independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Smart Consumer: A perfect send-off for a loved one doesn't have to cost you the earth

With an average funeral now costing €5,000, Aideen Sheehan finds out how to keep expenses down

Cross shaped bouquet
The average Irish funeral costs around €5,000

It's an expense none of us can avoid, but the high cost of dying can be minimised by a bit of forethought.

The average Irish funeral costs around €5,000, but the costs can be significantly higher depending on where and how you're laid to rest.

With burial plots in Dublin costing as much as €16,000 each, it's no wonder charities such as the St Vincent de Paul encounter a high number of people getting into financial difficulties with funeral expenses.

Smart Consumer looked at some of the ways you can keep costs down, and some alternatives to the tried and tested rituals.

Cremate, don't bury

The cost of a burial plot is usually the single biggest funeral expense and that's particularly true in Dublin, with plots in Deansgrange Cemetery costing €16,000 while those in Glasnevin cost up to €4,600.

On top of that the cost of interment – digging and closing the grave –is typically between €900 and €1,000.

Cremation by contrast costs €630 while interment of ashes typically costs €400 or around €800 in Glasnevin's Colum- barium Wall.

Don't buy in advance

Bizarrely it can cost way more to pay your burial costs ahead of time.

Many Dublin cemeteries discourage and some don't allow advance purchases because it makes it more difficult to manage the graveyards.

Glasnevin, for example, is charging double for advance grave and interment purchases.

This means the advance purchase of a grave could soar to more than €9,000 while burial costs would be an extra €2,000.

But plan ahead

Death is a certainty but Irish people still act as if talking about the end of life will cause you to die, said funeral planner Jennifer Muldowney.

She's just published a guide to funeral planning in Ireland to encourage people to look at the options in advance, and hopefully inspire them to take control of the last memories they will leave behind.

Unusual options include renting a coffin if you're getting cremated or getting ashes incorporated into jewellery or glass ornaments – check out www.celtic-ashes.com.

You could even get your ashes turned into a diamond in a high-pressure carbon trans-formation process which is available from €2,000 up from www.lifegem.com. Say Farewell Your Way is published by Oaktree Press.

Skip the removal

The cost of extra hearse hire, limo and church fees can add up, while also sometimes putting a strain on bereaved families in terms of extra deadlines and pressure.

Up to 50pc of families now opt to wake their loved ones at home and have visitors drop by there because that's more relaxed, while also meeting the need to give busy working people the chance to pay their respects outside the formal funeral time.

Buy a recycled grave

Old graveyards such as Glasnevin and Mount Jerome often offer much cheaper plots in the "gone over" sections of the graveyard.

These are in-fill areas between existing graves where bodies may have been buried far back in the past, but they're now being utilised for new graves.

For example "gone over" graves in Mount Jerome cost between €700 and €2,800, whereas brand new ones cost between €4,300 and €13,000.

Don't go mad on inessentials

Do you really need three limos and heaps of flowers or a top-of-the-range American-style casket that may not even fit in your home if you're planning a wake?

People sometimes make the mistake of assuming they have to go for the more expensive options when their loved ones would have preferred something much simpler, said Alan Harmon, a sixth-generation undertaker with Bourke's funeral directors in Dublin's Queen Street.

Get assistance

There's a bereavement grant of €850 available to families where the deceased or immediate relative has paid a set amount of PRSI contributions.

Community welfare officers in local health offices can also provide financial assistance to families who can't meet funeral expenses, with typical grants of up to €2,000 made.

Whatever you do, don't borrow from moneylenders as this can lead to spiralling debt problems which your loved one would never want to bequeath on you.

Irish Independent

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