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THE COST OF DYING; Scots firm unveil pounds 2500 gravestones.

Byline: Grace Macaskill

A wAllpAper firm have launched the UK's first range of designer headstones.

For pounds 2500, Timorous Beasties in Glasgow will allow their unique designs to be etched on a marble, granite or slate headstone.

However, the stylish memorials will be out of the reach of most hard-up families struggling to cope with rising funeral costs.

And experts predict prices will soar further in the next few years.

That's why an increasing number of people are planning ahead.

Retired accountant Jim Frew has prepared his own funeral to the very last detail.

From the type of coffin to the farewell hymns, Jim, 72, has prepared every aspect of his cremation and paid pounds 3100 to cover the cost in advance.

Peace He is one of a growing number of pensioners keen to take the funeral burden off their family.

Jim, of Giffnock, in Glasgow's south side, said: "I decided to do some advance planning for two reasons - to take any financial strain off my two grown-up daughters and to ensure my funeral goes exactly as I would have liked.

"Some might find it morbid but it gives me peace of mind.

"I have chosen to be cremated and have even picked the music I would like played - although I'm not saying what it is because I haven't even told my family.

"When I enquired about prepayment plans, I was given three price ranges and picked the average-priced funeral.

"I have been assured the lump sum I paid will cover all expenses, even if the cost goes up."

A funeral is the one expense we all face, although in most cases, someone else has to settle the bill.

Dying is a costly business. The average price of even the most basic funeral is pounds 2500 - and that figure is set to rise by pounds 850 by 2012.

Add on "hidden" costs - such as venue hire and catering for a wake and flowers - and saying goodbye rises to an average of pounds 7098, according to a survey by Mintel for Sun Life Direct.

And for those who want an extra-special send-off for a loved one - such as a horse-drawn hearse or a luxury coffin, the cost soars further still.

Seven in 10 people are cremated, a cheaper option than burial.

For the rest, burial costs vary widely between council areas.

It can cost pounds 700 more to be buried in Edinburgh than Glasgow, for instance.

In Scotland, many families are struggling to meet these high costs of burying loved ones - and more of society's poorest are being buried in so-called paupers' graves.

In Edinburgh, the number of local authority burials has risen from 88 five years ago to 130 last year. In Aberdeen, the number rose to 60, compared with 45 in 2005.

Even when you have money set aside, paying for a funeral is not as straightforward as it might seem.

Banks are duty bound to protect the assets of the deceased and freeze their cash until the Probate process is complete - which can take up to a year. However, banks and building societies will usually release funds for funeral costs.

Life assurance policies can also meet the cost, although loved ones may have to borrow cash until the payment comes through, usually about three months.

Families who are particularly hard-up may be eligible for a social fund funeral payment worth up to pounds 700 - but it may have to be paid back from any estate.

Many people are now opting for alternatives to the traditional funeral service. There are few restrictions, so long as the death is certified, registered and the body properly buried or cremated.

Alternatives Some avoid a funeral altogether and donate their body to medical science - while a few adventurers even send their ashes into space Others choose to be buried in woodlands or a nature reserve.

The Clovery Woods Of Rest project in Fyvie, Turrif, was the first privately owned, eco-friendly green burial service in Scotland.

Owner Alex Rankin said: "Some come here because it is beautiful, some want to be environmentally friendly, while others want to be laid to rest in a place with no religious connotations.

"This type of burial is becoming more and more popular, with 159 people buried here, aged from two to 97. A further 187 people have pre-purchased plots.

"It is also cheaper than a more traditional funeral, with the costs being around pounds 2000 all-in."

CAPTION(S):

is properly GRAVE ART: Paul Simmons and Alistair McAuley of Timorous Beasties
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jun 28, 2010
Words:752
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