Cost of dying rising seven times faster than the cost of living – the biggest jump in six years
- Cost of dying soars by 10.6% in one year to £8,427, seven times the rate of inflation
- Funeral accounts for only 43% of the total cost of dying4
- As costs rise, over half of us now choose DIY estate administration
SunLife, the experts in later life planning, has today published the findings of its annual Cost Of Dying Report1. Its latest report reveals that the cost of dying (including death-related costs such as probate, headstones and flowers, in addition to the basic cost of a funeral) has risen by 10.6% – seven times the rise in inflation2 – to £8,427, one of the fastest rises in the report’s history.
The funeral cost (accounting for less than half the total cost of dying) has also risen sharply at more than twice the rate of inflation to £3,590 (a rise of 3.9% since 2013 and a staggering 87% higher than in SunLife’s first survey in 20043).
DIY funeral planning
A 39% rise in estate administration costs contributed significantly to this year’s total cost of dying increase. The average cost of hiring a professional, such as a solicitor to help manage the affairs of a deceased loved one, now accounts for more than a third of the overall cost.
This rise in estate administration costs coincides with a dramatic increase in the number of people who choose to manage their loved ones’ affairs without professional help. Over half (52%) are now choosing to do it themselves, compared to just 39% in 2013. Saving money was a key motivation cited by respondents, but other factors, such as a feeling of duty, also influenced their decision.
Too poor to die
As costs continue to shoot up, total funeral poverty (the national funeral funding shortfall) now stands at nearly £200 million, 125% higher than four years ago5, with the situation only expected to deteriorate over the coming years. SunLife’s research projects that funeral costs will continue to rise considerably, to an estimated £4,489 by 20196.
One in seven people (14%) who have organised a funeral in the past four years admitted it caused them financial concern with the average shortfall standing at £2,371. Of this group, 42% dug into savings or investments to help pay for the funeral, a quarter borrowed money from friends or relatives and 22% put extra debt on a credit card to deal with the sudden cash outflow.
Big regional differences
The national average cost of dying figure masks significant variations at a regional level, with the average cost in the London area now a staggering £10,498. Meanwhile, the least expensive place to die is Northern Ireland where the average cost is £5,893 (small sample size).
SunLife’s marketing director David Brooks comments:
“The death of a loved one is already a very difficult time. Yet financial worries and debt can make the experience of planning a funeral even more distressing.
“All our research shows that planning, however small, really helps and we urge families to break the taboo of talking about death and share their wishes. Not planning properly for your own passing can cause a significant financial burden on the people left behind – increasing the emotional distress even further.”
Dr Kate Woodthorpe, lecturer in Sociology at the University of Bath’s Centre for Death & Society, adds:
”The costs associated with the end of life are rising and it is worrying that people are not prepared for what they may have to face. It is important to remember that at a time of great emotional upheaval, the financial implications of someone dying are not simply about money. They also include questions of who is responsible for the funeral and the estate, and their administration. Putting some plans in place while you are in reasonable health, however informal or formal, big or small, can go a long way to facilitating a smoother passage for those left behind.”
Notes to Editors
1 All figures unless otherwise stated are taken for SunLife Cost of Dying Survey 2014
2 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)
3 The basic cost of a funeral is made up of funeral director’s costs, doctor’s fees, fees for a religious or secular service and burial or cremation fees
4 Cost of Dying 2014 is £8,427 and is made up of:
- £3,590 (43%) - The average cost of a basic funeral including the fees for the funeral director, the cremation or burial, the doctor, and the minister or celebrant
- £1,833 (22%) - The average amount spent on the additional extras like the memorial, death and funeral notices, flowers, order sheets, limousines, the venue and catering for the wake.
- £3,004 (36%) - The average amount spent on hiring a professional, e.g. a solicitor, to administer the estate.
5 14% of respondents struggling to meet funeral costs translates to over 80,000 people in the UK, calculated using an annual death rate of approximately 580,000. The average funding shortfall was £2,371, putting UK funeral poverty at £192 million. In 2010, funeral poverty was £85 million.
- 14% of deaths = 81242 deaths
- 81242 deaths @ £2,371 average shortfall = £192,624,782 funeral poverty
6Based on a straight line prediction from observed funeral costs from 2004-2014
About the research
The report was commissioned by SunLife and was established using two surveys:
- An online survey of 1,504 UK adults who were responsible for planning a funeral and administering an estate with the last four years
- 118 telephone interviews of Funeral Directors from across the ten UK regions.
The following terms relate to the following costs:
- Total cost of dying – the sum of the average costs for order sheets, venue hire, additional limo(s), funeral flowers, death notice, memorial, catering, and administration of the estate, plus the average cost for funeral, cremation or burial. NB this is the sum of all costs that could be incurred, however not everyone will incur all of these costs.
- Cost of a funeral – the average of the cost of burial and the cost of cremation:
- Cremation pricing criteria – the sum of the costs for professional services, clergy or officiates fees, doctors’ fees for certification, cost of the cremation
- Burial pricing criteria – the sum of the costs for professional services, clergy or officiates fees, cost of the burial.
SunLife is a business that helps people make the most of their lives. We’re part of AXA, a global company, and one of the biggest insurance companies in the world. SunLife distributes a number of straightforward financial products including over 50 life insurance, funeral plans, life insurance, ISAs and Will writing services.
About the University of Bath
The University of Bath is one of the UK's leading universities, ranked number one in the UK for student satisfaction for the last two years in the National Student Survey (NSS) and in the top ten of all national league tables, including being named ‘Best Campus University’ in the Sunday Times Good University Guide 2014.