Understanding the cost of a funeral

Depending upon the deceased's wishes and the funds available, the cost of a funeral can vary considerably. According to surveys by American Life (2006) and AXA Sun Life Direct (2007), typical UK funeral costs have never been higher.

Fortunately, there are many ways to manage the costs associated with a funeral. As with so many purchases, the secret lies in forward planning, unashamed price comparison and careful thought about exactly what you do (and do not) want from the funeral. Always remember that the most expensive funeral might not necessarily be the 'best' one, and that a simple, well-planned, low cost funeral can provide a memorable and meaningful celebration of someone's life.

How much does a funeral cost?

So what's the average cost of a funeral in the UK? According to the American Life survey (2006), based on research amongst 100 UK undertakers, average burial cost was £3,307 with a typical cremation costing £4,954.

The more recent AXA survey put the typical total cost of dying at £5,923, with the funeral part being £2,390. Among the individual funeral expenses highlighted by AXA were the following:

  • Funeral flowers (£229)
  • Death notice in newspapers (£98)
  • Funeral notice in newspapers (£146)
  • Catering at a wake for 50 people (£341)

In practice, as well as reflecting regional variations, funeral prices depend on the preferences of the deceased and their loved ones, the chosen style and content, and the budget available. Variations in the cost of items such as coffins give a clue to the range of prices, with a simple pine coffin costing around £300 and an elaborate willow coffin likely to be more than £1000. Similarly, the bill for funeral flowers could be hundreds of pounds - or just a few pounds for modest arrangements made by family and friends.

Whether it's a low cost funeral or a no-expenses-spared send-off, the only certainty appears to be that costs will continue to rise: AXA quotes Mintel research that estimates a 38% increase in average funeral costs to £3,299 by 2012. It's yet another reason not to put off funeral planning any longer.

Help with funeral costs

There are several ways to help with the costs of a funeral. Some take the form of thoughtful advance planning (pre-paid funerals or prudent financial provision with term insurance). Alternatively, assistance might be available from sources such as the following:

  • Benevolent funds
  • A lump sum from an employer's pension scheme
  • The Social Fund (ask at any UK social security benefit office)
  • A local authority (always contact them before the funeral is arranged)

According to AXA, the DSS paid out £45m in 2005/2006 to help cover the costs of 35,000 funerals.

If a deceased person has bank or building society accounts, these will be frozen (unless it is a joint account) on death. However, up to £5,000 can be available on production of a death certificate. Anyone arranging someone else's funeral should remember that they are responsible for paying the bill (though this is normally recoverable from the deceased's estate).

The Well Planned Funeral offers an easy-to-use resource to help you plan your funeral and reduce the practical and emotional worry for your loved ones at an already difficult time. Whether you use our convenient online Your Funeral Plan and Wishes product to document the planned cost of a funeral and your wishes, or you use ouronline Your Will and Documents will-writing services, we're here to help you.

Funeral Plans You Can Take Now

Learn more about pre-paid funeral plans and how they can help. Find out more about cheap funerals. Why not take out some burial insurance?