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Time to talk about death and funeral planning

Don’t avoid talking about your funeral arrangements

We just don’t know when our time might be up. That’s why we shouldn’t put off talking about our death or our funeral wishes, but for obvious reasons we do. Avoiding the subject is the easy option, so spare a thought for the people you’ll leave behind. Planning your own funeral and making your funeral arrangements known will save them the stress of second-guessing what you would’ve wanted when you’re not around to ask.

The stats say it all. Our latest research into the total cost of dying revealed that just 1% of people left to sort out funeral arrangements knew exactly what the deceased wanted. Almost a third had no idea if they wanted a burial or cremation and over half admitted to not knowing if the funeral should be religious or not. So, not only are people being left guessing, they might also be struggling to pay funeral costs that weren’t needed.

The irony is that even when we’ve experienced how it feels to be in this position, we continue to make excuses for not talking about our own funeral.

‘They know exactly how I’d plan my funeral’

Never assume, especially if how your funeral's conducted is important to you. Even the people closest to you aren’t mind readers and when they come to plan your funeral they’ll have to make the funeral arrangements they think you’d like. So, unless you’re happy to be cremated when you wanted a burial, make your wishes known. Have the conversation or use a planner like My Perfect Send-Off to capture your personal preferences ready for when they’re needed.

‘I don’t want any funeral arrangements’

Perhaps you think there’s no need for you to talk about your funeral arrangements, because you really don’t mind what happens — ‘…throw me over the hedge’ seems like instruction enough. But the reality is, unless you plan to donate your body to medical science some sort of funeral has to happen and someone will have to plan it. Not recording your wishes, however simple they may be, could leave them uncertain, even feeling guilty, that they might not be doing right by you.

‘My grown up children don’t want to talk about it’

According to research conducted by whentheygetolder.co.uk 1 in 4 over 75 year olds say the reason they haven’t discussed end of life matters like funeral arrangements is other people not feeling comfortable doing so. Losing a parent is a hard reality for a child of any age to face up to, but finding a way to share your thoughts, can actually be a great source of comfort when the time comes.

If talking really isn’t an option, you could note down your funeral choices for your children to digest in their own time. This way they may chat to you when they’re ready, but if not, you’ll still know they have what they need.

How to start the conversation

There’s no right way or wrong way to talk about your funeral plans; you should do what you feel is most comfortable for you and the people you want to talk to. Find a quiet moment free of stress or tension.

Starting the conversation is probably the hardest part. One approach could be to mention the funeral arrangements chosen by someone you know, or some detail of a funeral you’ve attended or saw on television, perhaps in a soap or on the news.

If you prefer to be more straightforward, why not sit everyone down and explain that you’d like to discuss your funeral arrangements because it’s important to you? Explaining that you only intend to have the chat once can help soften any resistance. If you’re ill and want to talk about dying, it probably won’t come as a surprise, but if you're not, you may need to reassure your loved ones that you simply want to plan your funeral now to make things easier for them in the future.

What to talk through or document

Before having the conversation or documenting your wishes, decide on the kind of funeral you’d like.

  1. A burial, standard cremation or direct cremation?
  2. A religious or non-religious funeral?
  3. A wake after the funeral?

As a minimum, making these decisions will help with funeral planning. Then, if you have no strong feelings on your funeral, you could make clear that the rest is up to the person who will plan your funeral and they’re free to do whatever they feel is right at the time.

If you’d like to go further and plan your funeral to reflect you, think about:

  • Tone — traditional funeral or a celebration of your life
  • Music — funeral songs or hymns that have particular meaning to you
  • Eulogy — Anecdotes or life events you’d like mentioned
  • Readings — Words or funeral poems you'd like shared
  • Memorial — How you want to be remembered
  • Location — For your burial or scattering your ashes

Record your funeral wishes online

If you still feel uncomfortable, you could document your wishes online to keep safe with your Will. Our free My Perfect Send-Off planner lets you choose, document and save your funeral arrangements in your own time and at your own pace. It’s simple to use and will guide you through all the options to consider. Once you’re happy with your choices, they will be emailed to you in one easily stored document. This useful service is confidential too — none of your details will be stored after being sent to you.

Don’t put it off any longer

Talking about your death or funeral arrangements may feel daunting, but it’s also a kind and compassionate thing to do for your loved ones. To discuss or record your personal choices now will better prepare them to cope when the time comes and in the meantime, you can all get on with talking about life.

Find out more about the SunLife Guaranteed Funeral Plan

You can get a quote or give us a call on 0800 904 7649 to talk about your plan today. You can also request a call back.

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

Here's the information that you need to know about who we are and the other companies that we work with in order to provide our products and services.

Who are SunLife? 

Phoenix Life Limited trades as SunLife and is the provider of the Guaranteed Over 50 Plan, SunLife Insurance and the life insurance policy payment option for Funeral Plans. Phoenix Life Limited’s registered office is at 1 Wythall Green Way, Wythall, Birmingham, B47 6WG (registered in England, no. 1016269). Phoenix Life Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority and is entered on the Financial Services Register (registration no. 110418). As part of SunLife’s commitment to quality service and security, telephone calls may be recorded.

SunLife Limited distributes financial products and services and is a company limited by shares, registered office: 1 Wythall Green Way, Wythall, Birmingham, B47 6WG (registered in England, no. 05460862). SunLife Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and is entered on the Financial Services Register (registration no. 769427).

You can contact us by post at SunLife, PO Box 1395, Peterborough, PE2 2TR or by phone on 0800 008 6060.

If you choose to add Funeral Benefit Option to your Guaranteed Over 50 Plan the funeral services are arranged and provided by Dignity Funerals Limited. Dignity Funerals Limited is a company registered in England and Wales No. 00041598. VAT registered No. 486 6081 14. 4 King Edwards Court, King Edwards Square, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, B73 6AP. Telephone No. 0121 354 1557. Fax No. 0121 355 808. Part of Dignity plc. A British Company. Dignity is not authorised or regulated for this activity by the Financial Conduct Authority or the Prudential Regulation Authority but is a member of the National Association of Funeral Directors.

Who provides the Funeral Plans?

The funeral services are arranged and provided by Dignity Funerals Ltd which is not authorised or regulated for this activity by the Financial Conduct Authority or the Prudential Regulation Authority but is a member of the National Association of Funeral Directors.

The life insurance policy that pays for your funeral will be provided by Phoenix Life Limited, trading as SunLife.

Who provides My Smarter (ISA)?

My Smarter (ISA) is provided by Scottish Friendly Asset Managers Limited. Authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Details can be found on the Financial Services register, registration No. 188832. Member of The Investment Association. Registered Office: Scottish Friendly House, 16 Blythswood Square, Glasgow G2 4HJ.

Who provides the Will writing services?

Hugh James is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA Number:303202).

The information contained on this website is based on Hugh James' understanding of the law of intestacy in England and Wales only as at April 2014. The law in Scotland and Northern Ireland is significantly different. This is for information purposes and is not intended to be legal advice.

Who provides Family Life Insurance?

SunLife Family Life Insurance is provided by Scottish Friendly Assurance Society Limited which is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Details can be found on the Financial Services register (registration number 110002). Registered Office: Scottish Friendly House, 16 Blythswood Square, Glasgow G2 4HJ. 

Who provides SunLife Pet Insurance

SunLife Pet Insurance is arranged and administered by BDML Connect Limited. BDML Connect Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (No. 309140). Registered in England and Wales Number 02785540. Registered Office: 45 Westerham Road, Bessels Green, Sevenoaks, Kent, TN13 2QB.

Who provides SunLife Home Insurance

SunLife Home Insurance is arranged and administered by BISL Limited and underwritten by a panel of insurers. BISL Limited are an intermediary authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered in England no. 03231094. Registered office Pegasus House, Bakewell Road, Orton Southgate, Peterborough PE2 6YS.

Who provides SunLife Car Insurance

SunLife Car Insurance is arranged and administered by BISL Limited and underwritten by a panel of insurers. BISL Limited are an intermediary authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered in England no. 03231094. Registered office Pegasus House, Bakewell Road, Orton Southgate, Peterborough PE2 6YS.