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What is the cost of death?

The costs associated with dying are not a lot of fun to think about, but planning ahead could save you and your loved ones thousands when the time comes.

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According to SunLife, the average cost of dying reached an all-time high of £9,493 in 2020. The most significant cost comes from a funeral service, with a basic option totalling £4,417 on average.

Other costs include:

  • Funeral flowers

  • Death notice

  • Funeral notice

  • Memorial

  • Catering for wake/funeral reception

  • Venue Hire

  • Probate (administration of the deceased’s estate)

  • A coffin

Standard coffins vary widely in price, from a £100 cardboard coffin to a £7,000 padded casket.

Funeral service costs

The average funeral cost can be broken down into:

  • Directors’ fees (£2,687) 

  • Medical fees (£164)

  • Officiate fees (£169) 

  • Burial or cremation fees (£1,626-£4,975)

Burial or cremation?

This is the most expensive part of the funeral and the cost can vary hugely.

It’s important to take into consideration the deceased’s wishes, but also think about what you can afford to pay for.

With the average cost of a basic burial rising by 65% to £4,975 in the last decade, 77% of all funerals are now cremations.

However, the average cost of a standard cremation has also skyrocketed — by 58% — in the last ten years. The average cost is now £3,858, though a ‘direct cremation’ — without a service — can cost £1,626.

London has the UK’s highest average funeral cost at £5,963, while Northern Ireland has the lowest, £3,489.

What is probate?

Probate is the process of administering the estate of a deceased person. In practice, this usually means clearing their debts and distributing their assets in accordance with their will.

The actual process depends a lot on whether or not you hire a professional.

Hiring a professional costs an average of £2,771, though it can be worth it if someone has left a particularly complex estate.

You can find out more about applying for probate on GOV.UK.

Saving on additional costs

Additional (or send off) costs add up to £2,306 on average. This figure usually includes money spent on travel, flowers, notices and the wake.

This is the easiest area to overspend in, but also the best place to save money. Often you can cut costs without significantly impacting the day. 

If it’s possible, speak to your loved ones about their funeral or your own. The type and size of the service, choosing donations or flowers, and the location can all have a big impact on the cost.

Make sure you have the right size venue for the wake, so that you are not spending too much. If you decide on flowers, think hard about the right selection. Often a thought-out arrangement is far more poignant than masses of expensive bouquets.

Avoiding professional catering and driving can also save you money. Following the hearse in a limousine may feel traditional, but it is essentially an unnecessary cost.

It’s important to know what your loved ones want from their funeral, and to let friends and family know what you want from your own. That way the day will feel more special and you won’t end up paying for costly and unnecessary extras.

How to pay for the costs of death

It is important to make sure that you have the money put aside to pay for your death.

69% of families have to pay for all or some of their loved ones’ funeral costs. In 57% of these cases, they borrowed money in order to meet the additional costs.

The idea of leaving your family in debt after you’ve died can be troubling for many, and while sometimes it can’t be helped there are steps you can take to avoid such a situation.

Saving up

Putting money away each month, or even keeping a lump sum in the right savings account, can be a simple way of meeting these costs.

It’s important to do your research to make sure that the money you are leaving behind is enough to meet the costs of the send off you want.

Make sure to compare savings accounts to find the best deal out there. 


Life insurance, or even specific funeral cover, can be the safest way to ensure the costs related to your death don’t fall onto your family. You could leave a lump sum, enough money to pay for your funeral or a payout that decreases over time.

Read our life insurance guides to find out everything you need to know.

41% of people want their family to spend as little as possible on their funeral, which means communication is key to getting the day and the costs right.

Inheritance Tax

If your assets (savings, investments, property) are worth over £325,000, your estate could be subject to Inheritance Tax. This means money will be taken off the amount you leave to your family.

Inheritance tax is currently set at 40% of the value over the £325,000 tax-free threshold.

The main exceptions to this are what you leave to your spouse or civil partner, which is tax-free, and if you give away your home to your children or grandchildren, when the threshold rises to £500,000.

You can also inherit your spouse or civil partner’s unused tax-free allowance.

Find out more about inheritance tax at GOV.UK.

Life insurance can give you peace of mind by providing loved ones with a payout.

About Joel Kempson

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