How to reduce funeral costs

According to the Sun Life cost of dying report 2018* the average cost of a basic funeral is £4271, but if you add the cost of the send-off (memorial, flowers, venue, catering etc) and the cost of using a professional for estate administration the total average cost is £9,204.

Relatives would normally wish to respect the wishes of the deceased, but often these are not known. We recommended that a ‘My wishes’ form is completed and made known to family. You can find an excellent form by Sun Life at https://www.sunlife.co.uk/life-cover/over-50-life-insurance/perfect-send-off/

These wishes should then be considered when reviewing the options below for reducing costs:

Funeral plans: Taking out a funeral plan means you are paying for your funeral at today’s prices and will cover the funeral director’s costs at any point in the future. It can also be tailored to suit any of the cost saving options below.

Help with costs: It is possible to get help from the government social fund where the funeral organiser receives certain benefits. Even where a funeral plan is in place a payment of up to £120 may be available. Check out the details at www.gov.uk/funeral-payments

Cremation: Cremation is clearly a cheaper option than burial. Costs can be further reduced by being flexible about a time slot. Beware of extra costs for interment (burial of urn or ashes) or for scattering of ashes. There should be no extra costs for return of ashes to the family, except in the case of direct cremation – see below.

Direct cremation: This is the lowest cost option where the funeral director arranges collection from hospital or coroner and then cremation. The ashes can be scattered  or returned to the family at extra cost. There is a basic coffin, no hearse or limousines, no service or flowers. The family can arrange a separate service / wake themselves.

Burial: The cost of a plot and headstone can be very expensive. It is common to use the same plot as a loved one and update the existing headstone. It may reduce costs considerably by using a natural burial ground in your local area.

Coffin: Costs of coffins vary considerably. Options include no coffin, cardboard, wicker, wooden, wood veneer, wood effect.

Embalming: In most instances this is now considered an unnecessary and expensive procedure. It is not normally covered by funeral plans.

Transport: A hearse and limousine(s) are traditional but neither are a requirement. Most family members will have access to transport so a limousine may be the obvious item to leave out.

Flowers: These are not covered by funeral plans and can be very expensive. Keeping to essentials and obtaining quotes can help reduce the cost.

Church / Chapel service and Minister or Celebrant fees: These will vary considerably by region and are sometimes only covered by an allowance within funeral plans, so again it is preferable to obtain quotes. If a religious service is not required there may be a family member, who is comfortable with public speaking, to be a Master of Ceremony.

Order of service: It is quite common for order of service to be produced on a home computer saving the cost of design and printing.

Notices of death and funeral: Again, a traditional cost, which can now be covered instead by free social media / messaging services. A family member could be designated to communicate with family and friends.

The Send Off: No funeral plan will cover these costs. Venue and catering costs can easily run over a thousand pounds. The alternative is to hold a Wake at the home of a family member and organise your own food and drink. Family members are usually only too willing to offer support, providing food and help with preparation.

Estate Administration: It is estimated that the average cost of using professional services to administer estates through to obtaining probate is £2,872. If an estate is straightforward it would be possible for a family member to complete the HMRC paperwork to obtain probate. However, if inheritance tax is an issue it may be prudent to use a professional to ensure all allowances are claimed. Solicitors are the traditional provider of these services but there are also companies which specialise in Wills and Probate services, which may be more competitively priced. Our recommendation is to include APS Legal & Associates when obtaining quotations (APS Legal is a specialist in this area with nationwide coverage). As a guide, they will charge 0.5% up to 2% of the estate value depending on the complexity of the work. If you would like a quote for a will or probate services, please email us directly.

*You can view the full Sun Life cost of dying report 2018 here.