Can You Afford To Die?


Oct 09, 2014 by British Blog

Funeral costs

Families across the UK will struggle to afford a proper send off for their loved ones, with the average cost of funeral, burial and administration rising by 7.1% in the past year.

Grieving individuals will now have to fork over around £7,622, with over 100,000 finding themselves unable to foot the bill. 

Funeral costs have been increasing faster than both inflation and savings rates in recent years. The total “cost of death” is predicted to rise around 7% per year, making it three times more than the wider rate of inflation. This has caused a massive rise in costs, with the average funeral fees more than doubling in just 13 years.  

A basic funeral, only including the non-discretionary fees, currently costs £3,456 on average. This includes the essential, non-negotiable elements of a funeral such as funeral directors, an officiating minister and the cost of burial or cremation. Between 2004 and 2013, these fundamental costs rose by a whopping 80% and they are set to increase further.

By 2020, this price will have increased by more than £2,200 to an average of over £5,800. This is partly due to rising energy costs, which are causing cremation fees to increase by more than 5% per year. Additionally, private crematoria are commonly now operating for profit, which is also contributing to the inflation of funeral expenses. However, burial does not offer a cheaper option, costing around £1,000 more than cremation.


Non-discretionary fees

Non-discretionary fees have also been affected by the rising cost of funeral directors. It is estimated that one in five families are unable to afford a full funeral service and many director’s firms are going unpaid. As a result, almost two thirds now require an upfront deposit.

However, the fastest growing non-discretionary price is church fees. In the year between 2012 and 2013, church costs at the Church of England rose from £102 to £160: an increase of almost 60%.

The remainder of the £7,600 funeral price tag is made up from extra additions to the service, such as a memorial, flowers and catering. These cost £2,006 on average, with £160 going on flowers and £860 on memorial costs. Discretionary estate administration costs have also risen in price significantly, now standing at an average of £2,160.


Social funding

The shocking figures were revealed in a study by the University of Bath’s Institute for Policy Research. The authors of the report are now challenging the government over the Department for Work and Pensions’ current state support, which intends to help the poorest in society fund funeral services.

Throughout the UK, families on lower incomes are facing ‘funeral poverty’. The number of those unable to cover the costs of their loved one’s funeral are reportedly around 50% higher than just three years ago.

Although the government has offered Social Fund Funeral Payment to those on low incomes since 1988, the report has highlighted this support as being “insufficient”, “outdated” and “overly complex”. Many of the people who qualify for this support still face an average shortfall of £1,277.

A notable increase in demand for public health funerals have also been felt by local authorities. This funding option has its own set of flaws though, with eligible claimants finding themselves obliged to pay for funeral costs and submit claims for a refund after the event. This is encouraging poorer families to commit to bad financial decisions and potentially find themselves in debt.


Rise in death rates

This is particularly worrying as the long-term decline in death rates is expected to reverse, with a 15% to 20% rise in the number of deaths projected in the next two decades.

“Modern medicine and advances in public health have led to falls in the number of deaths over many decades, but the pattern of falling death numbers is about to turn around and start to increase,” said Baroness Sally Greengross, the Chief Executive of the International Longevity Centre UK.

“With growing funeral costs, quite simply, growing numbers of people might find they can’t afford to die. Government must act now before the current issue of funeral poverty becomes an even more significant future crisis.”