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Planning a funeral is a daunting task, say 44% of those who’ve done it

Planning a funeral is a daunting task, say 44% of those who’ve done it
  • Just 12% knew all of the steps involved
  • 44% felt daunted by the pressure to get it all right
  • 22% didn’t feel in control of the process

Dealing with the death of a loved one and organising a funeral for them is one of the most significant events in many people’s lives, and it’s something that half of UK adults have had to do at least once. Yet of those, 43% knew few or none of the steps involved – a huge added pressure at what is undoubtedly already a difficult time. And for the 48% of Brits who’ve never had to organise a funeral, around three quarters (72%) wouldn’t know many, or any of the steps involved. Just 3% would know everything they had to do, according to a new YouGov poll conducted for life insurance provider Beagle Street.

Stresses and pressures

Family pressures, grief and indecision can all add to the stress of organising a funeral, with almost a third (29%) of those who’ve done it saying they had to juggle competing demands from other members of the family and 39% saying it was very difficult to organise such an important event (often involving as many people as a wedding) while grieving. Over a fifth (22%) said they didn’t feel in control of the process and over a quarter (26%) said they didn’t find it easy to make decisions about the funeral.

Fears over costs

Cost, too, is a further factor piling on the stress when it comes to planning funerals, with more than four in ten of those who’ve done it (44%) saying they worried about what it would cost and almost one in five (18%) of those who’ve been through it saying they felt pressured to spend more money on the funeral than they were comfortable with.

Yet despite worries over costs, only 16% of UK adults would be most likely to make their choice of funeral director based on value for money, with almost half (49%) preferring to choose a funeral director recommended to them (e.g. by a friend, family member, doctor etc.), and 16% suggesting they’d opt for the closest and most convenient.

A simple, no-frills occasion

Over three quarters of those who plan to have a funeral (78%) said they want it to be as simple as possible, with no frills. This also chimes with the survey’s findings on the ideal cost of a funeral. Asked what they would want their family to spend on their funeral, the most popular amount was up to £1,000 (15%): significantly less than the cost of the average funeral, which is £3,675 [1] – perhaps because many just aren’t aware of the likely costs involved, or maybe an indication of a trend towards a simpler, less traditional occasion. Some 41% said they’d consider a non-traditional funeral. More than one in 10 (12%) don’t plan to have a funeral at all.

It’s good to talk

Yet despite the fact that almost everyone will be involved in planning a funeral at some point in their life, many people haven’t talked about their own plans. Just 32% of UK adults have had a conversation with their partner about their funeral wishes, and 26% have talked through plans with other family members. Almost a third (31%) haven’t discussed their funeral with anyone, with many of these saying they don’t want to think about their death (38%), they’re too young (36%) and the conversation is awkward (29%). One in 10 said bluntly that it’s not their problem, and they don’t care what happens after they die.

However, not all of us are avoiding the conversation. Of the 53% who’ve talked to someone about their funeral plans, a variety of situations acted as the trigger, ranging from the death of a friend or family member (35%) to a sense of responsibility (28%); writing or changing a will (18%); reaching a certain age or birthday (16%); being diagnosed with an illness (7%) and a news article or a storyline on a TV programme (7%).

Speaking about the research, Beagle Street Managing Director Matthew Gledhill said:

“Funerals are a natural and important part of the cycle of life, and almost all of us will have to plan one sooner or later. It’s worrying to hear that for many people, family pressures, fears about costs and a widespread lack of knowledge about what needs to be done can cause a lot of extra stress at what’s already a difficult time.

“We need to be doing more to normalise conversations about death and funerals, and giving people a better understanding of the steps involved so that they can plan an occasion that fits what they and their  family want.

“With this in mind we’ve created the Beagle Street guide to funeral planning to support people in making the choices that are right for them. We also offer customers a free will planning service with our life insurance policies to help them make their wishes clear.”

Claire Henry, CEO of Dying Matters, said:

A funeral is a chance to say goodbye, to celebrate a life and a key early step in the grieving process. Any unnecessary stress or uncertainty only makes an emotionally hard time even more difficult, so it’s really important that we all make our funeral plans clearly known to those close to us.

 “Making our wishes known, and feeling comfortable discussing it, means that we get the funeral we want, and our families and friends get to remember us without added worry or distress.”

For more information read the Funeral Guide.


  1. Money Advice Service – How much does a funeral cost?

Notes to Editors

  • About the research
    • All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 2,078 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 5th – 6th January 2017.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).
  • Dying Matters week
    • Dying Matters Week 2017 runs from 8-14 May. For further information visit
  • Average cost of a funeral
    • The average cost of a funeral using a funeral director is £3,675, according to the Money Advice Service, rising to £4,136 in the case of a burial.
  • About Dying Matters
    • In 2009, the National Council for Palliative Care (NCPC) set up the Dying Matters Coalition to promote public awareness of dying, death and bereavement. Our members include organisations from across the NHS, voluntary and independent health and care sectors (including hospices, care homes, charities supporting old people, children and bereavement); social care and housing sectors;  a wide range of faith organisations; community organisations; schools and colleges; academic bodies; trade unions; the legal profession and the funeral sector.
    • NCPC is a registered charity number 1005671 and a company limited by guarantee number 2644430.
    • Hospice House, 34-44 Britannia St, London, WC1X 9JG

Originally released: 12th May 2017