Funeral Costs and Trends in 2023

SunLife’s Cost of Dying 2024 Report is in its 20th year. This enlightening report provides ‘a comprehensive view of funeral costs and attitudes over time’.

Here are some of the trends and fascinating statistics from this year’s report:

The Cost of Dying and the Cost of a Basic Funeral

According to SunLife’s Cost of Dying Report, following two years where costs have fallen, funeral costs are going up again. The cost of dying (funeral fees plus professional fees and send-off costs) is at an all-time high of £9,658, up 5% on 2022. The cost of a basic funeral has risen to £4,141, up 4.7% on the previous year.

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These are average costs and how much we pay for a funeral does, of course, depend on a number of factors – the type of funeral, how many ‘extras’ we choose, and where it takes place. So, for example, the average cost of a funeral in Northern Ireland is £3,256, whereas in London it is £5,171.

Whether it is a traditional or simple burial or cremation also affects the cost, as we can see below:

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What Type of Funeral are People Choosing?

The number of people choosing direct cremation has increased again, up 2% on last year. There has also been an increase in the number of burials. And for the first time, the Report recorded how many people chose a direct burial.

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How Much is an Average Send-off?

Alongside the basic funeral, most people choose at least some optional extras including elements that make the day feel more personal to the person who has died. This might include some sort of gathering, such as a celebration of life, funeral reception, or memorial service.

According to the SunLife Report, the average cost of a send-off in 2023 was £2,768, up 3.7% on the previous year. Here’s what this includes:

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Who is Paying and How?

The Report suggests that before they die 70% of people make some sort of provision to pay for their funeral.

Of this 70%, 44% use savings and investments to make this provision, 37% take out a pre-paid funeral plan, 23% have an over 50s insurance plan, and 20% a life insurance plan.

Although just over half of people who make provisions for their funeral will put enough aside to cover all of the costs, there is often a short-fall. SunLife found that 1 in 5 families ‘experience notable financial concerns when paying for a funeral’.

Our Loved One’s Funeral Wishes

It was surprising to see that even fewer people this year knew about their loved one’s funeral wishes. In fact, 1 in 5 (19%) surveyed didn’t know any of their loved one’s funeral preferences and around half didn’t know whether the person wanted to be buried or cremated.

For those who didn’t know the deceased’s preferences, half said that it would have been useful to know and could have made the experience less stressful, saved money, and might have prevented disagreements among family.

Our Funeral Wishes

Whilst the number of people who discuss their funeral preferences with someone else has dropped 7% on the previous year, many do have some idea of what they want. Top of the list was that they would like their family to spend as little money as possible (37%), followed by 30% who would like a standard/typical funeral. 8% said that they would like to leave it to their family to decide.

Celebration of Life

Half of all funeral services in 2023 were described by those surveyed as a ‘celebration of life’. This may be denoted by things like the choice of music, particular readings and light-hearted speeches, having a colourful or unusual dress code, or even personalised coffins.

These are some of the multiple ways that people described their services:

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What Are People Doing with Their Loved Ones Ashes?

Most people said that the ashes of their loved one have been, or will be, scattered (47%), others said that the family will keep the ashes (30%), that they will be buried (21%), or something else (2%).

If ashes are being scattered, this is where people chose to do so:

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This is a small snapshot of some of the fascinating and sometimes surprising trends in funeral costs and choices over the past year. At whiteballoon, we passionately believe that being informed about funeral options empowers people and gives them the confidence to make choices that are right for them and for those they love. Our Information and Inspiration pages and useful Planning Tools can help people to find what they need.

To read the full SunLife Report and to see comparisons to statistics from 2022, please go to SunLife’s Cost of Dying 2024 Report.

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