Personal Finance

Funeral cost soars in ‘cost of dying’ crisis

The cost of dying has hit a record high fuelling an increase in the number of pauper's funerals.

The cost of a funeral - which makes up only part of the so-called 'cost of dying' - is now £4,141, an increase of 4.7% year-on-year.

While 70 percent of people make provisions to pay for their funeral, nearly half of those don't put enough aside.

It means families must meet the shortfall. One in five families struggled to finance the cost of a funeral over the last year, the study by SunLife found.

They were forced to sell belongings, borrow on credit cards or from friends and family, or dip into their savings to pay for the funeral.

After questioning 1,522 people who have helped organise a funeral over the last four years, as well as 100 funeral directors, SunLife estimated the ‘cost of dying’ is now £9,658. It is the highest figure since it began its research 20 years ago.

Its calculations not only take into account the cost of a funeral, but also professional fees to administer the deceased's estate, and optional extras like a wake.

SunLife said: “Increases in both send-off and professional fees mean we’re now paying an average of £458 more than we were in 2022.”

Funeral costs had fallen over the last two years but latest figures show both burials and cremations have risen in price.

The expense, coupled with the cost of living crisis, has meant many have opted for 'direct' cremations or burials, where there is no service.

While a traditional burial costs just over £5,000 on average, a direct burial costs £1,657, SunLife said.

The insurer added: "The number of direct cremations swelled during the pandemic – out of necessity – but they’ve continued to grow in popularity even in the years after COVID-19 restrictions. This may in part be down to cost of living pressures.

"A direct cremation needn’t take place in isolation though. 33% of organisers say they held a wake afterwards, 27% held a memorial service, and a further 18% held both."

There has also been an increase in 'public health funerals' which were previously known as pauper's funerals. This is where the local council pays for a basic funeral because the deceased died without relatives or a way to pay for their own send-off.

The cost of living crisis has impacted how 44% of people organised a funeral. More than three-quarters (76 percent) of those who struggled to pay for a funeral said it impacted their mental health, while 67 percent said it harmed their physical health.

Help with funeral costs

Many people use a life insurance payout to cover the cost of their funeral.

Others may decide to save for their funeral using a pre-paid funeral plan service to cover the costs.

The difference of using life insurance and a funeral plan is that life insurance pays a lump sum with no stipulation as to what that money is spent on. So you might want to spend the payout on a funeral, or on something else. However the money paid into a funeral plan can only be used on the burial or cremation and costs linked to it.

The Government offers a Funeral Expenses Payment to help pay for a funeral you're arranging if you're on certain benefits.

It won't usually cover the whole cost of the funeral and what you get will depend on your circumstances.

While the exact amount available across the UK is not clear, in Scotland the Government says the average total payment is £1,800. The payment will usually cover the cost of burial or cremation in the local area where the person who died lived.

You can also get a payment of around £1,000 to put towards other funeral costs such as the service or car.

For those with a funeral plan the amount available is greatly reduced.

Any payment will be deducted from any money you receive from the deceased's estate.

For more information, click here.

To save money, funeral directors said people should look at how much they're spending on the coffin, catering and flowers.

SunLife said: "93% of funeral directors say people spend more money than they need to, on things such as catering and the coffin. A massive 82% of those mention flowers in particular."

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Helen Barnett

Helen is a journalist, editor and copywriter with 15 years' experience writing across print and digital publications. She previously edited the Daily Express website and has won awards as a reporter. Read more here.


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