Monday 19 November 2018

Death and debt: the rise of costs

The price of graves and caskets are increasing, says Sinead Ryan, so it's important to have a plan in place

Ashes to ashes: Cremations are becoming more popular
Ashes to ashes: Cremations are becoming more popular

They say the only certainties in life are death and taxes, and the cost of both are rising. When it comes to funerals, both the style and expense have changed over the decades, so this week I'm looking at what's involved and what it all costs.

According to research by An Post, the average funeral costs €4,602 for removal, embalming, hearse, coffin and funeral directors. The highest price was in Tipperary, the lowest in Wexford. However, this figure doesn't include 'disbursements' such as fees to singers, grave-diggers, caterers etc, which averages around €1,177, nor the cemetery plot.

Burial

In death, as in life, location is everything. So while you can pay as little as €500 in a country parish, a double plot in Dublin's Deansgrange cemetery will set you back €32,000. Most cemeteries are run by councils but many are full.

In South Dublin, for instance, there are 17, but only four open. Glasnevin Trust operates four open cemeteries where plots are from €2,000-€5,000 while cremation is less than €750. In privately-run facilities (eg. Mount Venus, Kilmashogue), you could pay up to €13,000 depending on placement, although there are plots for less.

Service

Colm Kieran of the Irish Association of Funeral Directors says most people still opt for a traditional church service, unless the deceased expressed a wish for another funeral.

"Civil ceremonies are on the rise, but it's a generational thing and there's a definite urban/rural divide," says Kieran. "For instance, in Dublin, a funeral mass only, rather than a removal plus funeral, is common - it's down to availability of priests, but we find rural families dislike 'leaving' their loved one in a church overnight, so at home or in funeral homes is preferred."

Cremations are becoming far more popular. "There are two new crematoria in Shannon and Cavan along with those in Dublin," says Kieran. At €500-€650, it's cheaper too. Also, families have the option of keeping ashes at home, or burying more family members in one plot.

Caskets

Top-end caskets are made from oak with semi-solid wood and veneer (MDF) popular too. You can also get eco-friendly coffins made of wicker, but there's no evidence these are actually cost-effective.

The legalities

Susan Cosgrove of Cosgrove Gaynard Solicitors says once the immediate grief is past, family thoughts invariably turn to the legal and financial aspects.

She offers this advice: "The first thing that needs to be determined after a person dies is whether a will exists. The application process differs depending on it. A will appoints the legal personal representative who is to act in gathering and distributing the estate, but in its absence, the next of kin has to act. Generally, a solicitor is used as the waiting time for a personal application appointment is many months. Assets cannot be distributed to beneficiaries until the probate office issues a grant of administration.

"The next significant matter to be determined is the location and amount of assets. This can be tricky.

"A person can have any number of bank accounts, properties and other assets, and the executor needs to locate all of these. Indeed, this job has become even more difficult with the development of digital assets i.e. online accounts, cryptocurrencies and the increasing amount of worldwide assets.

"We recommend a list of assets is put together by people to be placed in a sealed envelope with their will.

"This means that there will never be any doubt as to what and how much your estate is worth if your family or executors are not already aware."

Funeral cost breakdown

Funeral costs are individual and almost impossible to standardise as everyone has different wishes and budgets.

A good funeral director will always price options up front and will have a list of contacts to make life easier. Their fee includes collection of the remains, preparation of the body for viewing, drivers, cars, personnel on the day and advice. Fees are typically €3,000-€5,000 depending on complexity.

Other costs that should be considered include:

New grave/cremation plot: Anything from €400-€16,000 for a single plot (family plots cost more, but can hold more remains).

Opening of existing plot: €800-€1,200.

Headstone: €1,500-€4,000.

Notices for newspapers: €350.

Flower spray for casket: €150.

Organist/singer/church costs, sacristan donation: €500-€600.

Orders of service: €150.

Catering costs: From €25 per person in bar/restaurant.

Legal fees for estate: Depends on complexity of estate.

Irish Independent

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