Funeral debt in the UK has reached £142 million and 109,000 adults incurred debt paying for a funeral in 2013, new research from Royal London has found.
Its funeral cost index revealed that the average debt incurred by those paying to bury a loved one last year was £1,305.
The average cost of a funeral in the UK now stands at a hefty £3,551. Just under half (46%) of people questioned said this cost was more than they expected, with 42% of those admitting they then struggled to meet the costs.
Despite the expense, only 11% of families choose to opt for a cheaper funeral. More than a third (35%) use their own savings to pay, while 28% borrowed money from family and friends. One in five (20%) used a credit card or loan to cover the costs.
The research also found wide differences in the cost of funerals in different parts of the country, with those in Beckenham, Kent, paying £6,890 on average compared to Thatcham, Berkshire, where a burial costs just £2,995.
Jerry Toher, chief executive of the consumer division at Royal London Group, said: "Our findings shine a light on the financial pressure people face when they arrange a funeral – bills range from nearly £3,000 to almost £7,000 depending solely on where people live.
"Our study also highlights the range of coping strategies people employ – from using their own savings to meet the shortfall; to selling their possessions, or taking on debt. We want to highlight the cost of funerals because, as our study shows people are struggling to pay and this is causing household debt."
In order to help the problem, Royal London said there should be a comprehensive review of the Social Fund Funeral Payment system, which offers financial help to families unable to cover funeral costs.
Average funeral costs in brief
- Cremation: £3,163, comprising £654 (cremation); £160 (doctor); £125 (minister); and £2,224 (funeral director)
- Burial: is £3,933, comprising £1,584 (burial); £125 (minister); and £2,224 (funeral director)