As you get older, a loved one dies or you hit key milestones in life, it’s natural to start thinking about your own funeral. And, although it’s uncomfortable to think about what might happen when you die, it’s a good idea to be prepared.
Funeral costs can be surprisingly high and could hit your family financially, at a time when they’re already feeling emotional.
How much should I put aside for my funeral?
According to Sunlife, the average cost of a funeral in the UK is now £4,056.
However, Sunlife’s cost of dying report also noted that funeral costs have dropped 3.1% since 2020, due to traditions changing after the pandemic. For example, more people are opting for cremation over burials these days, and it’s common to hold smaller services for close friends and family, with the option for a wider group of mourners to watch remotely.
Many families struggle to pay for even a simple funeral and 27% get into debt trying to give loved ones the send-off they deserve.
The cost of a funeral depends on a few factors, such as where you live in the UK, the nature of your death and any special arrangements you’d like. Cremations are cheaper than burials, with direct cremations (without the service) the most basic funeral you can get.
Here’s an example of what you might pay for a burial versus a cremation:
* Except in Scotland
Source: Royal London National Funeral Cost Index survey 2020
Should I plan my own funeral?
Planning your own funeral can have many benefits, such as:
- Enabling your family to make arrangements quickly
- Having the funeral you want
- Making sure you leave enough money to cover
How do I let people know what I want for my funeral?
You don't have to plan every detail of your funeral, but it's important to let your family know what you want. At the very least, you need to tell them whether you want a cremation or burial.
Many people include funeral plans in their will, but it's a good idea to write them in a letter or keep them in an online document that others can access, too. That way, everyone will be aware of your wishes, not just the executor of your will.
How much does the average funeral cost?
Funeral costs can add up quickly. The biggest expense is the funeral director's fee, which makes up 65% of the total cost of a cremation funeral and 49% of the total cost of a burial funeral.
The following prices are from Royal London's Funeral Costs Index 2020, unless otherwise stated.
Funeral director: £2,149
- Organising the venue, date and time of the funeral service
- Arranging the grave/burial site
- Booking transport
- Dressing the body in your chosen outfit
- Managing your budget
The service offered will vary between directors, so take some time to research different options and work out what suits you best.
Look for someone who's registered with an official governing body – either:
- National Association of Funeral Directors, or
- National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors
Any director within these bodies will have to follow a strict set of professional guidelines, which will give you peace of mind at a stressful time.
Do you need a funeral director?
If you’re not sure you need to hire a funeral director, here are a few things to consider:
|They can carry out lots of different services in one package, such as preparing the body and planning the service. This can be cheaper than hiring several people to do separate jobs.||They'll ask a lot of questions in a short amount of time in order to start planning. Some people may find this overwhelming.|
|They can help your family make decisions at a difficult time.||Your family might not agree with their approach.|
|They must stick to the pricing standards set by their governing bodies.||Prices are still high and no one knows what the maximum cost is.|
|Your family should be able to pay the director up to 30 days after the funeral or use a payment plan.||Some funeral directors expect customers to pay all the fees up front.|
A minister will lead a religious service. An officiant can lead a humanist (non-religious) service, or it can be hosted by a family member or friend.
Death certificate: £10-15
Your death has to be registered at a registry office in the district where you died, after which a death certificate is supplied. This is required before you can be buried or cremated. There's also a fee for each extra copy of the certificate required.
There are many, many types of coffin to choose from, which is why there’s such a huge difference between the lowest and highest price. A simple, cardboard coffin will cost around £260 and has the advantage of being more environmentally friendly than a wooden one. You can customise it, too, to give it a more personal feel.
At the other end of the scale, you can go for a solid wood or metal casket, for a more luxurious send off. In general though, you can expect to pay around £500 for a mid-range coffin.
Burial fees can vary hugely depending where in the UK you are. This is because price is affected by high demand and plot location. When you buy a burial plot, you're buying the right to be buried in that grave for a set amount of time. You'll also have the right to have a memorial set up on your behalf, such as a headstone or plaque. This is paid for separately.
Cremation fees: £835
Cremation is significantly cheaper than burial, but it’s worth noting that you can pay less for a cremation at off-peak times, such as very early in the morning. If you’d like to receive an urn with the ashes, you can arrange this for an additional fee.
You can also buy a site on which to scatter the ashes, if you want them in a specific place.
Additional funeral costs to consider:
- Funeral home facilities, such as the chapel of rest
- Storage, care and presentation of the body
- Limo hire for the coffin, cars for relatives and friends
- Flowers for the service, graveside or hearse
- Order of service booklets
- Venue for a reception/wake
- Food for family and friends
Is there a regional difference in funeral costs?
Yes. The cost of your funeral depends on where in the country it's held. The difference in average cost between the most expensive location (Kensal Green, London - £13,262) and least expensive (Belfast, £3,061) is over £10,000.
In general, the most expensive areas fall within Greater London, while the cheaper areas are more far ranging, including parts of Scotland, Staffordshire and the West Country. It’s worth checking average costs in your area to get an idea of what your funeral is likely to cost so that you can plan head.
Are there any good alternatives to a funeral?
You don't have to have a funeral. Some people choose to have a direct cremation, where the body is taken straight from the place of death to the crematorium. There's no viewing beforehand, mourners don't follow the hearse, and there's no traditional ceremony.
Your family will need to ask for the ashes if they want to scatter them. If you want to have a memorial, you can arrange one to happen after the cremation.
Most funeral directors will suggest a traditional service, but direct cremations are available if you look for them. If you choose a direct cremation, the executor must:
- Register the death
- Sign an application for cremation and ashes instruction form
- Give the crematorium the doctors' cremation certificates or coroner's form 6.
According to SunLife’s Cost of Dying Report 2022, the average cost of a direct cremation in the UK is £1,647, although it’s worth doing your research, as some companies offer services for under £1,000.
What's the best way to pay for a funeral?
One way to pay for your own funeral is to take out a life insurance policy.
Then, when you die, a pre-agreed cash sum will go to your estate or a person of your choice. It can help pay off bills, debts, and expenses, including your funeral costs.
If you're unable to leave money to pay for your funeral, check out the options below that may help your family cover the cost:
- Government support e.g. funeral expense payments - find out more from GOV.UK
- Interest-free budgeting loans
- Council funerals
- Charity support