Organising a funeral can seem overwhelming, especially when you’re coping with feelings of loss and grief. Ask for help if you need it.

You’ll need to think about things like who will organise the funeral, what it will involve, how it will be paid for and who to invite.

Paying for a funeral

If the person who has died has not left enough money in their estate to pay for the funeral, families need to seek advice on what options are available.  The first responsibility of any estate is to cover funeral costs, this comes ahead of mortgages, taxes and unsecured debts.

The average cost of a funeral in the UK is £3,953 (SunLife Cost of Dying 2023) 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 without getting into debt.

Funeral costs are taken from the estate of the person who has died (if there is an estate).  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.  If you are entitled to a Funeral Grant this may be sufficient to remove the need for a deposit, so do discuss this with the Funeral Director.

Pre-payment schemes

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 ‘simple funeral/cremation’ which will include all the essential elements and be respectful.

Choosing the funeral director that you work with can be important in offering choice and helping to manage costs.  This website might help you with finding a funeral director, and give you a better idea of funeral costs where you live:

Funeral payments

You may be entitled to a Funeral Payment if you are on a low income in receipt of certain benefits or tax credits.

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, which will take time to realise (e.g. life insurance) a Funeral Payment can still be claimed, and the claimant is expected to pay this back once funds are available. 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 six months after the date of the funeral even if you have already paid the bill.

A funeral payment can be claimed online:

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.

Welfare funerals

Should the deceased either have no relatives or friends willing or able to cover the cost of a funeral then the state (e.g. local authority) has a responsibility under environmental health to arrange for a funeral.  Should the friends and family of the deceased have insufficient funds and have no entitlements to grants, etc. they should advise the hospital, hospice or local authority who will then be responsible for arranging what is called a welfare funeral.  This is still respectful, and relatives and friends can attend, it will however be in a format and at a time and day that the authority chooses.

To make the best possible choices it is always helpful for families to discuss their wishes ahead of time.  This ensures that a respectful, appropriate, and affordable funeral can be arranged.  If you need support with this process, please reach out to your Dorothy House contact or our Welfare Advice Team.