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RIP – Rest in Poverty; The end of life time bomb


Sun Life Direct outlines how much it costs when you die in the UK with its fifth annual report

  • Cost of dying increases to £7,248, the equivalent of three months average UK wages (up 20% since 2007!)
  • Almost 1 in 5 (100,000) people who are left to organise a funeral struggle with the costs, double that of 2009 
  • The State safety net is stretched – demand for financial aid far outstrips supply

Sun Life Direct, the expert in the cost of dying [1], has today announced the results of its Annual Cost of Dying Report [2].The cost of dying (including death-related costs such as funerals, probate, headstones and flowers) has increased to an average of £7,248, representing a dramatic increase of 20% since 2007 and over £400 since last year. In addition, funeral costs have increased 61% over the past seven years, which Sun Life Direct believes will continue for the foreseeable future. The survey identifies that almost one in five people who are left to organise a funeral struggle with the costs, double that of 2009.

Despite these substantial costs, a quarter of the UK population haven’t made any plans for their end of lives, whether it be for funeral costs, estate administration, the preparation of legal documents such as wills, lasting power of attorney or for the provision for long term care. A large segment of the population think they have adequately planned for death when in fact all they have done is told someone, often a family member. Additionally, 44% of people don’t plan for their funerals because they expect family and friends to organise and fund it.

Sun Life Direct’s research not only highlights confused attitudes around end of life planning but also feeds into a broader concern; that society is facing three interrelated later life issues. Firstly, the UK’s ageing baby-boomers means the volume of elderly people living longer will result in a progressive surge in demand on the State over the coming decades. Secondly, this and other recent reports [3] highlights that the population faces rising end of life costs and blurred ideas as to who is responsible. Thirdly, the Sun Life Direct Cost of Dying research shows that many people do not provide and plan for the end of their lives, whether it be for their funeral, the administration of their estate or for care at the end of their lives.

Simon Cox, head of life planning for Sun Life Direct, comments:
“Failure to plan properly for the end of your life not only results in a financial burden for families, but also an emotional one. We are ominously aware that State resources for funeral payments are severely stretched - 38,000 funeral awards were made by the Department for Work and Pensions administered Social Fund Funeral Payments Scheme in 2010/11 – 44% of applications were unsuccessful and average payouts were only £1,217 per applicant. Demand for financial aid far outstrips supply and those who are successful still have a significant strain on their wallet with the shortfall between the average £1,217 provided and the cost of a funeral.“Action is needed to avert the sort of distress experienced by those who have had real problems paying for the funeral of a loved one, and action from those who have not made any end of life plans.”

Dr Kate Woodthorpe, lecturer in Sociology, University of Bath, concludes:
“A key concern for society is whether the current infrastructure established to support people at the end of their life is fit for purpose today. Currently the number of deaths each year in England and Wales is at an all time low, with 491,348 deaths registered in 2009. It is anticipated however, that the number of deaths will rise significantly and by 2030 there will be an additional 80,000 people dying a year. [4] This equates to a rise of 17% in the death rate in less than 20 years.

“At the same time, people are living longer and as a result are using more resources, both their own and the State’s. Costs for social care are rising, living standard expectations are high, and there remains an expectation that wealth is passed through the generations. The relationship between the public, commercial and voluntary sectors in the resourcing and provision of care, information, advice, support and services in old age and in planning for death is open to debate.”


The complete report expands on the following findings:

  • This year’s headline figures and key changes from last year
  • The extent to which end of life planning takes place
  • Barriers to planning
  • Confused and contradictory attitudes towards the role of families, the State and ourselves in relation to planning
  • Who we turn to for advice and support on end of life matters
  • Suggestions on how the end of life time bomb might be defused

To view the complete report, please contact:
MHP Communications
Andrew Lyons
+44 (0)20 31278 8518
About the research
The report was commissioned by Sun Life Direct and carried out by Mintel Research Consultancy. It has been conducted annually since 2004, using a consistent approach to ensure data comparability over time.
The report specifically recruited a panel of directors in each of the ten regions. The regions are based upon Government office regions of England, plus Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Also an online panel consisting of 1,019 mainly British adults aged 40 or above and 1,505 mainly British adults who have been personally responsible for planning both a funeral and the administration of the estate.
About Sun Life Direct
Sun Life Direct distributes financial services plans on behalf of AXA Wealth Services Ltd, direct to consumers.  It is a part of the AXA Group in the UK.
Sun Life Direct is a provider of Over 50 Life Insurance, Funeral Plans and Life Insurance. In fact, the Guaranteed Over 50 Plan is the nation’s most popular choice for over 50s life insurance*. The Sun Life name has been around for 200 years and has roots stretching back to 1810. By 1900 Sun Life were the first to offer life insurance without the need for a medical – something we’re still proud to offer today. More information on Sun Life Direct can be found at  
*Most popular whole of life guaranteed acceptance plan bought directly. ABI statistics, Q1 2011
About AXA
AXA UK is a part of the AXA Group. AXA Group is a worldwide leader in insurance and asset management, with 214,000 employees serving 95 million clients. It is ranked the largest insurer in the world by net written premium and the top insurance brand globally.

In the UK AXA is focused on three key areas: wealth management, insurance and healthcare. It operates through a number of business units including: AXA Wealth; AXA Commercial Lines, AXA Personal Lines, AXA PPP healthcare, AXA Ireland and an independent distribution business Bluefin. AXA employs over 12,000 staff in the UK.

In 2010, IFRS revenues amounted to Euro 91 billion and IFRS underlying earnings to Euro 3.9 billion. AXA had Euro 1,104 billion in assets under management as of December 31, 2010.

The AXA ordinary share is listed on compartment A of Euronext Paris under the ticker symbol CS (ISN FR 0000120628 – Bloomberg: CS FP – Reuters: AXAF.PA). AXA’s American Depository Shares are also quoted on the OTC QX platform under the ticker symbol AXAHY.

The Group is included in the main international SRI indexes, such as Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) and FTSE4GOOD.

[1] Researching funeral and end of life costs for eight and five years respectively.
[2] The report surveyed a panel of funeral directors, British adults over the age of 40 and British adults who have planned a funeral and administered an estate.


 Over 50 Life Insurance
 Funeral Plans
 Life Insurance
 Funeral Costs
 Sun Life Direct

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