Funerals allow families and friends to grieve together and to remember and celebrate someone’s life. Whether you are planning your own funeral or someone else’s, it can be difficult to think and talk about a funeral. However, people who know that they will die soon often find it helpful to know how they will be commemorated. They may want to plan the kind of ceremony they would like and, perhaps, to choose music and readings.
A funeral can be very expensive so it is important to plan how you are going to pay for it. If you leave this planning until after the person has died, it will just add further anxiety at a time which is already difficult and stressful.
Using 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.
You may want to arrange a ‘Green Burial’ where the body is buried or ashes are scattered in dedicated open land or woodland. Bear in mind that these sites may be further from your home, so it could be less easy to visit the grave or memorial.
Organising a funeral yourself
You do not have to use a funeral director and increasing numbers of people are choosing to organise funerals themselves. This option is often less expensive, but it takes time to research.
There are links to useful organisations below. If you would like to talk about a funeral or ask for information or advice, please speak to our Chaplain & Spiritual Care Co-ordinator, Dave Smith, on 01225 722 988.
Paying for funerals
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 and taking option 2.
The amount of money you can receive depends on any other money you have available. But please note that 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.
Dying Matters can help you talk more openly about dying, death and bereavement.
Money Advice Service offers practical advice on reducing funeral costs.
Finding a funeral director
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.