Which funeral plans do they offer?
SunLife offer 3 levels of service through their relationship with Dignity; for the purpose of this funeral plan review we will be looking at all plans on offer.
Unfortunately information on the three SunLife Funeral Plans is only available by telephone to SunLife directly; there are no brochures outlining the details of each of the funeral plans and information on the SunLife website is limited.
As a result this SunLife Funeral Plan review is a ‘light touch’, therefore if you are interested in one of their plans, make sure you do your homework and get all your questions answered before going ahead.
SunLife most affordable funeral plan – This is a new plan available through Dignity which is essentially a direct cremation plan. A direct cremation plan provides cover for the cremation with no funeral service. Quite simply the person that has died is taken directly to the crematorium by the funeral director without any family or friends in attendance. The cremation takes plan and then the ashes are returned to the family.
All associated costs for the direct cremation are guaranteed however if a medical certificate is required, that would need to be paid for by the family at the time of need.
SunLife Amber funeral plan – From the information provided over the phone, the second SunLife Funeral Plan appears to be very similar to the Amber funeral plan purchased directly from Dignity, which provides a full guarantee for the funeral directors costs and either a full guarantee for the cremation fees and ministers fees or an allowance of £1,010 for burial fees (this is lower than the £1,220 currently included in the standard Dignity Amber Plan).
The funeral director’s services for this level of service consist of their help and guidance with the documentation, services on the day, standard coffin, hearse and use of the chapel of rest.
As mentioned however as this information isn’t available in a brochure, we advise you check the details first to ensure there are no other differences when compared to the Amber plan bought direct through Dignity.
SunLife Diamond funeral plan – The third SunLife Funeral Plan is the Diamond plan which offers similar services to the aforementioned Amber plan however the coffin is a higher quality, two limousines are included and also transportation is provided for two services if required – i.e. a church service and then a cremation service (any costs for the additional church service would not be included in the plan.
Again this funeral plan includes a full guarantee for the funeral directors services and either a guarantee for the cremation fees and minister’s fees or an allowance of £1,010 for burial fees.
Which services are guaranteed?
The all important part of the funeral plans review that helps you understand if there will be anything left for the family to pay:
If the SunLife funeral plans are the same as the Dignity funeral plans (apart from the lower allowance included for burial fees as previously mentioned), then all of the services included in the plan for a cremation are completely guaranteed.
For burials, the funeral directors services as detail in the Amber and Diamond funeral plans are guaranteed with an allowance of £1,010 for burial fees.
Please note that because the SunLife Most Affordable Funeral Plan is Direct Cremation, it can therefore only be used for cremation and not burial.
All of the services as listed in the plans for cremation are fully guaranteed.
For burial again the funeral directors services are guaranteed but the burial fees aren’t. Instead there is an allowance of £1,010 to help pay towards these costs.
Will there be more for my family to pay?
With regards a cremation funeral, the one thing your family may need to pay for is a second death certificate if required however the law is soon to change meaning this won’t be relevant in the near future.
Additional costs for burial depend on the fees charged in your area. The SunLife Amber and Diamond plans include an allowance of £1,010 which increases each year by 3.5% that can be used for burial fees, minister’s fees and any additional costs such as help with the burial plot. The family will need to pay the additional balance if these fees are higher than the allowance included at that time.
How can I be sure my money is safe?
One of the main points that sets the SunLife Funeral Plan apart from most other funeral plans is that your money is placed in a life insurance plan and not a trust fund which is the case with most funeral plan providers.
This means that any money paid into the plan is protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) which means that as long as you pay your monthly premiums when due, you will always get the services you paid for, regardless of what happens in the future.
In addition, Dignity is registered and regulated by the Funeral Planning Authority which ensures the services received are in line with their strict rules and code of practice.
The method of payment is again where SunLife Funeral Plans differ to other funeral plans. With the SunLife funeral plan you only have the option to pay by monthly instalments. The cost depends on the level of service you choose and your age. You are covered for your chosen funeral services after two years but continue paying your monthly premiums either for life or until you are 90. This means that in a similar way to an over 50 life insurance plan, there is a chance you could pay more in monthly premiums than the actual cost of the funeral – it all depends on how long you live.
This is where in our opinion the SunLife Funeral Plan gets a little more confusing and also restrictive as it rules out any potential customers who want to put their funeral plan in place straight away by paying in one go.
As mentioned, the amount you pay depends on your age and level of service required. The monthly premium then increases by a fixed amount each year for a maximum of 20 years at which stage you continue making payments at that final level until you are 90.
For example a 50 year old buying a SunLife Amber funeral plan should expect to pay £18.75 per month. Monthly premiums then increase by 93p every year for the next 20 years reaching £37.35 per month. They would then pay the monthly instalment fee of £37.35 until they reach 90 years old – not straight forward at all is it?
What it means in this example is that the plan could end up costing £15,806 if the 50 year old reaches 90 years of age.
Is there an age limit?
You have to be at least 50 years of age to buy a SunLife Funeral Plan.
Can I choose a burial or cremation funeral?
As the Most Affordable SunLife Funeral Plan is a direct cremation, it can only be used for a cremation however the Amber and Diamond plans can be used for either a cremation of burial service.
Who will my funeral director be?
As this is essentially a Dignity Funeral Plan, the services will be provided by a Dignity Funeral Director. Dignity has 800 of their own Funeral Directors plus a further 400 approved independent funeral directors who accept Dignity funeral plans. As the SunLife website only talks about the 800 Dignity owned funeral directors, it is not clear whether you can also use one of the specified independents or not.
Can I cancel my plan?
As you are paying your money into a life insurance plan, if you stop paying your premiums for any reason the cover would cease and no money would be paid back. Therefore if you are considering a SunLife guaranteed funeral plan, don’t just think about the initial payment. Make sure you are happy continuing to pay the premiums when they start to increase.
What happens if I move?
If you move the Dignity funeral plan moves with you at no extra cost.
Do Sunlife offer any additional features?
SunLife Funeral plans come with a £90 gift card from time to time, so it's worth checking to see what the current offer is.