Organising a funeral
Asking yourself a few questions before you start can help you to plan with confidence and peace of mind.
- 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.
- 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.
Funeral directors: how they can help
Your loved one may have made arrangements for a funeral director or you may have discussed this process with them. Funeral directors are incredibly helpful and offer several options to support you, including:
- Making all the funeral arrangements with instruction from you to make sure you get the funeral you and your family want (within the limits of the law and what you can afford)
- Making most of the arrangements, but you choose songs, music, hymns or readings
- Helping to organise just certain items or services such as the coffin or hearse.
- They can also answer any questions you may have, no matter how unusual.
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.
If you don’t use a funeral director
You don’t have to use a funeral director if you don’t want to. You can contact your local council for information about arranging a funeral yourself.
This could be a traditional funeral or an alternative one, such as a natural burial in a woodland. To find out more, contact the cemeteries and crematorium department of your local council or the Natural Death Centre.
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 £3,989 (moneyadvice.org 2020) 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.
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