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Brentwood funeral director urges families to plan now to avoid rising cost of death

By Brentwood Gazette  |  Posted: February 17, 2012

  • Jane Bennett, Bennetts Funeral Directors

  • Jane Bennett, Bennetts Funeral Directors

  • Ijohnson060212a

  • Ijohnson060212a

  • UNDERTAKERS: (l-r) Hearse driver Jonathan Lee and funeral director Andrew MacCalman

  • Ijohnson060212a

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NOTHING is so certain as death and taxes apparently and with government levies continuing to soar, have you any idea how much it is going to cost when you eventually pop your clogs?

Just last week the Church of England revealed the basic cost of religious funeral services is set to rise by 57 per cent by January next year and last week Brentwood Borough Council voted for across-the-board increases to its cemetery fees.

Before the undertaker sends out their bill there are plenty of other things to consider before the big send off.

Firstly, of course, you need to decide whether you want to be put six feet under or cremated.

But do you fancy posies or roses, do you want to go out in an oak veneer coffin or a trendy eco-friendly willow number, and what about fancy extras such as flying doves?

So many questions, but thankfully these days we have more time to choreograph our dream departure because many funeral directors even offer a pre-pay service.

Bennetts Funeral Directors, which has been trading in Brentwood for the past 121 years, has gone one further by launching an online wish list, so you can stipulate the particulars of your parting ceremony to the nth degree and sleep at night knowing you've done so.

Bennetts' owner Jane Bennett, who has been in the game for 24 years, says it's fairer for all concerned to set out your choices early doors.

She added: "It gives people the opportunity to plan when they are fit and healthy so they just think about it without any pressure.

"I think it's important to plan early because we've had people in here who have lost parents unexpectedly and they have no idea, for example, what music their mum would have wanted.

"It becomes a very difficult time for them because they have the pressure of knowing this is the last thing they are ever going to do for them."

But booking your departure well in advance is not just good form for the relatives, it also means you could secure the service you want at today's prices.

In the past seven years, the average cost of passing away, including church and undertaker's fees, has risen by a whopping 57 per cent to £2,720, largely due to increases in cemetery, crematorium and doctors' fees.

And the rise is expected to continue with funeral inflation currently at 6.85 per cent and a five-year cost forecast of £4,275 for an average ceremony.

Increasing prices are not the only trend within the funerals' market, according to Jane.

"In the last ten years there has been a definite move away from church services," she said.

"I think a lot of families feel hypocritical asking a minister when they do not have a connection with church."

She says around a quarter of funerals now take place away from a church. A few years ago that was largely unheard of.

Other fashions include a swing towards willow coffins – particularly for women – , and pre-paying for your send off.

Jane has also noticed a change in attitude towards hearses on the road.

She said: "People are less courteous on the road towards the cortege. People used to always slow down and doff their caps in the street but now we have people cutting us up and overtaking the cortege at roundabouts, it's so disrespectful.

"And it's not just young people, it seems it's just everyone is in so much of a hurry."

Usually overlooked is the nitty gritty of what goes on behind the scenes at a funeral firm, which of course involves the mortuary where the body is prepared for laying in the chapel of rest for loved ones to say their final goodbye.

And as Jane explains, funerals can even get to the professionals at times.

"It's very pressured because we have to get everything right first time, you do not get a second chance," she said.

"Attention to detail is paramount. I like to think that we are human and that everyone here has immense compassion for people and I really would not want people here if they were not like that.

"Also some of the lads on a funeral of a very young person can get upset by it.

"I do not mind to the point that they can control their emotions but the fact they are affected shows they are human."

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