Rest in poverty - cost of dying up again

Cost of dying up 7.1% since 2012

  • Cost of dying up 7.1% since 2012 with a significant postcode lottery
  • Funeral cost up 80% since 2004 - average funeral now £3,456
  • SunLife projects the average cost of a funeral will rise to over £4,300 by 2018
  • National funeral poverty now £131 million - up 50% in three years

SunLife, the expert in the cost of dying, has today published the findings from its 2013 annual Cost of Dying Report2. 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 above inflation3 and now stands at £7,622, an increase of 7.1% on 2012.

Specifically, the average cost of a funeral has also continued to rise well above inflation and now stands at £3,456, a 5.3% increase on 2012 and 80% higher than when the funeral costs survey was first conducted in 20044. Burials are significantly more expensive than cremations with the average burial at £3,914, costing almost £1,000 more than the average cremation at £2,998.

The increase in funeral costs is commonly attributed to funeral directors. However the increase this year is mainly due to the rise in disbursement fees5 – in particular cremation and burial fees which are usually controlled by local authorities. Since 2007 burial fees have risen by 69% and cremation fees by 51%.

Discretionary funeral costs (additional funeral costs beyond the basics such as family flowers, catering, and limos) also recorded a rise. The average cost of funeral extras increased by £83 to £2,006 (4.3%), with the cost of a memorial accounting for a large part of this expenditure (43%) at £864.

These rises come as research reveals many continue to struggle with funeral costs. Almost one in five people (18%) who have organised a funeral in the past four years struggled, with the average shortfall rising from £1,246 to £1,277 year on year. Total funeral poverty (the national funeral funding shortfall) now stands at just over £131 million, over 50% higher than the £85 million figure of three years ago1.

Moreover, the situation is only anticipated to worsen over the coming years. SunLife research projects that funeral costs will continue to rise significantly, with the average cost expected to be as much as £4,326 in 2018, proving unaffordable for many more.

The national average cost of dying figure (including death-related costs such as probate, headstones and flowers in addition to the basic cost of a funeral) masks significant variations at a regional level with the average cost of dying in the London area now standing at a staggering £9,556, significantly higher than the national average. The least expensive place to die is Wales where the average cost stands at £6,096.

A spokesperson at SunLife, comments:
“As over 100,000 people struggle to pay for a funeral this year, an important message for everyone should be to do something to prepare, however small. The death of a loved one is a difficult time, and is only compounded by financial worries over how to pay for the funeral. Drawing on savings can be one way to cover the cost. However, as funeral poverty stands at just over £131 million, savings are clearly not an option for everyone. In old age, savings can deplete; advising people to rely on money they may not even have is irresponsible and more financial options should be available. As funeral poverty has increased 50% in just three years, something must be done as a matter of urgency before more families are unable to give their loved ones the send-off they deserve”.

Dr Kate Woodthorpe, lecturer in Sociology, University of Bath, concludes:
“It is disappointing that the number of people who struggle to afford a funeral shows no sign of abating. Funeral poverty has increased more than 50% in the last three years and it is likely that this will continue. The notable postcode lottery of funeral costs, especially in terms of cremation and burial costs, is particularly troubling. People need to realise that death is one of the few certainties in life and must be addressed ahead of time so that plans can be made with regard to who will pay for their funeral, and how. Not everyone has to choose the same funeral and costs can vary, but these need to be discussed with family and friends to ensure appropriate provisions are made.” 

ENDS

  1. 18% of respondents said they struggled to meet funeral costs and the average funding shortfall was £1,277. Using the annual death rate of approximately 570,000, this means that over 100,000 people in the UK would have difficulty meeting funeral expenses, putting UK funeral poverty at £131 million. This represents a 50% increase in funeral poverty on 2010’s £85 million.
  2. Sun Life Direct Cost of Dying Survey 2013.
  3. The rate of consumer prices index (CPI) inflation in the United Kingdom was recorded at 2.8% in July 2013 (Office for National Statistics
  4. 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 fee
  5. Disbursement fees are funeral costs that are outside of the funeral directors’ control: burial fees, cremation fees, doctors fees, ministers fees. 

Notes to editors

About the research

The report was commissioned by SunLife:

  • 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 
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Cost of dying report 2013