The cost of living continues to rise, whilst research shows that the cost of dying is escalating even faster.
There are basic costs associated with funerals, including obtaining the necessary certificates and paying fees, but beyond this prices can vary enormously across the country and from one provider to another. In grief people are unlikely to shop around as they would with another purchase, making it easy for funeral providers to include services or products that are not necessary, or that you would never have chosen for yourself.
Luxury Coffin from Von Erickson
For this reason alone it makes sense for you to look into the cost of what you wish to have at your funeral in advance, giving some clear guidance to those left behind as to whether you consider each item worth the expense, or a waste of money.
As with any purchase or investment, shop around. Get quotes from different suppliers and reject, for example, funeral directors who are not prepared to let you use your own pallbearers, or source your own coffin. The Money Advice Service has some helpful tips on optional costs.
Light is gradually filtering into the shaded world of funerals, allowing companies such as Compare the Coffin to provide a transparent comparison service. Your family won’t be seduced into paying for a heavy wooden casket if they know you prefer a cardboard version on ecological or cost grounds, whilst should you wish for an expensive woven coffin with a luxurious floral display, they will know it is money well spent.
Meeting the Costs
Sun Life’s annual report on The Cost of Dying revealed in September 2013 that the total average ‘cost of dying’ in the UK, including flowers, funeral costs, headstone and the obtaining of probate, is £7,622. This is over 7% higher than the previous year and reflects huge increases in the last decade particularly in the costs of burial and cremation fees (respectively up 69% and 51% since 2007). Funeral costs alone have risen 80% since 2004, making the price of an average funeral now £3,456.
As incomes stagnate death costs are becoming harder to meet. Research by social policy experts at the University of Bath found that councils are increasingly being asked to provide ‘Pauper’s Funerals’ because known relatives cannot or will not pay the costs.
The Government’s Social Fund is designed to help families who cannot afford funeral and related costs, but it too has failed to keep up with inflation in this area and whilst almost half of all applicants are turned down, the average sum awarded to successful claimants is inadequate. Research carried out by Citizens’ Advice Bureau last year concluded “funeral payments are failing to keep pace with the increasing cost of even a simple funeral” and the Centre for Death and Society urges the Government to review the system.
The person who makes the funeral arrangements will usually be responsible for paying for them, recovering the sum from the estate. Often this will be the executor or next of kin. If this person has access to the deceased’s joint account this may be the simplest way of making payment.
However, you may wish to make provision for funeral costs to be met from a specific fund, or have invested in a Funeral Plan. A pre-paid Plan will often specify a Funeral Director and funeral package, which will define what is included in your funeral. Alternatively, Funeral Insurance will pay a lump sum intended to cover the bulk of funeral costs from whichever supplier you choose.
Consumer organisation ‘ Which’ helpfully supplies an annual report on the cost of a range of commercially-available Funeral Plans, see December 2013 Guide.