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From the UK: The Cost of Death: Families in Debt Over Funeral Costs

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shutterstock_262137485A friend of mine recently got a part-time job working at a funeral home.  He is well known in the town he lives in and was asked if he wanted some part-time work at the local funeral’s directors.

He thought, why not, and now he works when there is work available setting up the rooms for funerals, cleaning up afterwards, and also picking up bodies.

It is the picking up of bodies, that while may seem interesting, is also a bit gloomy.

We are all going to die, “no one here gets out alive”, but most of us don’t see that mortality on a regular basis.

My friend takes it all in stride and we both have made little jokes about the funeral business, like asking someone if they have thought of a pre-paid and planned funeral while they are alive. Then saying to them, we have pre-paid plans you can live with.

The fact is that dying and funerals, are not cheap.

Recently someone I know lost their father, and naturally had to bury them.  Or I should say chose to bury them, there is also cremation.

In adding up all the funeral costs and expenses, the funeral cost a total of over £5,000.  Now the average cost for a funeral in the UK in 2015 was around £3,700, and it depends where you live as to how much more expensive or cheaper it may be.

Costs can vary according to location:

*  Beckenham £5,372

*  Southgate £5,161

*  Wandsworth £5,076

*  Yeovil £3,152

*  Amersham £3,102

*  Belfast £3,008

As to how the family I mention here paid for their father’s funeral, each family member donated as much as they could, however, they were still short of money.  So they had to pawn and sell off some jewellery and other possessions.

The Department for Work and Pensions has stated that they have paid out £44 million to over 32,000 people as payments for funeral costs.

A report by Royal London shows funeral costs rising higher than inflation.

The author of the report, Simon Cox stated, “The rising cost of an average UK funeral is very concerning; it’s outstripped inflation considerably for many years – almost in line with house price rises – which as we know continue to rise rapidly as demand outstrips supply.”

“Our study shows people are striving to meet funeral price hikes, which they have little control over. Given the stressful situation, shopping around for a funeral is often not an option. Instead people are coping by cutting back on non-essentials if possible, and reconsidering how loved ones are buried.”

“The UK funeral system still displays fundamental failings, which we reported last year. Vulnerable bereaved people are taking on increased debt; and we predict this problem will worsen if steps are not taken to tackle the many, persistent causes driving up the cost of funerals.”

The report was welcomed by The National Association of Funeral Directors, who said the report “highlights that the rising cost of a funeral can be attributed to many factors including the increasing scarcity of burial plots and fast-rising local authority fees for burials and cremations”

They added, “Funeral firms offer a range of prices based upon different services offered and in response to local competition. This enables families to select a funeral director that is right for them. However, cost is not the only important factor.”

“The NAFD advises people to select a funeral firm that has signed up to a strict code of practice and independent redress scheme such as our own, to ensure that they and their loved one will be properly and professionally cared for. “

shutterstock_217359742Who Pays For The Funeral

This is the part that not many people are aware of, who is responsible to pay for the deceased funeral??

The person who arranges the funeral is responsible for the costs and paying them.

If the deceased had a pre-paid funeral, then this would cover the expenses.

If there is a life insurance policy that was in place, this money can be used to pay for the funeral. Whomever is the beneficiary of any life insurance could be called upon to pay the expenses, however, when a claim is placed on a life insurance policy and there is a beneficiary, the proceeds are paid directly to the beneficiary.  They can then do what they wish with the money.

If the deceased has assets, such as property, or money in the bank, it may be possible to liquidate these assets to pay for the funeral.

If there is no money available to pay for the funeral, and those responsible are on a low income or receiving benefits, there is a social fund that can pay towards the funeral costs.

This “funeral payment” covers the following:

*  burial fees and exclusive rights to burial in a particular plot

*  cremation fees, including the cost of the doctor’s certificate

*  up to £700 for funeral expenses, eg funeral director’s fees, flowers, coffin

*  travel to arrange or go to the funeral

*  the costs for moving the body within the UK – but only for the part of the journey that’s over 50


Arranging a funeral can be a stressful time, especially if it is a sudden death, or someone close to you.

There is so much to think about and take in, all in a short period of time.  Then to have to deal with the expense of it all, and possibly be left out of pocket or worse yet, in debt, adds even more stress.

If someone has to take out a loan to cover funeral expenses, they can be paying that debt off for years.

And if the average funeral costs £3,700 or more, even receiving £700 in the form of a funeral payment, is a not enough.

There are those calling for an overhaul of the “support system” here in the UK.

Due to the wide variance in costs of funerals, and how they have been rising, The Commons Work and Pensions Committee, have called for the Competition and Markets Authority to look into this.

Say that three times.

One issue at play is that in the same area one funeral director may charge £1,000, and another may charge £2,000, for the same service.

On top of that you hear/read these horror stories of families needing to save up for funeral costs, and not having their loved one’s ashes released until the funeral is paid for.

The Chair of the Committee, Frank Field, MP said, “We did not set out to inquire into the funeral industry but it soon became apparent that the interaction between an opaque and outdated public system of bereavement support and a market in funeral services which simply does not operate “normally”, is causing problems.”

“We are concerned by the lack of protection in the market for bereaved customers, particularly those on low incomes. They are vulnerable and may not be inclined to shop around. This is not conducive to effective operation of the market.”

He adds,  “We heard clear evidence of the distressing circumstances and debt this is leading people into, at a time when they are grieving and vulnerable. We do not want a return to the spectre of miserable ‘pauper’s funerals’.”

A spokesperson for The National Association of Funeral Directors responded to the report:

“Funeral costs are rising, of that there is no doubt and the NAFD has welcomed this and other opportunities to work with the Government to address this issue. However, liberally berating funeral directors, who work in the main for very small businesses, is not the way to address this.”

“We were surprised that the Committee did not hear evidence from any cremation or burial authorities who are crucial to understanding the make-up of funeral costs. With these costs shown on a funeral director’s final bill, it is vital that the role of the increasing cost of cremation and burial charges play in the funeral price inflation figures quoted by Royal London are properly scrutinised. These lie outside of funeral directors’ control and have not been addressed in this report.”

However you present it, death isn’t cheap, and the current system that is in place has not kept up with the costs, or the changes.

,A friend of mine recently got a part-time job working at a funeral home.  He is well known in the town he lives in and was asked if he wanted some part-time work at the local funeral’s directors.

This article by Jon Emge was syndicated by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

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