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People being wrongly cremated or buried? – More than 40% of those organising a funeral did not know what they wanted

Posted on 11 September 2016

SunLife’s 2016 Cost of Dying report reveals just 59% of people organising a funeral know if the deceased wanted a burial or cremation - down from 69% last year

  • Just 1% know ALL the deceased’s funeral wishes
  • 22% don’t know ANY of their loved ones funeral preferences
  • Only 39% knew whether to have a religious or non-religious service
  • SunLife and Dying Matters launch www.myperfectsendoff.co.uk a free online service for recording funeral wishes

More than two in five people who recently organised a funeral didn’t know if they should be burying or cremating the deceased, according to the latest research by SunLife.

Sunlife’s 10th annual Cost of Dying report reveals that the nation’s reluctance to talk about and plan for death is getting worse, with almost a quarter (22%)of those organising funeral admitting they didn’t know ANY of the deceased funeral wishes (up from 16% last year) while just 1% knew ALL of them.

Last year, 69% of those organising a funeral knew if the deceased wanted to be buried or cremated, this has dropped to 59% this year, while the number who knew whether the deceased would have wanted a religious or non-religious service has also dropped, from almost half (47%) to less than two in five (39%). The research also reveals that only a quarter of those organising the funeral could be sure they were the right person for the job, down from a third last year.

This is even more worrying when you consider the cost of a funeral has risen 5.5% in just a year - the average in the UK now costs £3,897,a rise of 103% since SunLife started tracking funerals in 2004 [see SunLife Cost of Dying 2016 report for full details].

Funeral preferences Send-off preferences

  • 59% knew preference for burial or cremation
  • 27% knew if the deceased wanted their ashes scattered, interred or disposed
  • 14% knew which type of coffin
  • 26% knew the preferred funeral director
  • 34% knew preference for cemetery/burial ground

  • 39% knew preference for religious or non-religious service
  • 26% knew which readings and music to have at the funeral
  • 12% knew preference for flowers
  • 11% knew preference for wake venue
  • 3% knew how they wanted their online/digital life handled after passing away (e.g. social media profiles, e-mail)

 

Claire Henry, Chief Executive of the Dying Matters Coalition said: “It is ironic that despite our increasing willingness to share all sorts of information about our daily lives on social media, many of us are still unwilling to talk about death.”

Graham Jones, director at SunLife adds: “Our research shows that we are not comfortable taking about death and this means loved ones are having to make decisions about the funeral of a loved one with little knowledge of what they actually wanted.

“And when you consider that the average funeral alone now costs £3,897 with a further £1,976 being spent on the send-off (the wake, memorial, flowers etc) it is worrying to think how much money is potentially being spent on the ‘wrong’ funeral.”

Those that did know some of their loved ones wishes said organising the funeral was much easier; in fact 95% said it helped to know some of the preferences.

More than two thirds (67%) learned about those preferences directly from the deceased, a fifth (19%) from family and friends and 15% found out from the deceased’s Will.

“Discuss with your family the kind of funeral you would like. I knew what funeral my mother wanted as we had time to discuss it before she died which really helped arranging the funeral.” Nina, 50, who recently arranged her mother’s funeral

Graham Jones continues: “At SunLife, we believe it’s important to share your funeral wishes but we know people find it hard to talk about this sensitive subject. To help, we’ve worked with Dying Matters to set up My Perfect Send-Off. A free online service to record your funeral wishes.”

Claire Henry, adds: “We are really pleased to be working with SunLife to create a range of useful online tools, calculators and content to help people engage with the subject of death and dying in a much more positive and practical way.

“We hope these tools will raise awareness of this issue and help people to start those important conversations’. Making and sharing plans not only gives us peace of mind, but it also makes life easier for our loved ones as they will be safe in the knowledge that they are giving us the perfect send-off.”

Shift away from traditional funerals

Of those who had made some of their preferences clear, there seems to be a general shift away from traditional ceremonies and more towards modern celebration of life as half had asked for modern songs and music, while only 35% had requested to have traditional bible readings or religious texts:

  • 55% wanted traditional funeral hymns
  • 50% wanted modern songs/music
  • 35% wanted traditional bible readings
  • 16% wanted modern poems
  • 15% wanted modern readings from books

“Go for a Humanist ceremony and celebrate the life of the individual rather than the ‘going to a better place’ nonsense that comes with a religious one” Richard, 41, who recently organised a funeral where the deceased had requested for everyone to wear yellow.

Requests for people not to wear the traditional black is quite a common one, with others including requests for mourners to wear orange, pink and even the deceased’s preferred football or rugby team’s kit. Other examples of more unusual requests this year included:

  • the deceased requesting for theirs guitars to be carried and displayed at the funeral
  • a biodegradable/cardboard coffin
  • everyone who attended to be given a handkerchief embroidered with a butterfly
  • an elastic band around the coffin (!)
  • catnip by the gravestone
  • a collection for the tiger sanctuary in the Isle of Wight with a life-size white tiger (toy) on the coffin.
  • the deceased’s dogs to be at the service
  • a butterfly release
  • sweets and a bouncy castle at the wake for the kids
  • Status Quo being played as people left the chapel

Graham Jones concludes: “It is wonderful when a funeral can include some really personal touches that have come from the deceased themselves, and we want to help encourage people to talk about death openly and freely.

“But, we know for some it is hard – in fact, of those who said organising a funeral had made them think about their own funerals, a quarter still didn’t do anything about it. This is why, working alongside Dying Matters, we have created www.myperfectsendoff.co.uk, so people can make sure their wishes are known even if they don’t want to discuss it face to face.”

ENDS

USEFUL TOOLS

To record your funeral preferences for free, visit www.myperfectsendoff.co.uk

For a step by step guide on what to do when someone dies, visit https://int.sunlife.co.uk/life-cover/over-50-life-insurance/what-to-do-when-someone-dies/

For information on how to start saving for your funeral visit www.sunlifedirect.co.uk/funeral-planning

ENDS

For a full copy of the report, additional data, further information or commentary on the findings please contact:

Rachel Mason, SunLife PR Manager

rachel.mason@sunlife.co.uk

0117 3225431 or 07920 537480.

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 ten years. The report was commissioned by SunLife and prepared by Critical Research. The quantitative side of this project consisted of an online survey carried out between April 2016 and May 2016 which was asked to 1,509 consumers. This was supported by 100 telephone interviews of Funeral Directors from across the sector. The questions asked were the same set of questions used in previous years of this project.

The following terms relate to the following costs:

The 2016 total cost of dying referenced in this report is the sum of the average costs for order sheets, venue hire, additional limo(s), funeral flowers, death notice, funeral notice, memorial, catering, viewing of the body, embalming, live music, recorded music, and administration of the estate, plus the average cost for funeral, cremation or burial.

The statistical regions used by the UK’s ONS (Office of National Statistics) comprise the Government Office Regions for England, plus Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. These constitute 12 regions.

With the inclusion of Northern Ireland (to ensure UK coverage and not just GB), the following regions have been aggregated for research purposes to derive 10 regions:

  • South East with East of England
  • West Midlands and East Midlands

The research was therefore spread across the following regions:

  • Region 1 Wales
  • Region 2 South East and East of England
  • Region 3 London
  • Region 4 East and West Midlands
  • Region 5 Yorkshire and the Humber
  • Region 6 Scotland
  • Region 7 South West England
  • Region 8 North West England
  • Region 9 North East England
  • Region 10 Northern Ireland

As well as that, there are some instances where ‘North’ has also been included. This is because in some instances, North East England’s base size was quite small and so a merged region gives more reliable information.

About SunLife

SunLife rebranded in 2014 but has been around since 1810, making it one of the oldest financial services companies in the UK. The company is a direct-to-consumer financial services provider, offering a range of straightforward and affordable products across insurance, savings and protection.

The company’s ambition is to ‘democratise financial services’ – giving everyday customers access to products that can give them a brighter financial future.

About Dying Matters:

Dying Matters is a coalition of 32,000 members across England and Wales which aims to help people talk more openly about dying, death and bereavement, and to make plans for the end of life.

Members include organisations from across the NHS, voluntary and independent health and care sectors; social care and housing sectors; a wide range of faith organisations; community organisations; schools and colleges; academic bodies; trade unions; the legal profession and the funeral sector.

www.dyingmatters.org

About Critical Research:

Critical Research is an independent market research company, specialising in financial research.

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 are not regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority or the Prudential Regulation Authority but are registered providers with the Funeral Planning Authority.

Who provides the Funeral Plans?

The funeral services are arranged by a funeral director selected by Golden Charter Ltd. Golden Charter Ltd are not required to be authorised or regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority or the Prudential Regulation Authority in relation to funeral plans but are registered providers with the Funeral Planning Authority.

If you choose to pay for your funeral in one go, with a single payment, you will have a contract with Golden Charter. The funeral services will be arranged by a funeral director selected by Golden Charter Ltd.

If you choose to pay for your funeral with a life insurance policy, the policy will be provided by Phoenix Life Limited, trading as SunLife. The funeral services will be arranged by a funeral director selected by Golden Charter Ltd.

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.