Golden Charter, the UK's leading pre-paid funeral plan provider, has seen its sales surge over the last year as affordability worries prompt people to plan ahead.
In a recent Herald article, the Glasgow-based business - which represents more than 3,300 independent funeral directors across the UK - said it had seen plan sales climb by 15,000 to 76,000, accounting for more than 40 per cent of the sector's total sales of £650m in 2015.
Across the sector as a whole, more than a million people now have a record £3.8 billion invested in pre-paid funeral plans, with a typical average plan costing £3,550. Golden Charter said the rapid growth in the sector was being driven by worries about the cost of funding funerals. The average cost of a funeral in 2014 was £3,609, up 88 per cent from £1,920 in 2004.
"Funeral inflation and, sadly, funeral poverty are driving sales of funeral plans as people increasingly decide to plan ahead," said Golden Charter chief executive Ronnie Wayte.
"Independent funeral directors find most enquiries for plans arrive following a family funeral and that is a major reason why sales have shown consistently strong growth since 2006."
A report last month for the Scottish Government by Citizens Advice Scotland showed that 10 per cent of Scots find it hard to afford a funeral. The report also predicted that funeral debt in the UK would rise sharply from the £142m recorded in 2014. Golden Charter said declining availability of benefits and social policy payments was also fuelling the rise.
"Pre-paid funeral plans allow individuals to specify and to personalise the funeral they want," Mr Wayte said. "As a nation we may remain more reticent than other countries to discuss our demise, but we don't like the idea of bequeathing a debt to our families.
According to consumer protection body, the Funeral Planning Authority, sales of funeral plans by registered providers grew by 24 per cent to 183,500 in 2015. Eighty eight thousand plans were redeemed last year.
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