Can you afford your own funeral?

Monday 11 January 2016, 04:35 PM

Sam Barratt
Financial Journalist , Freelance

  • Birds-on-headstone-Lg

Death has always been something of a taboo for the Great British public. But with the cost of a funeral set to top £7,000 in the next five years, it could be time to ditch this taboo and start planning ahead.

  • Funeral costs
  • Even the simplest of funerals can leave your loved ones with a chunky bill. According to a report by the International Longevity Centre (ILC-UK) the average simple funeral cost £3,509 in 2014. Add in flowers, catering and a memorial and this figure leaps up to £5,423. And these costs are set to increase significantly over the next few years. ILC-UK's research found that as the post-war baby boomer generation ages, the number of deaths will increase by 20% with this extra demand pushing up the cost of a funeral to at least £7,000 by 2020.

  • Funeral trends
  • Another factor pushing up the cost of funerals is our changing attitude towards this final send-off. Rather than going for the traditional sombre ceremony, research by Mintel found that 68% of the over 50s would like a funeral that celebrates their lives. This trend can already be seen in some of the recent celebrity funerals. For example, in line with her environmental beliefs, Body Shop founder Anita Roddick's biodegradable coffin was transported to the crematorium in a VW camper van. Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren also made sure his personality came through at his funeral. His coffin, spray painted with the words 'Too fast to live, too young to die', was followed by a double-decker bus carrying mourners and playing punk anthems at full volume. There are all sorts of ways to turn your funeral into a celebration. As well as specifying particular music, food or even setting a dress code, you can splash out on anything from a Morris Minor Traveller or a motorcycle hearse (from £795 from Peace Funerals) to a firework display (from £950 from specialists Heavens Above Fireworks).

  • Planning ahead
  • Whether you're going traditional or for something a bit different, plan ahead. You can include details of your funeral wishes in your will but it's also sensible to tell your loved ones what you'd like. Your plans should also include covering the costs of your send-off. Although the commonest way to pay for a funeral is from the deceased's estate, Mintel's research found that 30% of the over 50s had saved specifically for their funeral with a further 28% taking out a whole of life insurance policy to meet the costs. If you're younger, you might want to consider factoring your funeral costs into your life assurance. Pre-paid funeral plans are another option. These allow you to pay for your funeral in advance, either in a one-off payment or instalments. But, although these can take care of your funeral expenses, they can be expensive and some won't cover all the costs so check the small print carefully. There's also some help from the government. A Funeral Payment is available if you're on a low income and need to arrange a close relative's funeral. But eligibility is complex and almost half of applications were turned down in 2012/13. Although it may seem a little bit morbid, planning your own funeral is the best way to guarantee you have the send-off you want. And, while it's likely to be a tough time for your loved ones, knowing they're carrying out your wishes can give them a lot of comfort.