The high cost of a funeral often comes as a surprise to many people. Funerals are not a joyful topic to think about, and so it is usually not something most of us prepare for financially. However, preparation should be something we all do, as the average cost of a funeral in the UK is around £4,000. Financial planning ensures that organising a funeral doesn’t lead you or your loved ones to financial ruin. Despite the usefulness of preparation, a YouGov study showed that only 6% of UK adults have a funeral plan.
Here’s a quick guide to help you understand the different costs associated with funerals, the real cost of funerals in the UK and how you can prepare for them.
Why Are Funerals So Expensive?
According to the SunLife Cost of Dying Report 2020, the average funeral in the UK costs £4,417. Since funerals are such a sombre occasion, the figure can come as a surprise to many. Why are funerals so costly?
Organising a funeral means taking care of quite a few mandatory payments. These include:
Cremation or Burial Costs
These are the most significant funeral costs, with prices typically starting at £700 for cremations as high as £1,800 for burials.
These costs include things like:
- Cremation urn or coffin – The price can range from £50 to few thousand pounds depending on the type of urn or coffin you choose.
- The headstone – The cost can be anything between £800 and £5,000.
- Grave maintenance or burial of ashes – The cost can range between £100 and £2,000.
Depending on the supplier, you can pay the above as a one-off payment or monthly instalments. Cremation and burial costs are also dependent on location.
Funeral Director Fees
You’ll typically hire a funeral director to help organise the funeral. Funeral directors will take care of things like the collection of the deceased person and their care ahead of the burial or cremation, and also tend to oversee the general organisation of the funeral. Funeral director fees can vary a lot depending on your location and the business you choose.
You’ll also need official documents to arrange a funeral. These include:
- The death certificate – The cost is £11 per copy in England and Wales, £10 per copy in Scotland and £8 per copy in Northern Ireland.
- Doctor’s fees for cremation forms – You need a record of the medical details surrounding the death for a cremation to go ahead. You’ll typically need cremation documents called Cremation Forms 4 and 5, and they cost around £80 each.
Other Third-Party Funeral Costs
The above are the essential costs related to funerals. There are other costs involved, too. These can include things such as:
- Funeral flowers.
- Venue rental for the wake and extra limo hire.
- Funeral notice and obituary.
These are known as funeral disbursements. It’s important to note that these costs can be included in the quote from your funeral director. However, they are generally additional costs and only provided by the funeral director if you ask for them. The cost of disbursements can range between £700-£3,000 depending on your chosen suppliers.
How Much Do Funerals Cost in the UK?
Every year, various independent organisations collect data on the cost of funerals in the UK. The reports tend to paint a similar picture of how expensive the average funeral is.
The Royal London National Funeral Cost Index Report in 2019 found the average cost of using a funeral director to be £3,989. This is similar, although lower, to the £4,417 mentioned in the SunLife report for 2020. Funeral costs increase slightly every year, and there is a lot of variation across the country.
The cost depends on whether you opt for a burial or cremation. Cremation can be around 40% less expensive than burial. The average cost of a funeral is:
- £3,946 for cremation
- £4,893 for burial
As mentioned above, funeral costs vary a great deal depending on your location. For example, prices can differ by as much as £2,000 in London alone depending on the funeral directors you use!
How to Lower the Cost of a Funeral
While funeral costs include plenty of things you can’t avoid, you still have ways to manage and reduce the cost of a funeral. It is possible to have a meaningful and dignified funeral without getting into debt!
As the above shows, cremation is often cheaper than a burial. You can also arrange many parts of a funeral without a funeral director. For example, arranging paperwork, venues and catering can be easy to do yourself.
Even aside from these points, you can save money by:
- Comparing prices and shopping around – Get a quote from more than one funeral director, caterer and florist to compare your options. You can also compare coffin and urn prices and go with a cheaper alternative.
- Skipping the ceremony altogether – You can opt for a ‘direct cremation’ which involves no viewing or service, at least at the time of cremation. If you want, you can hold one at a time and place of your choosing and keep the costs down.
You should also plan ahead. Planning for your own funeral is not the easiest thing to do, but preparation can make this difficult time easier for your loved ones when the time comes.
You might want to consider setting aside some money to ensure your loved ones don’t have to cover all the costs themselves. There are different ways to do this outside of a traditional savings account. You could use:
- A funeral plan, which is a pre-paid plan to cover the costs. It allows you to pick a funeral director and plan for the different parts of the funeral.
- Funeral insurance, which pays out a fixed lump sum to cover the cost of a funeral. You can find standalone coverage or include funeral insurance in your life insurance.
Keep in mind that both options might not cover all the costs.
Getting Help with Funeral Costs
If you’re struggling with funeral costs, help is available. Local authorities write off certain costs in instances where the deceased is a child under the age of 18, for example. You might be eligible for funding through the Funeral Payment scheme. It is available for people on low income and in receipt of certain benefits like Income Support and Pension Credit. Visit GOV.UK for further information.