Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, costs are rising, pay you must

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DEATH is becoming increasingly costly, with a survey showing a big rise in the price of burials and cremations in the last year.

Scotland is one of the priciest places to get cremated, according to the research by the Post Office.

The average cost of a burial plot in the UK is now £792, an increase of £58, or 8 per cent on last year. Scots pay an average of £532 for cremation, which is the fifth highest average price for the service in regions across the UK.

The survey found the average cost of a burial plot can vary by more than £1,000 across the UK.

Despite only seeing an increase of 2 per cent, the West Midlands is the most expensive area overall, costing an average of £1,628 for a plot of land for a burial. Northern Ireland, by contrast, is the cheapest area with a burial plot costing £283.

Scotland ranked seventh out of 12 for the cost of burial plots with an average cost of £643 – an increase of £43 or 7 per cent in a year.

Duncan Caesar-Gordon, head of Post Office Life Insurance which was behind the survey, said: “At a time when people are coming to terms with the loss of a loved one, making funeral arrangements can of course be very hard to deal with.

“Our research shows the cost of a funeral is increasingly expensive and varies greatly across the UK. Ensuring that funds are in place to help meet these costs can at least take care of this worry at such a stressful time.”

Dom Maguire, spokesman for the National Association of Funeral Directors which represents firms organising about 85 per cent of funerals in the UK, said services were getting more expensive and the price of plots was determined by the law of supply and demand.

He said: “Prices vary from up to £10,000 at Bushey Jewish Cemetery in Hertfordshire to a couple of hundred pounds in areas such as Inverness. Allied to this is that cemeteries have to be maintained. They get income for graves and opening them but they have to meet their obligations and meet their costs.”

Mr Maguire, managing director of Glasgow-based funeral directors Anderson Maguire, said he was surprised that Scotland was the fifth most expensive place in the UK for cremations.

“Some crematoriums are privately owned which may be a contributory factor. The UK has also signed up to a protocol for the reduction of mercury polluters and a lot of crematoriums have started to install mechanisms. It could be that Scotland is ahead of the game.”

He added: “Many products offered through insurance companies are not funeral plans.

“What families should remember is that on their funeral the celebrity or insurance firm won’t be there but your family funeral director will.”

There were 53,856 deaths in Scotland in 2009, with about 60 per cent of people being cremated and 40 per cent buried.

The majority of funerals in Scotland cost about £2,500-£3,500. Cremations are in the region of £2,000-£2,600 for a package including elements such as limousine, hearse and family flowers.

In March, the Scottish Government announced the current cremation fee death form costing £147 would be scrapped as of 2013-14 and replaced by a £30 fee, the same as for a burial. Historically more than one doctor had to sign death certificates for cremations as possible evidence would be destroyed.

Age Scotland spokesman Lindsay Scot said people needed to shop around and start thinking ahead for their old age and funeral. He said: “The cost of funerals is rising and we advise people to try to fix a price now, because like any commodity, they will go up.”