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Expenses incurred in dying go up

24 October 2014

THE cost of dying has risen by more than ten per cent in the past year, a new report by an insurance and funeral services company has found.

SunLife's annual report Cost of Dying suggests that the average cost of a funeral, estate administration, headstone, probate, and other death-related expenses now totals £8427 - a rise of 10.6 per cent on the previous year. Inflation last year was 2.5 per cent.

The firm says that the average funeral now costs £3590, an increase of 87 per cent since SunLife's first survey ten years ago. The cost of hiring a solicitor to manage the estate of someone who has died now accounts for a third of the total cost of dying.

From the start of 2015, a C of E funeral, burial in a churchyard, and the erection of a wooden cross over the grave will cost £503. In 2011, this would have cost £319, showing that the figure has risen by more than 57 per cent in four years.

One in seven people now struggles to afford the funeral they want to give their loved one, the SunLife report suggests. Many of them either use up savings, borrow from friends, or add debt to a credit card to make up any shortfall.

Funeral directors and charities told The Guardian on Monday that demand for a state-funded public health and environmental funeral - once called a pauper's funeral - was increasing year by year, as more and more families found they could not afford a funeral privately.

Originally, public health funerals were designed for those who died without any family or savings, but they are increasingly being used as a last resort by poorer families.

Julie Dunk, of the Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management, told The Guardian: "More and more now, we are dealing with cases where there is family - but the family either can't or won't pay for the funeral. There are some people who are really struggling."

The charity Down To Earth, part of Quaker Social Action, offers free advice on funerals. Its manager, Fiona Singleton, said on Wednesday that they had started a campaign to end "funeral poverty this year, because we see first-hand the amount of distress it causes people".

A funeral poverty officer with Down To Earth, Heather Kennedy, said: "We think the Government should be doing more to help people who find themselves in this situation, before an ageing population, deepening poverty, and spiralling funeral costs make the problem much, much worse." Down To Earth is planning to ask faith communities to pressure their local MPs into action over funeral poverty.

Some people are resorting to DIY funerals, by buying coffins and transporting them to a crematorium or graveyard in the back of their cars or vans. The Natural Death Centre, a charity that advises people who wish to arrange their own funeral, said that there had been a dramatic shift in the past two years.

Rosie Inman-Cook, from the Centre, told The Guardian: "Before, people were interested in green funerals, and sourcing their own coffins, and how to direct their own funerals. . . Now the majority of my calls are about the finances."

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