Beware of cold calling funeral planners
It has been reported that there has recently been a spate of cold calls to unsuspecting consumers, by funeral planners selling financial plans to cover funeral costs.
A Somerset newspaper indicated that families within the town of Portishead had been targeted by these organisations both through the post and on the doorstep. What many don't realise however, is that there are strict terms and conditions attached to many such plans. In this instance, the plans are only valid, should the grieving family use specific funeral directors – not necessarily their local firm.
This smacks very much of a marketing referral scheme – certainly not appropriate given the stress and grief being experienced by loved ones during this time.
With average funeral costs now exceeding £3,500, it is wise to plan for the future. However, it is always best to do the homework beforehand and examine all terms and conditions very carefully. A reputable funeral planning agency will respectfully allow potential customers time to digest all the information, ensure that each aspect and restriction is understood and invite detailed questions, so that the customer can ensure that what is being discussed, is the right plan for their specific requirements.
A "sales approach" used by a firm selling funeral plans should always be viewed with a great deal of cynicism.
Additional funeral costs for war hero
You may never have considered that moving house may mean additional funeral costs, if you know where you want to be laid to rest.
Such was the case for 91 year old war hero James Graham, who has always expressed a wish to be buried alongside his parents, having never married or had children.
Being an organised planner, James paid for his burial plot 20 years ago, when he lived in Cantril Farm, Liverpool. Unfortunately, Cantril Farm was later demolished, with all residents being relocated. James went to live in Knowsley but was still happy in the knowledge that his last resting place would be in West Derby Cemetery in Croxteth, next to his parents.
It was only when he attempted to responsibly prepay for his funeral, that James was given the devastating news that because he had moved out of the Liverpool area over five years ago, his funeral costs would in fact come to £1,300, rather than the £695 he had been led to believe. This additional money, Liverpool council explained, was to cover employing contractors to open the plot, administration costs and maintenance of the cemetery.
Unfortunately, this now means that James will be unable to entirely fund his own burial costs – a sad and bitter result for this man who was awarded a medal for his actions during the war, in Italy and Egypt.
Minister complains about funeral costs
A Scottish minister is complaining about funeral costs – and believes he has an answer for families who are forced to take out loans in order to pay for their loved one's funeral.
The Rev Bryan Kerr, minister at Greyfriars Church in Lanark, is appalled at the increasing cost of funerals which have risen by 80% over the last ten years to around £3,500.
With increasing numbers of families and individuals turning to high interest loans to meet the financial shortfall of a funeral, he has criticised councils and funeral directors of "bleeding the system dry".
In addition, Rev Kerr says that the government is not doing enough to help people facing this financial crisis, with only half of the applicants for relief actually receiving any money. Even those who are eligible only receive on average, around £1,225 – leaving a shortfall of £2,275.
Rev Kerr suggests that a basic funeral allowance should be made available to everyone, drawn from National Insurance funds with the option to top the fund up if a more elaborate ceremony is required. He acknowledges that the government in response would be likely to raise taxes, but says: "..we all need a funeral of some description".
What are your views on the cost of funerals? Do you have any alternative ideas as to how we can all help our loved ones with funeral expenses?
Why funeral costs can cause disputes
The topic of why funeral costs can cause disputes was raised, in a recent interview with an undertaker.
As a society, we're fascinated by death – definitely not our own or that of someone close to us – but the mystery surrounding death and the events which take place afterwards, until the funeral has been carried out. TV programmes and books have given us an insight into the world of the undertaker.
In this particular interview, the undertaker says that tensions often come to the fore around money. Funerals carried out by her organisation start from around £2,500, with some funeral bills amounting up to a staggering £40,000.
"Sometimes rows are brewing over the will", she says. If it is evident that there are specific rifts or problems within a family even at this early stage, then it occurs to me that the contents of the will should be explained well in advance before the death of the individual. This would help to prepare all concerned, potentially prevent any probate disputes and make what is a devastating time, just that little bit easier.
We’ve mentioned funeral costs frequently over the last couple of years, but it’s only now that the true extent of the problem is becoming evident.
The survey by Sun Life Direct has revealed that over a third of people aged 60 and over have no money left whatsoever after paying for food and household bills. This shouldn’t come as any surprise whatsoever, as benefits and wages have not kept pace with the rising cost of living.
This of course means that not only do thousands of pensioners have no savings to pass onto their next of kin as inheritance, but they can’t even afford to pay for their own funeral in future years.
Funeral costs have risen by 80% over the last ten years, with an average funeral now costing over £7000 in total. One in five of us, it is claimed, struggle to find the money, facing an average shortfall of around £1,200. Many of us will take out additional credit in order to ensure that our loved one receives a decent funeral.
Overall, says Sun Life, the national funeral funding shortage has increased by more than 50% over the last three years, arriving at a figure of around £131 million.
With the average cost of a funeral now exceeding £5000 and rising by around 7% annually, it’s worth allocating money now to help with your funeral costs. By doing so, you’ll be sparing those left behind, the financial strain and unnecessary stress caused when trying to find the money to give you a decent funeral.
Confused.com carried out research which revealed that over the last five years, about 100,000 people have been given a pauper’s funeral, yet around 80% of us still have no savings or funeral plan in place for this eventuality.
Usually costing around £2000 – £4000 in total, with payments starting at about £34 per month, a funeral plan will often state that acceptance is guaranteed, and that medical or health history is required. One of the advantages of a plan such as this is that whilst funeral fees continue to rise by 7% per year, your funeral plan payment will often remain the same throughout the length of the term.
Additional extras can be added into your package, including your favourite flowers or readings, giving a personal touch to the proceedings.
Be careful to check the cover required, along with any restrictions, however. Some plans will ask for additional money to cover the distance travelled by the undertaker, cremation or your burial plot.