Financial strain can be caused by not discussing end-of-life wishes

Grieving Families Have Financial Stress Because Brits Won't Talk About Dying

Grieving families in Britain are being put under additional financial strain due to not discussing end-of-life wishes with loved ones, SunLife’s annual Cost of Dying Report has revealed.

Service providers revealed that families who are unsure of what the deceased would have wanted often overspend compared to those who had shared their wishes in advance.

Almost half (48%) of people who organised a funeral didn’t even know if their loved one wanted to be buried or cremated, and 19% didn’t know any of the deceased’s funeral wishes at all.

With the price of an average funeral with a burial now at £4,927 and the average funeral with a cremation £3,765, the cost of not knowing can be significant. 

Some funeral directors interviewed shared their advice:

“Find out their wishes and estate – it makes the funeral, and wrapping up the estate, much easier.”

“Talk to your loved one before to get their wishes, music, charities, etc. and don’t go overboard on cost."

With the average cost of a funeral now at £4,056, it’s important to feel that the money is being spent in the right way. 

What percentage of people knew about their loved one’s funeral wishes?

Funeral wish


2021 (YoY change)

Whether they wanted a burial or cremation


52% (-3%)

If they wanted a religious or non-religious service


37% (-4%)

The location of their preferred cemetery or burial ground


28% (-4%)

Whether they wanted their ashes scattered, interred or disposed


27% (-2%)

Their preferred funeral director


25% (-2%)

Their preference for any music/readings


25% (-1%)

Their preferred charity for donation


21% (-1%)

Who they wanted to arrange the funeral


21% (+7%)

Who to invite to the funeral


14% (+0%)

Which type of coffin or casket


13% (-3%)

Which type of flowers they wanted


12% (-1%)

Their preferred venue for the wake


11% (-1%)

Did not know any preferences


19% (+2)

SunLife’s CEO, Mark Screeton, said: 

“Planning a funeral for a loved one will always be a stressful experience, but even more so when you’re unsure of exactly what the deceased wanted. Unfortunately, our research shows that fewer people shared their funeral wishes in 2021 compared to 2020.

“This can result in more money being spent on the funeral than the deceased might have wanted. Organisers often splash out on options such as flowers and the coffin, but many of those surveyed said they would prefer a direct cremation, to save their loved ones both money and the stress of planning. 

“Finding ways to talk about dying with loved ones may feel difficult, but laying out your wishes in a will or funeral plan can be a good way to make your preferences known – and it could save them money when the time comes.” 

Of those who did know their loved one’s wishes, the report found 62% were told directly – 3% less than in 2020.18% were told by family and friends, and 16% (+1%) found out from their loved one’s will. 

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