, according to Sun Life which has been surveying the cost of funerals as well as other expenses associated with a death in the family.

The cost of a basic funeral alone averages at just over £3,000. This is a considerable sum of money, and given that most people make no plans for their death let’s hope that someone in the family has some cash handy. Because even if you leave a substantial sum of money in your will to pay for your funeral, in most cases this cannot be accessed until probate has been granted and any outstanding taxes – such as inheritance tax, income tax and capital gains tax – have been settled.

Funeral costs are rising

The £7,248 estimate for the total cost of dying – which includes expenses like headstones and flowers – is a £400 increase on the 2010 figure and a rise of 20% since 2007.

One of the major costs of dying is obtaining probate – the legal process of administrating the estate of someone who has died. According to the survey estate planning costs have reached a record high at £2,292, representing a rise of 4.2% rise from 2010.

However, the largest contributing factor to the cost of dying is non-discretionary funeral charges which have risen by 8.2% since 2010. Non-discretionary costs are the inescapable expenses such as funeral director’s costs, doctor’s fees for certification, fees for a religious or secular service and burial or cremation charges.

Extras such as death and funeral notices in the newspapers, flowers, order sheets, memorial headstone, limousines, venue hire and catering for the wake meanwhile can add many thousands to the total bill.

Worryingly the Sun Life survey found that a quarter of people have made no ‘end of life’ plans at all – which includes making a will and a lasting power of attorney should you become unable to manage your own financial affairs in later life, mitigating inheritance tax if possible, providing a sum in an insurance policy, written in trust, to cover funeral costs and other outgoings associated with death like obtaining probate.

Do not expect state help

Though it is true that once you are gone you won’t know or perhaps care what your family arranges for your funeral, do not expect the state to pay. Only 38,000 awards, just 7% of all deaths in the UK, were made by the Department for Work and Pensions administered social fund funeral payments scheme in 2010/11 – worth £46.2 million in total and averaging £1,217 per applicant. A further 34,000 applicants to the scheme were unsuccessful.

The shortfall between average payout received and average funeral cost meanwhile is substantial, and looks set to continue to grow. In 2007 the fund paid out £1,117 per claim which would cover 47% of an average £2,390 funeral. In 2011, the fund pays out £1,217 which would only cover 39% of an average £3,091 funeral.

What’s more, an earlier survey carried out in 2000 by the Oddfellows Friendly Society showed that the actual cost of a funeral is considerably higher than that quoted initially by the funeral directors. This is substantiated by the Sun Life Direct survey which found that 53% of respondents said the funeral cost was more than they expected, up from 36% in 2009. Only 7% said the cost was lower than anticipated. 

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8 comments so far. Why not have your say?


Sep 14, 2011 at 18:41

Just dump me at the road side.

I'll be past caring at this point

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Dennis .

Sep 14, 2011 at 18:50

wouldn't that be fly tipping. (or perhaps die tipping)?

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Bill lawson

Sep 14, 2011 at 20:55

NOT YET But will when this country gets back to being great and shares rise which will improve our pensions.

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Sep 14, 2011 at 22:14

This has got to be cheaper, your put in a cotton sack into a reusable coffin then put into this machine in your cotton sack for a 3 hour rinse in hot alkali water mix which is then flushed into the sewage system then a quick process of the ashes for your loved ones to take home and cherish or sprinkle wherever they, or you, want:

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Paul Gill

Sep 14, 2011 at 22:29

What a racket,when is the government going to investigate as with car insurance its a monopoly that we can't get away from.

Maybe we should all run up debts with loan sharks and not pay them and let them take care of getting rid of us.

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Anonymous 1 needed this 'off the record'

Sep 14, 2011 at 22:51

Vultures are always there..... especially the lawyers...... funeral insurance should be tagged to Bank Accounts or similar....... Govt. not responsible, never is......

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Sep 15, 2011 at 07:40

I'm sure there is a market for those pragmatists among us who just want an eco-friendly hygenic body disposal and provision of a good knees-up for our friends!

Come on Stelios there must be a profitable [but tasteful] business model for easyBurn!

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The Wills Man

Sep 15, 2011 at 10:22

A guaranteed funeral plan is just that - it guarantees what you will get for your funeral. No amount of money left in Trust, a bank account, unit trust or any other savings method can guarantee your funeral.

Executors are not obliged to follow your wishes whether in your Will or carved into the back of the welsh dresser - they can send you to the back door of the crematorium and then spend the rest on a holiday in the sun if that's what they choose to do.

Another point that Lorna failed to mention is that a pre-paid funeral plan, providing it has no "cash value", falls outside of your estate for both IHT and is also ignored should you need long term care. That makes the lower limit substantially more than £12,250 for those without massive savings etc

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