Asking yourself a few questions before you start can help you to plan with confidence and peace of mind.
- Did the person who died tell you what they wanted or leave instructions in their Will?
- Did they want to be buried or cremated? Did they want their ashes in an urn or scattered?
- What kind of coffin did they want? Did they want an eco-friendly funeral?
- How will you pay for the funeral? Did the person who died make their own arrangements? Is there a pre-paid funeral plan or funeral insurance?
Do family members and friends have any special wishes? Do they want to do a reading, play a certain piece of music, or carry the coffin? If there are no formal instructions, the executor named in the Will or the person who is arranging and paying for the funeral will make the decisions.
They must also decide if any wishes expressed by the person who died are practical, affordable and acceptable to family and friends. A Will is legally binding except for the funeral instructions, so it’s OK not to follow the wishes expressed in the Will if they aren’t possible or practical.
Finding a funeral director
Most people ask a funeral director to make all the arrangements and it is a good idea to contact a few funeral directors in advance before making a decision about which to use. You do not have to include all the elements of a funeral suggested by a funeral director, so ask them to provide you with a written, itemised quote so that you can decide both what you want and what you can afford.
Jan Andrews set up a blog called Funeral Costs Help following the death of her partner. She discusses the practicalities involved in arranging a funeral, which you and your family may find useful.
Paying for a funeral
If the person who has died has not left enough money to pay for the funeral, any shortfall normally falls to family members.
The average cost of a funeral in the UK is around £3,700 (moneyadvice.org 2016) and the cost can add up to much more than this, depending on the choices you make. It is important not to feel pressured into paying more than you can afford. There are ways in which you can honour someone’s memory and show your love for them which do not involve expensive additions.
Often funeral costs are taken from the estate of the person who has died. However, arranging for these funds to become available can take time and a funeral director will often ask for a part-payment before the funeral takes place. Funeral directors are usually prepared to receive the balance in instalments after the funeral; this needs to be discussed in advance with the funeral director. If you cannot manage this, you may need to think about having a more affordable funeral.
Some people choose to pay for their funeral in advance by signing up to a pre-payment scheme. These are offered by most funeral directors and act as a kind of insurance with the cost of the funeral agreed at a fixed rate.
Using the person’s bank account
If the person who has died has left money in a bank account it is possible to use this to pay for their funeral.
If you have a joint account with the person who has died, you can still access the money in the account. If they had an individual account, this would normally be frozen by the bank or building society as soon as they are made aware of the death. However, the bank/building society are obliged to release monies towards funeral costs provided they see a copy of the quote or bill. Sometimes they will ask to see a copy of a Will, if there is one. The bank/building society may prefer to pay the monies direct to the funeral director.
Help towards the cost of funerals
It is important to discuss with the funeral director any concerns you have about paying for the funeral. Most funeral directors will be understanding and will discuss with you how you might manage the payments, and any financial help available. You can also ask a funeral director to tell you the cost of a ‘basic funeral’ which will include all the essential elements but not costly extras.
You might find it useful to look at the following websites to get a better idea about funeral costs where you live:
If you are worried about the cost of a funeral, our Welfare Advice Team can explore options with you. For example, if you are entitled to a funeral grant or a bereavement payment a funeral director may waive any deposit and there are some charitable organisations who may be able to assist.
You may be entitled to a Funeral Payment if you are on a low income in receipt of certain benefits or tax credits.
The Welfare Advice Team can help with this application or you can apply by ringing 0345 606 0265, choose option 2.
The amount of money you can receive depends on any other money you have available. But please note, it only covers a maximum of 50% of the funeral cost. If you will struggle to cover the shortfall please contact our Welfare Advice Team to discuss.
If there is money in the deceased person’s estate, a Funeral Payment will have to be paid back. However, a house or personal things left to a widow, widower or surviving civil partner are not counted as part of the estate.
You can make a claim from the date of death up to three months after the date of the funeral even if you have already paid the bill.
A Funeral Payment can be claimed using form SF200:
Or you can claim over the phone 0345 606 0265 (Textphone 0345 606 0285)
More information about Funeral Payments and an application form can be found here:
If the person who has died was a close relative (usually seen to be spouse, parent or child) and there is no money to pay for a funeral, you may be able to apply for a Funeral Payment from the Department of Work & Pensions. You will only be entitled to this if you are regarded as the ‘responsible person ‘for arranging the funeral, are on a low income and receive certain benefits and tax credits.
Funerals during COVID-19 pandemic
COVID-19 has had an impact on traditional funeral arrangements; the best advice is to contact your local funeral director by phone to find out how they are currently operating. Information can also be found at: https://nafdcovid19.org.uk/
For help with funeral costs, Quaker Social Action provide information and advice regarding funerals and the coronavirus outbreak:
Their funeral poverty advice line is open and can be reached on 020 8983 5055 and they have published a practical guide for organising a funeral during the pandemic here
Unable to attend the funeral of a person close to you?
Here are a few simple ideas for you to “attend” the funeral in your own way.
At the time of the funeral, before you find a place to sit quietly, you might like to find a photograph of the person who has died. If you do not have a photo, you could recall a special memory. You may find comfort in playing music – possibly a piece of music that meant a lot to the person you are remembering or is a favourite piece of you own. The lighting of a candle may also give you a feeling of peace and calmness.
If you are able to search on the internet, you will find numerous readings and poems suitable for funerals. You can find both religious and non-religious versions. Alternatively, you may have a prayer book or bible at home or a favourite extract from a book.
You may prefer to simply sit and enjoy the view from your window or sit with your eyes closed and breathe calmly. We all find comfort in different things and doing things in different ways.
How can I arrange for donations in lieu of sending flowers to go to Dorothy House if family and friends cannot attend the funeral?
Many bereaved people find particular comfort by making a donation in lieu of flowers to the favourite charity of the deceased. This can be arranged in aid of Dorothy House. You can set up a tribute memorial page digitally. The link to your special page can then be circulated to family and friends, donations and messages can be recorded and there is even the option to light a candle.
If you would like to discuss other options or need help setting up your page, please contact:-
Supporter Care Team – 01225 721480 or SupporterCareTeam@dorothyhouse-hospice.org.uk