It's a topic that nobody likes to think about. However, it's important to understand the full extent of the funeral costs that you or your family may need to cover in the future. Costs are unfortunately continuing to rise, putting extra strain on the finances of older people and their families. Some people now have started putting money aside for their own funerals, in order to ease the financial burden on their families when they're gone.
Today's post will outline some of the funeral costs that you'll need to consider, alongside the help that is available from the government.
Average Funeral Costs
Funeral costs will generally vary depending on your location. According to the Royal London National Funeral Cost Index Report 2019, the average cost of a funeral with a traditional burial is £4321, whilst the average for a funeral with cremation is £3250. Costs vary greatly across the country. Belfast is the cheapest place in the UK for funerals, while in London a funeral costs nearly double the national average.
According to SunLife's annual report, average funeral costs have risen by 62% in the last decade. In fact, their report also claims:
"If prices continue to rise at the same rate as they have since 2004, we
project the average cost of a funeral could reach £5,285 in five years’ time."
Funeral Costs by Region
Here's a full breakdown of the average basic funeral costs, courtesy of Royal London:
- London - £4939
- West Midlands - £4032
- East of England - £3788
- Yorkshire and the Humber - £3777
- South East England - £3669
- North West England - £3671
- North East England - £3659
- South West England - £3586
- Wales - £3586
- Scotland - £3537
- East Midlands - £3512
- Northern Ireland - £2943
Such is the steep rise in funeral costs, they are now under scrutiny by two separate reviews. According to the BBC, The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is reviewing funeral costs, "to ensure that people are not getting a bad deal," whilst the Treasury is also investigating pre-paid funeral plans.
So, what exactly are you paying for when it comes to a funeral? Let's take a closer look.
One of the biggest aspects of funeral costs is the burial fee, which is also the reason for such a difference in average costs around the county. In some areas grave sites are in high demand, which automatically pushes the price up. More desirable locations within a cemetery, such as peaceful secluded areas, will also be more expensive.
You may be shocked to learn of the different burial fees around the country. A burial in some areas of London could set you back around £7000. On the other hand, Fermanagh and Omagh in Northern Ireland come in cheapest at £270. This brings the UK average burial fee to £2033.
The cost of a cremation is significantly less than the cost of a burial anywhere in the UK. Royal London's report, gives the average cremation fee in the UK as £814. There’s also a less dramatic variation in cremation costs across the country, because there is no charge for high-demand cemetery plots.
Some companies may offer a direct cremation funeral. This involves an unattended funeral where the body is collected from the mortuary during normal working hours and cremated at a convenient time. In these cases, families tend to organise their own memorials at home or at a private venue. If you you wish to have the ashes afterwards, make sure you request them. You usually need to collect them, but some providers might deliver for a charge.
Lots of people choose to hire funeral directors in order to make arranging the funeral as simple as possible. Mourning a loved one is already difficult enough without the added responsibility of organising a funeral. This can take some weight off you and give you more time to grieve. On the other hand, funeral directors' fees can be quite expensive.
According to Money Advice Service, funeral directors make up over 50% of the cost of a funeral. The funeral director will collect, store, prepare and deliver the body to the cemetery or crematorium. They'll also be on-hand to sort out all of the necessary paperwork. In addition, they'll provide a coffin, hearse and usually a limousine.
The Money Advice Service recommends getting at least two quotes from local funeral directors before you make a decision.
Third Party Funeral Costs
Also known as disbursement costs, these are additional fees that you'll need to keep in mind whilst planning the funeral. Besides the burial or cremation costs, third party costs include a doctor's fee to certify the death, a member of the clergy to perform the funeral service or an officiant to lead a non-religious service.
If you’re using a funeral director to arrange the funeral, the third-party costs are sometimes included in their funeral package.
Optional Funeral Costs
There are lots of extra services you can choose to add to a funeral. Each of these comes with a cost, so it's important to consider exactly what you would like to include. Here are some average prices for some of the optional funeral costs, courtesy of Money Advice Service:
- Memorial headstone or plague - £910
- Catering - £408
- Limousine - £313
- Venue hire - £245
- Flowers - £184
- Return of Ashes (after direct cremation) - £62
- Funeral notice - £78
- Death notice or obituary - £82
- Order of service sheets - £88
- Urn - £30+
- Death certificate copies - £11 per copy.
Financial Help For Funeral Costs
Prepaid Funeral Plan
With costs rising, many people are turning to prepaid funeral plans. This allows you to set out your own wishes for your funeral and pay for it yourself. A prepaid funeral plan is desirable if you want to spare your family the financial and organisation burden. You can buy one from a funeral plan provider which then pays the funeral director directly for your ceremony. This means your family won't need to get involved.
These plans commonly cover the essentials of a funeral, such as the cost of the coffin, care of the body, transport of the body to a funeral director and a hearse. They won't usually over optional costs like flowers, catering and newspaper notices.
Plans will vary from one provider to another. Therefore, it's best to do your research and compare several options to get the right one for you.
Funeral Expenses Payment
If you receive certain benefits and need help paying for a funeral, you will be eligible for a Funeral Expenses Payment from the government. To qualify, you or your partner will need to receive one or more of the following:
- Income Support.
- Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance.
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance.
- Pension Credit.
- Housing Benefit.
- The disability or severe disability element of Working Tax Credit.
- Child Tax Credit.
- Universal Credit.
There are also rules on your relationship with the deceased that you'll need to meet. You'll need to be either: the partner of the deceased when they died, a close relative or close friend of the deceased, the parent of a baby stillborn after 24 weeks of pregnancy, or the parent/person responsible for a deceased child who was under 16.
Finally, the funeral in question will need to take place in the UK, within the European Economic Area, or in Switzerland.
What is the Funeral Expenses Payment for?
The Funeral Expenses Payment will help towards the costs of fees for burial or cremation, doctor's certificate, travel to arrange or go to the funeral, and death certificates or other documentation. As of April 2020, you can also get up to £1000 for any other funeral expenses, such as funeral director’s fees, flowers or the coffin.
The money will be paid into you bank, building society or credit union account if you've already paid for the funeral. If you haven't paid yet, the money will go directly to the organiser of the funeral.
You can find out more about the Funeral Expenses Payment on the government website.
A life insurance policy can be of great reassurance. This will provide your dependents with either a lump sum or regular payments if you die. You should seek financial advice before taking out a policy, as it isn't right for everybody. For example, if you have a partner who earns enough to support your family, you may not need life insurance. On the other hand, if you have family living in a house with a mortgage that you pay, it may be worth taking out a policy.
For more information, see our helpful guide to life insurance policies.
Funeral costs may be claimed from the estate left in your will. You can also plan for your own funeral and make your wishes known in your will document.
Though it may not be an easy conversation to have, it is worth talking to your loved ones about what you would like at your funeral. This will make the process a bit easier for your family when the time comes.
Personal Alarm Information
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Editor's Note: This article was updated on 18 May 2020 to reflect current information.
Originally published 22 October 2019.