SunLife Cost of Dying Report 2017

SunLife Cost of Dying Report 2017 main image

Since 2004 Life Insurance specialists Sun Life have been reviewing funeral costs and attitudes to dying across the UK, publishing their annual SunLife Cost of Dying report. This year’s report is based on reviews from two sources:

  • A survey of 1,524 adults in the UK who have been responsible for planning a funeral and administrating an estate in the last 4 years  
  • Interviews with 100 funeral directors based across 10 regions throughout the UK

Funeral Costs – the trend continues 

Unfortunately the Sun Life Cost of Dying Report 2017 follows in the footsteps of previous reports highlighting that funeral costs have continued to rise for the 14th year in a row, albeit at a slightly lower rate. 

With an increase of 4.7%, the average cost of a funeral in the UK stands at £4,078 – an 112% since SunLife first started recording funeral costs. 

These funeral costs focus on a combination of cremation and burial funeral services; individually the average costs are now:

  • £3,596 for a cremation funeral
  • £4,561 for a burial funeral 

To highlight how these price increases are out of kilter with other products and services, the SunLife Cost of Dying report also compares the increase in funeral costs to the percentage of other price increases which makes very bleak reading:

  • Funeral Costs – 70.6% 
  • Electricity Bills – 42.2%
  • Weekly Wages – 20%
  • House Prices – 19.8%
  • Petrol Prices – 19.6%
  • Bread – 15.7%    

The funeral post code lottery  

Funeral costs continue to vary enormously by region, even more so when you factor in whether the funeral service is for cremation of burial.  

For example it probably comes as no surprise that London is the most expensive place when it comes to funeral costs at £5,951; almost 46% above the UK average. When you separate these figures out by cremation and burial however, you quickly see that the figures are heavily skewed by the costs of a burial in the London area. 

 Whilst burial costs in London are a massive 60% over the UK average, funeral costs for a cremation funeral in the same area are only 27.7% greater. 

This in part perhaps explains why the percentage of people opting for a cremation funeral compared to burial is ever increasing; now standing at 75%. With such high fees it is completely understandable that our decisions on type of funeral could be swayed by how much it will cost. 

For example the cost of a burial funeral in the East and West Midlands is 10% over the UK average at £5,022 whereas the cost of a cremation funeral in the same area is almost 10% under the UK average at £3,245. Almost £2,000 between the two; that has got to sway more people towards a cremation funeral don’t you think? 

As mentioned the SunLife cost of dying report shows the ongoing increase in funeral costs but there are two exceptions. Funeral costs for both Northern Ireland and Wales have actually fallen in the last year, with the former now being the cheapest place to die.    

Unavoidable funeral costs 

Although the percentage increase in funeral costs has dipped slightly from the usual 6% plus to 4.7%, the increase in cremation fees is significantly higher.

With a rise of just under 8%, the average cost of a cremation in the UK now stands at £791. Then of course you need to also factor in the ministers fees at around £155 and the doctor’s fees of £164; although the latter won’t be relevant in the near future when the change in law takes place meaning you won’t need a 2nd doctor’s certificate for cremation funerals.

So if you are looking to arrange and pay for your funeral in advance with a prepaid funeral plan, the SunLife Cost of Dying Report clearly emphasises the need to choose a funeral plan that completely guarantees the cremation fees as well as the funeral doctor’s costs, so you won’t need to worry about further price hikes in coming years.

The total cost of dying 

Funeral costs do not stop at just the funeral directors fees and third party costs often referred to as disbursements. There are also other costs to factor in; more personal items such as flowers, notices and the reception, not to mention fees incurred to administer the estate. 

Although the fees for more personal items and services have actually dropped slightly, suggesting families are trying to cut costs where possible, the overall cost of these services including the average cost of a funeral has risen to a total cost of dying of £8,905 – a 50% increase in the last 10 years.

Funerals of the future

Over the last few years we have seen a change in the type of funerals families choose. Although traditional funeral services are still common place, so are services that are seen as more of a celebration of life. In fact of the funeral directors interviewed for the SunLife cost of dying report, 60% stated they had seen a decrease in the number of religious funeral services arranged and only 11% of those said they had organised a funeral service for a family where the tone had been religious.

Eco funerals including woodland burials and the use of green eco coffins are also more popular, as are Direct Cremations.

 The funeral directors interviewed for the Sunlife cost of dying report also highlighted that one in ten of the cremation funerals they arranged were actually direct cremations – and the main reason for the increase in popularity was down to price.

Direct cremation is where the deceased is transported directly to the crematorium with no service and no family members or friends in attendance; therefore the price is significantly lower at around £1,800. For this reason alone the option of a direct cremation will probably never be as popular as the more conventional funeral services, as many families would be upset at the thought of not being able to say good bye with the usual ‘send off’.

As always the SunLife Cost of Dying report makes one point very clear and that’s the need to talk about dying and our wishes with our families. From both a monetary and an emotional perspective, it is important that our families are clear about our wishes and also happy with our choices.

At the end of the day the death of a loved one is never an easy time but a little planning can certainly make it a little less painful.

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