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With rocketing cremation and burial fees, how can families protect themselves?

Author: James Dunn
21 July 2017

James Dunn is the co-founder of Funeralbooker, an independent and impartial funeral comparison service. With the rising cost of cremations and burials, he has some advice for families to avoid falling into debt.

Each year, our team tackles the mammoth task of updating and analysing cremation and burial costs from across the UK. Inevitably the results make grim reading, particularly as we know that hikes in these essential fees hit families at a time when they are at their lowest ebb.  

This year has been no different, with a round of price increases forcing cremation and burial fees up to crippling levels. Fees are not only rising for yet another year in a row, but inflation-busting average increases of 5.2 per cent for cremation and 5 per cent for burial are seeing them hit new highs.

As a result, families face paying an average £753 fee for cremation, while burial fees now cost a staggering £1,792 on average. This will put even more of a squeeze on the budgets of the bereaved, raising concerns over the potential impact on funeral poverty and household debt.

Worryingly, these fees also appear to be almost entirely arbitrary with significant regional variations in the increases being pushed through and the amounts people are being asked to pay.

Although burial fees cost substantially more, cremation fees are for me the biggest concern. Around seven in ten people in the UK are cremated. The relatively lower cost of cremation fees undoubtedly plays a part in driving this trend. So when the ‘affordable’ option becomes unaffordable, it means we have a problem - and I am sorry to say that we are reaching that point now.

There are now crematoria dotted around the UK – in Beckenham, Crawley, Leatherhead, Nuneaton, Moray, Dundee, Oxford, Northampton and Chichester – where families are being asked to pay an eye-watering £999 cremation fee. Others are not far behind, and it is fair to say that once one breaks through the £1,000 barrier others will be sure to follow suit.

But, what can families do about these unavoidable costs? Firstly, it is important to remember that nobody would want their family or loved ones to fall into debt or financial hardship in order to pay for their funeral, so do not feel embarrassed about wanting to take control. There is nothing wrong with setting and keeping to a budget. In our day-to-day lives, most of us are pretty savvy shoppers – we now need to learn how to do this with funerals too.

Burial or cremation fees typically account for around a third to a half of the total cost of a funeral, so it makes sense to see if you can reduce these fees. Most towns have a choice of burial sites, but not all have a choice of crematoria. If you are one of the lucky ones, be sure to find out about the respective fees.

Even if there is not an option to reduce fees you can still control the total funeral cost. This is where shopping around really pays. Independent funeral directors, many of which are family-owned, typically offer better prices, value-for-money and, in my opinion, a more personal service than directors that are part of an expensive, nationwide chain. Make sure you get quotes from a number of local independents – as a rule of thumb I would suggest a minimum of three. 

Try to make some key decisions beforehand such as type of coffin, type of service, number of cars and the overall budget you can afford. This will make it easier for you to get realistic and comparable quotes. If you do not feel up to the task of calling funeral directors, help is on hand. Our free and impartial comparison service enables you to research, compare and engage independent funeral directors from the comfort of your own home.

How ever you choose to do it, the important thing is that you are taking control. This takes you a step closer to arranging a fitting send-off that meets your personal requirements and does not break the bank. By shopping around, it is possible to get the choice, service and value for money we all deserve.

For more information visit Funeralbooker

See more articles in Opinion

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