The overall cost of end-of-life services in the UK has reached an unprecedented amount, meaning that it’s not just getting expensive to live in the country, but to die there too.
Dying in the UK is becoming increasingly expensive due to soaring funeral costs over the past two decades, made worse recently by persistent inflation, according to new figures.
A new report by financial services firm SunLife shows that the overall cost of dying in the UK can set you back as much as £9,658 (€11,258), which covers fees for administering an estate, a basic funeral service, and optional extras like hosting a celebration or wake.
The sum represents a 5% increase from last year, with funeral costs alone having increased by 126% over the past 20 years, according to SunLife’s Cost of Dying Report 2024.
Recent hikes in inflation have influenced the sharp increase after two years of decline, with funeral costs differing across UK regions. The country’s inflation unexpectedly rose to 4% in December; the Bank of England wants to get this down to 2%.
In contrast to the previous year, where only two areas experienced cost increases, most parts of the UK have seen higher average funeral expenses in 2023. Only London, North West England, and Northern Ireland have observed a decrease.
Northern Ireland remains the cheapest place to die in the UK, with an average cost of £3,256 (€3797) for funerals. Meanwhile, at £5,171 (€6,030), London maintains its position as the most expensive, despite a slight decrease in cost.
The future of funerals
Dismal forecasts show that by 2028, average funeral costs are set to increase from the current £4,141 (€4,828) to £5,126 (€5,977).
According to Farewill, a UK-based will and cremation services firm, certain cost-effective alternatives, such as direct cremations, have become increasingly popular.
Last year, the most favoured funeral choice was a cremation with a service, making up 53%, despite a 4% decline in the overall number of cremations.
The proportion of direct cremations, which entail no funeral service or ceremony beforehand, has risen from 3% in 2019 to 20% in 2023, while the percentage of burials increased reached 27%, as per the report.
“It’s disappointing to see funeral costs on the rise again,” said Dan Garrett, chief executive officer of Farewill.
“Encouragingly, direct cremation is still going strong, giving over 100,000 families the option to do things their own way, for a quarter of the price.”
New regulations have also been implemented to assist consumers. In 2021, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) ordered funeral directors and crematorium operators to transparently display prices for customers or face potential legal consequences.
According to 93% of funeral directors interviewed for the report, people often spend more than necessary on things like catering, coffins, and especially flowers.
They suggest that loved ones talk openly with family to understand and honour the deceased’s wishes.
They also recommend talking to different people to find a funeral director who makes you feel comfortable and keeps things simple, avoiding the attempt to make everyone happy in these challenging times.