Can you afford to die? Cost of dying rises

Our 2016 Average funeral cost figures are now out

We often hear about the cost of living, but what about the cost of dying in 2014?

Let’s be honest, dying isn’t something many of us like to dwell on, but can we afford to stick our heads in the sand? Our latest research reveals the total cost of dying in the UK has soared 10.6% to £8,427 in just one year - that’s seven times the cost of living1.

Blog - funerals - SunLife Cost of Dying infographicHow does the cost of dying add up to £8,427?

There’s no denying that £8,4272 sounds a lot, but when you break down the costs, you can see how it all adds up. Here are the three elements that make up the total cost of dying:

  • Funeral expenses - average cost £3,590
    This covers the costs of the funeral itself, including the coffin, the service and transporting the body
  • Administration of the estate - Average cost £3,004
    These are the costs related to hiring a professional to manage the estate administration, also called probate. Around 40% of people take this option over arranging probate themselves
  • Additional costs - Average £1,833
    These include the additional, optional extras at a funeral such as flowers, order of service, venue hire, catering, notices, music and the memorial.

As you can see from the breakdown, the funeral itself accounts for the majority of total cost. Shockingly, since we first conducted this survey in 2004, the average cost of the funeral alone has risen by 87%.

The cost where you are

Until this point, we’ve only talked about averages, but as with most things these days, the cost of dying very much depends on where you live. Costs vary dramatically across the country with Londoners paying on average £4,836 for a funeral – that’s almost 35% over the national average of £3,590. At the other end of the spectrum, average costs are significantly lower in North West England at £3,028, which is 15.7% lower than the national average.

Whilst other regional differences may not be quite so dramatic, the cost of a burial in particular, varies significantly depending on where you call home.

Costs for the extra touches vary

One element of the cost of dying has actually fallen overall. In 2014, the average amount spent on additional costs was £1,833, that’s £173 down on 2013. These costs are made up of the more individual aspects of the occasion like funeral notices, the wake and flowers, which is why the total can go up or down year on year.This fall is also perhaps an understandable reaction to the financial squeeze of recent years, although the unstoppable march of social networking can also take some of the credit.

For example, where traditionally funeral announcements have always appeared in the newspaper, today it’s not unusual or inappropriate to announce the funeral, and receive condolences in return, via Facebook.

The rise of funeral poverty

With all these costs to contend with, it’s no surprise that many of us are simply unable to cover the cost of a funeral. In fact, out of the 580,000 annual deaths in the UK, the number of people who can’t afford to pay for a funeral has risen by 50% since 2010 to 81,242, with the average shortfall now standing at around £2,371.

It pays to plan ahead

With funeral costs looking set to continue rising and the harsh reality of funeral poverty upon us, planning ahead is perhaps more important now than it has ever been. Talking to family about wishes and putting money aside can help reduce the stress for the loved ones we leave behind.

It also means that we can have the send-off we would like - whether that’s a traditional funeral, or something in line with current funeral trends, such as opting for colour instead of black - or choosing a celebration of life over a more traditional service.

Want to plan ahead but don’t know where to start?

If we’ve got you thinking, you can see how much the cost of dying is in your area by using our free funeral calculator.

You can read more of the findings from our latest Cost of Dying report - PDF 3.07MB.

View full size SunLife Cost of Dying infographic - PNG 0.19MB (Opens in new window)

SunLife offers a range of straightforward and affordable products including over 50 life insurance, funeral plans, life insurance, ISAs and Will writing services.


1. The rate of consumer prices index (CPI) inflation for the year in the UK was recorded at 1.5% in August 2014 (Office for National Statistics)

2. All figure quoted, unless otherwise stated: SunLife Cost of Dying Survey - July 2014