‘Death is a fact of life’, or so the cliche goes. However in true British fashion, it remains one of the subjects we feel least comfortable talking about.
This means that those left behind are having to make important organisational decisions surrounding the ceremony, and more pressingly, stump up for increasingly expensive funeral costs.
New research has found that the cost of the average funeral in Britain has more than doubled since 2004, rising to £3,897. This makes them one of the UK’s fastest rising costs, outstripping inflation, wages and pensions.
London is the most expensive place to die with the average funeral costing £5,529 – 42 per cent higher than the national average.
According to SunLife’s annual Cost Of Dying report, the total cost of dying (that includes things like flowers, headstone, probate) has jumped 8.3 per cent to £8,802 in the last year.
Close to half of the cost of dying (44 per cent) is made up by the actual funeral ceremony itself, which has jumped 5.5 per cent in a single year, an increase which is more than ten times that of the cost of living rise.
Help is at hand though, after a new calculator was launched by SunLife to help organisers work out how much they’ll need to cover funeral costs.
People are taking notice though with more thinking about how their funeral will be paid for. This year, 62 per cent have set aside at least some money to cover their funeral, compared to 59 per cent last year and 54 per cent in 2009.
However, a fifth of these people are not leaving enough to cover the full cost and 38 per cent are making no provision at all.
This is lumping the financial burden on to family members who have had to settle the outstanding balance.
Some 13 per cent were forced to sell belongings, take out a loan, borrow money from a friend or relative or use a credit card to cover the cost.
One in 12 had to cut back or change some of the costs from the catering (26 per cent), flowers (17 per cent) or booking a cheaper venue for the wake (15 per cent).
In the dark
An unwillingness to discuss death arrangements is resulting in added pressure too.
More than a fifth (22 per cent) of people who have organised a funeral in the last four years didn’t have any idea what their loved one wanted, while more than half saying that the funeral would’ve been easier to organise if they’d had a conversation with the person about death and dying.
Just one per cent of people who have organised a funeral in the last four years fully understood what their loved one wanted.
Claire Henry, chief executive of the Dying Matters Coalition, said that despite how freely people share personal details on social media, it was ironic that many were still uneasy talking about death.
The group has teamed up with SunLife to launch MyPerfectSendoff.co.uk, where users can document their wishes after passing.
Mrs Henry said she hoped that the service would “help people engage with the subject in a much more positive and practical way”.