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Funeral costs rise ahead of inflation

Cherry Reynard
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Cherry Reynard

Funeral costs continue to outpace inflation, according to the latest SunLife Cost of Dying report, with the average funeral now costing £4,078.

Funeral costs are up 4.7% in just a year, having risen more than 70% in the past decade, more than three and a half times the increase in house prices.

This is only the cost of the funeral; bereaved families may also incur costs associated with a wake. The report said that these costs can add £1,928 on average.

The report showed significant regional variations. London is the most expensive place to die, with an average funeral costing £5,951; 46% more than the national average. Northern Ireland is the cheapest place to die: funeral costs have dropped 9% in a year and the average funeral now costs £2,982. Wales has also seen a drop – costs are down 4.6% to £3,461.

Dean Lamble, CEO at SunLife, said: “Many people worry that having a cheaper funeral is disrespectful but our research shows the vast majority of us do not want money wasted on a fancy funeral.

“In fact more than one in three people who have recently organised a funeral said they would want their own to be ‘as cheap as possible.’ One in six said they would like a direct cremation and one in 12 said they would prefer a woodland burial. Just one in 50 said they would want a lavish affair.”

According to this year’s report, 58% made specific financial provision to pay for their funeral before they died. Of those, 29% had bought a prepaid funeral plan (up from 28% in 2016), 15% had a life insurance plan in place (down from 16%) and 15% had a guaranteed over 50 plan (up from 14%).

There are ways to manage funeral costs:

  • Direct cremation – where the body is cremated immediately after death, without a funeral service – costs £1,835 on average, less than half the cost of a standard cremation.
  • Hold a wake at home and self-cater.
  • Buy a cheaper coffin – prices start from as little as £100 for a cardboard coffin.
  • You can also choose not to have a hearse, or ask for fewer pallbearers (or none if you wish to do it yourself).
  • Claiming funeral costs from the estate. Whoever pays for the funeral – family, friends or the council – can seek to recover the costs from the estate of the person who died.
  • If you are on a low income, you can make a claim for a funeral payment.
  • There may be funeral insurance in place – this pays out a fixed lump sum which should cover the cost of a funeral