The New ‘Watford Gap’: Herts Town is UK’s Most Expensive Place to Die 0

  • Watford tops list as most expensive place to die in the UK, with average funeral price of nearly £6,000 – 37% higher than the national average
  • London close behind, with Newport comfortably Wales’ priciest and Aberdeen well ahead of its Scottish counterparts
  • High prices being fuelled by price hikes imposed by the big chains, despite independent funeral directors reducing fees in the last year

The ‘Watford Gap’ is back and this time it’s because funeral directors seeking to make a killing are charging 37% more than the UK average, exclusive research by funeral comparison website Beyond revealed today.

Watford is the most expensive place to have a funeral, at an average cost of £5,814 – nudging London into second place at £5,749, with Redhill in third at £5,352.

The average UK funeral – calculated as the average cost of a funeral director’s services1 plus the average price of cremations and burials – is now £4,241.

This represents a rise of 33% in only two years – in 2016, the average was £3,190.

This spike is being fuelled by price hikes among the big chains, who have raised their already-high fees by more than £500 in two years. For their services alone, you will pay an average of £3,573, and this is before you add in the cost of the cremation or burial.

Meanwhile, independent funeral directors, who represent roughly a third of the market, have actually been found to have dropped their fees over the past 12 months.

Funerals in Guildford, Liverpool and Brighton are all more than £5,000 on average, as they are in Newport, which is comfortably the most expensive place in Wales at £5,149 and the sixth priciest in the UK overall. By contrast, Cardiff ranks 75th at an average cost of £3,812.

Meanwhile in Scotland, Aberdeen ranks as costliest, with an average funeral in the Granite City being £4,942 – the next priciest Scottish cities are Perth (£4,586, 25th), Inverness (£4,495, 32nd) and Motherwell (£4,245, 53rd).

Table: The UK’s top ten most expensive places to die*

Rank Town Overall average funeral cost
1 Watford £5,814
2 London £5,749
3 Redhill £5,352
4 Guildford £5,317
5 Liverpool £5,157
6 Newport £5,149
7 Brighton £5,013
8 Halifax £4,976
9 Salisbury £4,959
10 Aberdeen £4,942

Beyond’s extensive research is unique in being weighted* to take account of the fact that cremations are more popular than burial, meaning these numbers are far more reflective of the true UK average funeral costs than others.

James Dunn, co-founder of Beyond, comments:

“It looks like a football league but this is one table you don’t want to be topping.

“A lack of transparency in the funeral market is what’s fuelling price rises, particularly among the big chains.

“Death means big business, with half a million Brits dying every year, but a disinclination to shop around is resulting in mourners, who are often vulnerable, paying over the odds.”

 

Notes to editors

1 Average funeral services calculated as: funeral director fees, basic wood veneer coffin, urn, flowers, celebrant/minister, hearse and one limousine

2 Table of top 50 most expensive places to die:

 

Rank Town Overall average cost Rank Town Overall average cost
1 Watford £5,814 26 Nottingham £4,579
2 London £5,749 27 Oxford £4,570
3 Redhill £5,352 28 Lincoln £4,538
4 Guildford £5,317 29 Leicester £4,506
5 Liverpool £5,157 30 Gloucester £4,503
6 Newport £5,149 31 Cambridge £4,501
7 Brighton £5,013 32 Inverness £4,495
8 Halifax £4,976 33 Luton £4,484
9 Salisbury £4,959 34 Hull £4,451
10 Aberdeen £4,942 35 Dorchester £4,445
11 Durham £4,854 36 Wigan £4,440
12 Hemel Hempstead £4,813 37 Wolverhampton £4,440
13 Coventry £4,752 38 Milton Keynes £4,433
14 Southend-On-Sea £4,701 39 Huddersfield £4,419
15 Medway £4,696 40 Stevenage £4,413
16 Hereford £4,695 41 Worcester £4,395
17 Tonbridge £4,689 42 Bath £4,380
18 Northampton £4,665 43 York £4,380
19 Slough £4,660 44 Bournemouth £4,378
20 Bristol £4,657 45 Reading £4,366
21 Canterbury £4,650 46 Sheffield £4,361
22 Wakefield £4,643 47 Dartford £4,347
23 Enfield £4,615 48 Doncaster £4,345
24 Lancaster £4,597 49 Cleveland £4,308
25 Perth £4,586 50 Birmingham £4,265

 

* Source: Beyond research weighted 70% for cremation, 30% for burial; cremations account for at least 70% of all funerals in the UK

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Censored to Celebrated: Funeral Ads Banned by TFL Win Big at Prestigious Awards 0

  • After life services website Beyond win big at Drum Awards for series of ads deemed too risqué to run on the London Underground this summer
  • Ads for wills and funerals that parody other consumer posters such as holidays, weddings, cars and medicines earn advertising industry approval
  • TfL censorship actually led to more people seeing the ads, which then garnered huge international media and social media interest

A series of controversial adverts that caused a stir this summer when Transport for London (TfL) refused to show them on their trains has earned advertising industry approval after winning big at last night’s Drum Awards.

The censorship created a significant media storm, with the banned ads consequently featuring on major news platforms in the UK, Europe and the rest of the world – the likes of the BBC, Channel 4, The Sun, Daily Mail and even The Washington Post all covered the story.

And now, after life services comparison website Beyond, who devised the campaign to be deliberately risqué, has been celebrated at the prestigious Drum Awards, winning for Best Viral Campaign.

The campaign was rejected on the grounds it may cause offence, a departure from recent bans which have tended to be due to a clampdown on nudity.

Each of the four adverts was cheekily designed to draw comparison with other, more accepted consumer products.

Choosing a funeral director was likened to car shopping; Beyond’s free will writing service masqueraded as a cough remedy advert; one image encouraged viewers to plan for their funeral in the same way as they might their wedding day; and another compared getting a good deal on a cremation with a package holiday.

None of the ads was allowed to run on the London Underground, despite there being no precedent of similar images being censored – in part because no such campaign has been devised before. An online poll, to which thousands of people responded, found that the vast majority (76%) believed the ads should have been allowed to be displayed.

Ian Strang, co-founder of Beyond, comments:

“Following the controversy, we were overwhelmed by the support we received from the public and this award gives a further stamp of approval from the advertising industry to our campaign.

“As a bonus from this awareness, hundreds of people created their will online with us for free, raising several hundred thousand pounds for charity through legacy gifts.

“While we’re delighted with the exposure that the adverts have received, I am aware that not everyone agrees with our approach, and of those who do, not all of them have been exposed to the reasoning behind the adverts and what we are trying to achieve.

“When something is taboo, as with death, it creates an environment where bad actors can operate. And our fear of engaging on the subject – creating that shared code of silence – allows predators to rip us off. We pay too much for funerals, funeral plans and wills because we don’t feel able to shop around.

“Excitingly for consumers, the issue seems to be coming to a head since the CMA has been investigating the funeral industry since the summer, and will report its findings and recommendations within the next week.”

Government Probate Fee Hikes to Hit Bereaved Families Hard 0

Family holds up piggy bank spilling out coins

In a controversial move, the government will be changing their official probate fees from £215 to as much as £6,000 for some bereaved families.

At the moment, families who need a grant of representation to settle the estate of someone who has died pay £215 in government probate fees, or £155 if they have professional help. Estates worth less than £5,000 are exempt.

Under the new fee structure, families settling an estate worth more than £50,000 will pay between £250 and £6,000, depending on the size of the estate.

Opponents of the new probate fees have called them a “stealth tax” that will hit vulnerable bereaved families hard.

However, the government has said that due to the higher threshold for fee payment, an extra 25,000 families each year won’t pay anything at all. 80% of those who will need to pay will face fees of £750 or less, with a maximum of 0.5% taken from any estate.

“Fair and more progressive”

In a written announcement, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Ministry of Justice Lucy Frazer MP said: “This new banded fee model represents a fair and more progressive way to pay for probate services compared to the current flat fee and reflects our commitment to protecting access to justice by ensuring we have a properly funded and resourced courts system.”

She also claimed that there were “several options” for families to fund the new higher fees and those who struggle to pay may be able to apply to the Lord Chancellor to remit the cost under exceptional circumstances.

“£10 million” in charitable income lost

As well as families, the change in probate fees could also have a significant impact on charities, which often rely heavily on the ‘legacy’ money that people leave to them in wills. The Institute of Legacy Management estimates that the higher charges could cost charities as much as £10 million a year in lost income.

Matthew Lagden, chief executive of the ILM, said that “The government’s own impact assessment acknowledges that the current fees cover the average costs of making a grant of probate, so we are clear that this is a stealth tax, which will be borne in part by charities,”

“We are also very concerned that the government’s impact assessment dismisses the costs to the charity sector as ‘not expected to be substantial’, when the £10m lost to this tax would fund vital services across England and Wales.”

What are probate fees for?

When someone dies, the executor of their will (or if there’s no will, their next of kin) needs to sort out their legal and financial affairs. Their money, property, assets and belongings all need to be passed on to the right people.

To access things like bank accounts, change property deeds, or transfer shares belonging to the person who has died, a grant of representation may be needed. This is an official document that states that a person has the legal right to settle the estate.

To set the grant up, the HM Courts and Tribunals Service charges a probate fee – so called because the kind of grant of representation you get is called a grant of probate if there’s a will. It’s called a letter of administration if not.

On average, 51% of estates in England and Wales can only be settled with a grant of representation.

How are the fees changing?

The current probate fee is a flat rate of £215 charged to DIY applicants, or £155 for those using professional help. It’s the same for estates of all sizes.

The new probate fees will be based on how much the estate is worth in total:

  • <£50,000: no fee
  • £50,000 – £300,000: £250
  • £300,000 – £500,000: £750
  • £500,000 – £1 million: £2,500
  • £1 million – £1.6 million: £4,000
  • £1.6 million – £2 million: £5,000
  • £2 million or more: £6,000

When will the higher probate fees come in?

The new fee structure will apply from April 2019 on.