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Cost of a funeral falls for the first time in 18 years

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Written by: Emma Lunn
17/01/2022
The cost of living might be rising, but the cost of dying has fallen by 4.3%, according to SunLife.

The financial services firm runs an annual survey into funeral prices – the Cost of Dying report – with this year’s study finding that the average cost of a funeral in the UK has fallen to £4,054.

SunLife’s research found that the total cost of dying, including professional fees and send-off costs, as well as the funeral, is £8,864.

Despite the first-ever year-on-year decrease in costs, funerals are still a third more expensive than they were a decade ago – and in some regions, this price is still rising. For example, while the average fall in price was 4.3%, in London funerals actually went up by 2.3%, making the cost of the average funeral in the capital £5,358.

SunLife found that for the past few years, direct cremations have become more popular, with the number of families choosing direct cremations rising by 18% in the past year.

A direct cremation is where the body is cremated without a service, and the ashes returned to the family. It means the family can arrange their own service separately, wherever and whenever they wish, and it makes the funeral more affordable. A direct cremation costs an average of £1,647.

Covid-19 restrictions forced many families to hold a different funeral from the one they’d planned for loved ones. More than eight in 10 people who organised a funeral in the past 18 months said their plans were affected by Covid-19, including having fewer attendees, no comforting allowed and having to cut back on venue hire and transport.

Personal tastes continue to change too, with fewer people wanting a ‘traditional’ or religious funeral and more people opting for a funeral that reflected the personality of the deceased or which met their specific wishes.

Although funeral costs have fallen in the past year, their rise above inflation in many of the years before means lots of people struggle to pay for their loved ones’ funeral.

SunLife’s research found more than one in six (17%) of families had experienced notable financial concerns when paying for a funeral. More than a third needed to take money from savings or investments to cover the cost, while more than a quarter had to borrow money from a friend or relative. More than one in five needed to use a credit card to pay.

Mark Screeton, SunLife’s CEO said: “This year’s Cost of Dying figures are quite different from any other year. For the first time we have seen funeral costs fall, with the average costs of basic funerals, amount spent on the send-off and professional fees all coming down. However, the picture across the country is more varied than we have ever seen too, with some regions seeing sizable increases in the average cost of a funeral, while others have seen quite significant drops.

“Many families have suffered the unexpected loss of loved ones this year and have been left struggling to cover the cost of the funeral – no doubt made even harder due to many households already struggling with lower incomes as a result of the pandemic and restrictions.

“Funerals are still relatively expensive, and half of people arranging a funeral in the last year looked for ways to keep funeral costs down – including choosing a cheaper coffin, spending less on flowers and having the wake at home.”

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