Funeral costs and consumer rights

Costs_ consumer_rights

Most people plan and shop around for big life events – taking on a mortgage, planning a wedding or civil partnership, even buying a pram. Yet many people don’t shop around for a funeral even though it could set them back thousands of pounds.

At a distressing time, funeral costs can add further worry to individuals and families. Funerals have been called ‘the ultimate distress purchase’. They are often planned in haste, under stress and few want to bicker over costs. Odd, because according to Sun Life and their 10th annual Cost of Dying report, a basic funeral has risen for the 13th year in a row and now stands at £3,897 and the overall cost of dying is £8,802.

SunLife Cost of Dying report 2016

It doesn’t have to be this way. A cheap funeral can be a richer funeral. Simple funeral arrangements may be sweeter. Lighting a candle may be more meaningful than a firework display.

It’s OK to check cremation costs versus burial costs. It’s OK to question whether you want flowers for funerals. It’s OK to compare the price of coffins for sale online. It’s OK not to use a funeral director or a funeral parlour. You don’t have to have a cremation service at all.

Check out your options for organising a funeral. It’s not cheap or disrespectful. It’s sensible and it’ll give you a better chance of getting it right for the person you are honouring.

Funeral arrangements can be as simple or lavish as you want (and can afford). Funeral costs can be very low if you organise the funeral yourself. You can make the coffin, use your own transport, bury the body on your own land (if you own it) and organise the celebration at home. In that case your only costs would be cremation costs or burial fees.

Currently, most people opt for a funeral director to take care of the body in their funeral parlour, provide a hearse and make the cremation or burial arrangements. All in the average cost is likely to be around £3-4,000. (The average cost of a burial in Scotland rose in 2013 by 66% since 2004 to £3,506.)

Some funeral directors and celebrants provide services free for the death of a child.

See Cost of Dying report produced annually by Sun Life to update on funeral costs in the UK.

See The Real Deal report produced by Citizens Advice Scotland on funeral costs in Scotland.

The figures below are just for guidance: funeral costs can vary widely from one part of the country to another so check these out locally.)

  • Registering a death – £10 for the death certificate and £4 for additional copies.
  • Cremation forms – £76 each (£152) for Cremation Forms 4 and 5 signed by doctors for crematorium
  • Crematorium fees – around £6-750
  • Funeral director – the funeral director will charge around £1,200-£1,700 to take care of the body, organise the funeral and provide a coffin and transport. They will pay other costs (‘disbursements’) – like the cremation certificates and burial or cremation fees, and bill you for the total: usually around £3-4,000.
  • Burial lair – this is the burial ground. Costs vary eg £350-600 for a lair which has space for 4 family/friends, tiered.  In some parts of the UK, a lair costs double for a non-resident; other areas have a flat rate. Many burial grounds no longer sell title deeds to a lair in advance of a death because land is at a premium.
  • Burial fees – around £5-600 including gravedigging in churchyard – cost may be more in other cemeteries. Burial in a churchyard is less if the service is held in church. If you’re claiming a funeral payment it will cover burial not cremation.
  • Coffin – from £150 for a cardboard coffin direct from the supplier up to thousands.  A cardboard coffin customised with your design and delivered to your door will cost around £300.
  • Hearse – funeral directors will provide a hearse to transport the coffin and a car or cars for the family – it’s part of the servce. They can source and will charge extra for special vehicles – cadillacs, horse and carriage, motorcylce hearse. You can use your own estate car or van or hire a car.
  • Celebrant – £150-200 for a service including meeting and drafting script and overseeing the ceremony. Ministers charge £160.
  • Organist – around £50
  • Flowers – from around £60
  • Memorial headstone – from around £400
  • Catering – entirely up to you. Do it yourself at home and invite people to bring a dish. Often people go to a local hotel and spend around £6.50 a head for sandwiches and a cuppa.