Benjamin Franklin’s famous comment says that ‘In this world, nothing can be said to be certain except death, taxes … and an annual hike in the cost of dying.’ OK, I added that last bit in but it’s a truth that’s hitting us hard.
Reading the annual Sun Life ‘Cost of Dying’ report, which came out yesterday, I was reminded of practical implications of losing a loved one. When added together, the ceremony, flowers, a headstone, and probate, has hit an average of £7,622 – a 7.1% increase on the price it was last year.
Pension pots fund funeral plans
Considering that the average wealth of a household over the state pension age is only around £18,000, the cost of a funeral now takes up more than a third of the average retired household’s assets.
Even more concerning is the fact that the net wealth of all households where the head is in a ‘routine’ occupation currently stands at less than £4,000 – a figure that’s well under the current cost of dying.
In addition to these seemingly ever-increasing costs, Which?’s ongoing research has found evidence that the financial pressures that Sun Life describes are all too often compounded by failures on the part of companies and government services to support people who are bereaved, or trying to plan for the end of life. An interviewee told us:
‘Each savings provider had different standards as to the level of formality required to release the funds. Some wanted a probate letter only or a copy of the will. Also they varied in the amount of time they took, [and] these inconsistencies even existed within the same organisations who sometimes gave out contradictory information.’
Bereaved and broke
We’ve found you have encountered issues managing probate and accessing funds, changing names on banks and utilities accounts, and accessing companies’ dedicated bereavement phone lines after the loss of a loved one. Another of our research interviewees told us:
‘The main problems are that the paperwork is complex and takes up a great deal of time. It’s the system itself, rather than the people involved, and getting a solicitor makes very little difference to the time or costs.’
How have you coped when arranging funeral plans for a loved one? Are you worried about how your family would cover the costs and do have a funeral plan in place to elevate this worry?