By Tim Purves, Chairman, William Purves Funeral Directors

IN a recent survey from the Scottish Government, 15 per cent of consumers admitted that they would struggle to pay their funeral costs. This is not surprising when you consider that in 2014, an average funeral cost around £1,920. But today, it’s £4,078 – an increase of 112 per cent.

The Sun Life (2018) Cost of Dying Report predicts that this will increase to £10,441 by 2023, yet many of us have yet to make adequate provisions for our final send-off. Worryingly, the report also reveals that families have to find an average of £2,500 to cover shortfalls in funeral costs. For many this is creating real financial hardship.

The reasons for this are complex.

The vast majority of people still aren’t comfortable talking about their funeral wishes. According to the report, only one per cent of those who had recently organised a funeral had a clear understanding of the deceased’s wishes. This lack of forward planning is placing a significant emotional burden on the family.

A useful first step is to write down your requirements and discuss these with family members so they are clear about your wishes. We have created a free planning guide called Plan of Wishes. This online tool takes you through each step and creates a downloadable document that can be shared with family members and executors.

The Plan of Wishes is not only a useful way of stimulating a conversation around death, it also provides clarity on the projected cost based on your specific funeral requirements.

This is important as we are seeing first-hand the impact of the mismatch between what consumers believed they had saved for and the reality of what they receive.

This misunderstanding of the true cost of funerals has been driven by a rise in an aggressive “low cost” advertising campaign that is confusing consumers into believing they have made adequate provisions for a “standard funeral”. However, this is where the confusion arises as there is no consensus on what constitutes a “standard” funeral service.

In reality, this headline figure is the cost of a direct cremation which doesn’t include a ceremony. Too often we are seeing the bank of son and daughter having to top up their parent’s funeral budget in order to give them the send-off they wished for but hadn’t saved for.

Funeral poverty is causing widespread concern with the Scottish Government calling for greater transparency on funeral director services and associated costs. We support this initiative and are working with the industry to provide greater clarity in this respect.

Failing to give due consideration to funeral planning has the potential to cause your family financial and emotional turmoil at a time when emotions are already running high. This can be avoided by discussing your wishes with your family well in advance and creating a financial plan to cover the associated costs.

There are many financial products available including pre-payment funeral plans which guarantee all funeral director costs no matter how far into the future they’re required. As with all financial investments, it is important to take professional advice from a reputable funeral director or qualified financial advisor who can determine the best product to meet your needs.

By being proactive about life’s only certainty, death, you can relax and enjoy your twilight years without the worry of who is going to pick up the final bill.