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Cost-of-dying crisis: Funeral bills more than double in 20 years

Cost-of-dying crisis: Funeral bills more than double in 20 years
Matt Browning
Written By:
Matt Browning

The average cost of a funeral has more than doubled in the space of 20 years, a report finds.

With funeral costs increasing more than 54% over the rate of inflation since 2004, the average cost of a ceremony is now £4,141 – a jump of 4.7% on last year.

SunLife’s annual ‘Cost of Dying’ report revealed that if prices for funerals matched inflation, in that time a typical service would have instead climbed by 72% to reach an average of £3,152.

Despite a drop in funeral costs last year, the expenditure involved in passing away is now at an all-time high. When professional fees, send-off costs and probates are considered, a £9,658 bill can be expected.

In terms of the most expensive services, burials – which take up more than a quarter (27%) of all services – rose in price by 5.9% to £5,077.

Cremations, which account for more than half (53%) of all funerals, have gone up to £3,795 from £3,673 in 2023.

Direct cremations cost less than half of burials

Conversely, the cheapest option of direct cremation (an option without a service) reduced in price and rose in popularity. In 2019, just one in every 33 funerals was a direct cremation. But that’s grown to one in five services, while the average price is now £1,498, compared to £1,626 five years ago.

One way to avoid any unwelcome surprises when paying for a funeral is to have open conversations with loved ones about what to do in the unfortunate event of someone passing away.

This comes as only 54% of Brits leave enough to cover the full cost of the service, contributing to an average of £1,872 for family and friends to fork out.

Further, one in four (24%) said paying for the event during a cost-of-living crisis impacted their standard of life. This led to the cutback of essential items for 42% and a struggle to pay bills for 27% of the 1,500 respondents surveyed.

Make some provisions and start conversation with loved ones early

Mark Screeton, CEO at SunLife felt the report highlighted “just how high costs have become over the past 20 years”, but insisted there are ways to have a suitable send-off while not breaking the bank.

Screeton said: “There are things you can do to make funerals more affordable. For those organising a funeral now, our report has lots of tips from funeral directors and those who have recently organised a funeral on how to cut costs.

“Other top tips include holding a home wake, having a cheaper coffin, spending less on flowers, using social media instead of announcements in the paper,  or using your own cars instead of limousines.

He added: “For those who are not having to worry about a funeral just yet, something to consider would be to start the conversation with loved ones, so they know what you do and don’t want them to spend money on, and where the money will come from.

“You may also wish to make some provision to cover your funeral costs so that when the time comes, your loved ones are not having to worry about money at an emotionally difficult time.”