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Cost of funeral rises 29 times faster than UK inflation

Posted on 11 October 2015

Spending on send-off increases 9.1% in a year

  • Funeral cost increases to £3,693 - 29 times higher than overall UK inflation
  • People are spending 9.1% more on the send-off, even though 99% admit not really knowing their loved ones’ send-off wishes
  • Covering the £2,449 funeral cost shortfall causes 17% ‘notable financial concerns’

SunLife has today published the findings of its annual Cost of Dying Report – showing that while the overall cost of dying has fallen by 3.6% to £8,126, the cost of a basic funeral has risen by 2.9% in a year to £3,693, 29 times higher than UK average inflation 1 and a staggering 92.3% rise since SunLife’s first survey in 2004.

Perhaps the most surprising finding is a sharp rise in spending on the ‘send-off’ (memorial, flowers, funeral notices, limousines, the wake and so on), rising by 9.1% in a year. SunLife’s research also reveals that despite spending £2,000 on the ‘send-off’ on average, a staggering 99% of people admit to not knowing all of the deceased’s send-off wishes.

SunLife managing director Dean Lamble comments: “Our research shows that just 1% of us really know what our loved ones wishes are for their funeral send-off - what flowers, what reading, what music – in fact, almost a third of people are organising funerals without even knowing whether their loved one wanted a burial or cremation.

“And when you consider that the overall cost of dying has fallen by £300 and spending on the send-off has increased by almost 10%, many people may be spending this ‘extra cash’ on the ‘wrong’ things.”

More people making provision for their funeral

While most people are not making their wishes for their funeral clear, they are at least making financial provision to pay for it; this year, 59% made specific provisions to pay for their funeral before they died, up from 57% last year.

What’s more, 84% had made sufficient provision to cover the entire cost and over a quarter (27%) had put a prepaid funeral plan in place – a rise on 2014, when less than a quarter (24%) had done so.

However, those whose loved ones had either not made any financial provisions to cover their funeral, or not enough to cover all costs, had to find an average of £2,449 to cover the shortfall, up 3.3% on last year’s figure. This means the shortfall has risen more sharply than the cost of the funerals themselves (2.9%).

One in six (17%) who had to cover the entire cost themselves said that finding the money had caused them ‘notable financial concerns’. Of this group, half had to borrow money - either from friends or relatives (21%), the bank or a loan provider (8%) or via a credit card (21%) - while one in seven (14%) had to sell belongings.

Let’s talk about death

Just 1% of those who had organised a funeral in the past four years fully understood their loved ones’ send-off wishes, with almost a third (31%) not even knowing if their loved one wanted to be buried or cremated.

Seven out of ten (70%) said they didn’t know whether the deceased would want their ashes scattered, buried or disposed of, only one in seven knew which coffin to choose and only a third knew the deceased’s preferred cemetery or burial ground.

And when it came to the memorial, less than half (47%) knew whether to hold a religious or non-religious service and only a quarter (26%) knew the music and readings the deceased would have chosen.

“At SunLife, we believe it’s important to share your funeral wishes.,” added Lamble. “People find it hard to talk about this sensitive subject, so to help, we’ve now set up a free service on our website called My Perfect Send-Off. It means anyone – they don’t have to be a customer – can create a smart document that shows all of their send-off wishes, which they can print off and keep with their Will, or pass on to a loved one.”

Claire Henry, Chief Executive of the Dying Matters Coalition says there needs to be a shift in the way we think about death:“We need to change the nation’s approach to dying and planning ahead, so that all of us become better at making our end of life wishes known and asking our loved ones about theirs. Talking more openly about dying and planning ahead, including through discussing your funeral wishes, can help us to get our wishes met and spare our loved ones from having to deal with the consequences if we haven’t got our affairs in order.”

She added: “We’re delighted that SunLife have produced their new My Perfect Send-Off planner, and hope that people find it a really useful resource.

Making plans

SunLife’s report has revealed, however, that organising a funeral had prompted almost two thirds (64%) to start thinking about their own plans.

Of those, 70% had started to make some arrangements; 37% had written their Will, 17% had made a record of their wishes in writing and 46% had spoken to someone about their preferences.

Almost a third (30%), however, admitted they had done ‘nothing yet’; with one in six (16%) admitting the reason was because they either don’t feel comfortable talking about death or don’t want to think about it.

Big regional differences

There are significant variations in the cost of dying at a regional level. The most expensive place to die is London where the average cost is now a staggering £10,664; this is 31% higher than the UK average of £8,126. Meanwhile, the least expensive place to die is the North East where the average cost is £5,960, 26.7% below the national average.

The amount spent on discretionary costs or the ‘send-off’ also varies significantly between regions. London is the most expensive region to pay for a send-off, with loved ones paying £2,881 on average. At the other end of the spectrum is Wales, where the average is £1,405, which is £1,476 less than in London and 30% less than the UK average of £2,000.

Lamble concludes: “While it’s encouraging to see a slight fall in the overall cost of dying, as well as an increase in the number of people making financial provisions such as funeral plans, it is clear from our report that many of us are still very uncomfortable talking about death.

“This is understandable, but means that in many cases those left to organise (and often pay for) a funeral are doing so without knowing what their loved one actually wanted.

“This is even more unsettling when you consider the amount spent on the send-off has risen to £2,000 and the average shortfall has risen by 3.3% to £2,449.

“It’s really important to talk about and plan for our funeral. As our report has shown, if we don’t make plans we put a significant financial burden on the people we leave behind and an emotional one too.”

Watch SunLife’s video showing a series of interview clips with couples asked about their other half’s funeral wishes:

Ends

1. UK inflation is 01.%

About the research

The annual ‘Cost of Dying’ report has been one of the most significant pieces of ongoing research in its field for the last nine years. The report was commissioned by SunLife and was established using two surveys:

  • An online survey of 1,507 UK adults who were responsible for planning a funeral and administering an estate with the last four years
  • 100 telephone interviews of Funeral Directors from across the ten UK regions

The following terms relate to the following costs:

Total cost of dying – Cost of Dying 2015 is £8,126 and is made up of:

  • £3,693 (45.4%) - 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
  • £2,000 (24.6%) - The average amount spent on the additional extras like the memorial, death and funeral notices, flowers, order sheets, additional limousines, the venue and catering for the wake
  • £2,433 (29.9%) - The average amount spent on hiring a professional, e.g. a solicitor, to administer the estate

Cost of a funeral – the average of the cost of burial (£4,104) and the cost of cremation (£3,282).

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.

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.