As your mourners assemble at the churchyard to say their final farewells, you want them to be thinking of you fondly – don’t you? The last thing you need is them cursing under their breath because they’ve forked out for the funeral or arguing about how to split your art collection because you failed to include it in your will.
But it seems the vast majority of us are making life troublesome for our family and friends at the time of our departure. Only a quarter of the population has bothered to speak to their nearest and dearest about what they actually want from their funeral. Burial or cremation? A bamboo coffin or in the shape of a favourite surfboard? Limo or horse-drawn carriage?
Even more importantly (after all, you’ll be dead so you’re unlikely to care about the details), 41 per cent of us fail to make any financial provision for our send off.
And the lack of this particular form of financial planning leaves one in six families in financial difficulty when covering the cost of even a basic service, which stood at an average of £3,693 in 2015, according to research from the insurance and pensions company SunLife to mark this week’s Dying Matters Awareness Week. But the average funeral cost, once a few personal touches have been added in, is much higher – at £7,715 for a cremation and £8,538 for a burial.
The funeral trade is big business: one of the largest UK providers, The Co-operative Group, has just reported a near 10 per cent rise in funeral sales over the past year and announced plans to open 200 new funeral homes across the country in the coming three years.
Proving particularly popular for Co-op over the past year, and for other funeral providers generally, are pre-paid funeral plans. These take a lot of the heartache out of funeral planning for the family, and help shield them from unexpected costs.
At Co-op, the only cost excluded is that of a grave – which varies massively depending on location – and there are three price options for both burial and cremation, ranging from £3,265 to £4,095 if paid for online. The difference is mainly due to the type of coffin and type of transport. If customers don’t want to pay upfront with a one-off lump sum, they can opt to pay for their plans over one to five years in monthly instalments but a fee is levied for this.
For many families, however, instances of such forward planning are rare. The life and pensions company Royal London has this week published the results of a bereavement survey suggesting only one in ten people felt both financially and practically prepared when they lost their partner; two in five had made a will, and three in ten had never talked about their funeral with their partner. Only a quarter had discussed the prospect of their partner dying, but ‘very few had taken any practical steps or actions’, the company reported.
With this lack of preparation, it’s hardly surprising that there’s also been a sharp rise in the number of disputes over wills being taken to the High Court – particularly given years of rising property prices. This has increased by 69 per cent in the past two years, from just 97 in 2013 to 164 last year. One of the most high-profile current disputes has been brought by the two sons of the late Lynda Bellingham, star of the 1980s Oxo advert and more recently a Loose Women panellist, who died without an up-to-date will that specifically included provision for her children from a previous marriage. They accuse her husband of failing to abide by her wishes that they be provided for from her estate. So far they have only received £750 each.
So give your family a break when they’re already up to their eyeballs in grief because you’ve departed this mortal coil by getting your affairs in order now – your funeral and your will. Yes, it’s a depressing way to spend an afternoon, but it’ll spare your loved ones heartache and might save them some serious cash too.
Laura Whitcombe is Knowledge and Product Editor at ThisisMoney.co.uk
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