It is always an upsetting experience when a family member dies. Arranging their funeral and covering expenses relating to this can cause added stress. Financial responsibility for funerals is not a nice thing to think about, but it is necessary. There are a lot of factors involved in organizing and paying for funerals. This guide will help you to understand the options available to you.
Funeral Costs to Consider
The average cost of a funeral has been rising steeply over the past 10 years. Currently, you can expect to pay around £4,000 for a funeral. It is cheaper for cremation than for a traditional burial. The total cost of the funeral will depend on the arrangements that you make for the service. This includes:
- funeral director planning services
- death certificate
- doctor’s fees
- preparing the deceased for viewing or burial/cremation
- coffin or casket
- hearse for transporting the deceased to the funeral
- personnel such as drivers or pallbearers
- minister or officiant services
- crematorium/burial site fees
This does not include the cost of a headstone, which can be expensive but you can choose to arrange later. It also does not include optional costs for the memorial service or wake. These costs will vary according to the send-off you decide to arrange. The extras that you may want to pay for include:
- flowers and wreaths
- obituaries or funeral notices
- order of service sheets or booklets
- venue hire and catering for the wake
- vehicle hire for transportation
The total cost for a funeral depends on your budget and the type of service.
Savings or Insurance
If the deceased left any money or property, the funeral is a priority expense for their estate. They may not have left sufficient funds to cover the funeral costs. In this case, the person who signs the funeral director’s contract will be responsible for paying. You may end up having to pay upfront and then claim back the costs from the estate of the deceased later. This is because they may have had a life insurance policy which can take several weeks to pay out. You should check whether they had a pre-paid funeral plan, which some people do opt for, and how much it covers if so. The deceased might have had a pension as well, and their employer might offer death benefits. You will need to confirm how much money the deceased has and how long policies will take to pay up when you consider the budget for funeral costs.
If you are the surviving spouse of the deceased, then you could be entitled to government benefits. You can apply for a Bereavement Support Payment if you were under the State Pension age at the time of your partner’s death. If you have children, then you will get the higher rate of this benefit. You will get the lower rate otherwise. The Bereavement Support Payment consists of an initial payment of £3,500 or £2,500, then up to 18 monthly payments of £350 or £100. You have to claim within 3 months to receive the full amount, but you can make a claim up to 21 months after the death. This benefit will not affect any other benefits you are still receiving for the first 12 months. This payment is meant to assist with the family’s living costs following the death, but you can use at least some of it to help with repaying funeral costs.
Funeral Payment Scheme
If you are receiving particular government benefits and your low income is not enough to pay for a funeral, then you could be eligible for the Funeral Payment scheme from the Social Fund. You must be claiming one of these:
- Universal Credit
- Income Support
- Housing Benefit
- Pension Credit
- Child Tax Credit
- Working Tax Credit (disability element)
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
You may not be claiming a benefit at the time, but when your spouse dies you may become eligible for a benefit. The benefits office must then agree that it is necessary for you to be responsible for the funeral expenses before granting a Funeral Payment. If they do, it will only cover some of the costs:
- death certificates and other necessary documents
- cremation fees (including doctor’s certificate)
- travel for arranging or attending the funeral
- the cost of moving the body within the UK (if more than 50 miles)
- burial fees for a particular burial plot
- up to £700 towards other expenses like the coffin or flowers
If the Funeral Director has not been paid yet, then the Funeral Payment will go directly to them. You can claim a Funeral Payment up to 6 months after the funeral if you have already paid for it. The Funeral Payment won’t affect other benefits and you won’t have to pay it back. However, the office might reclaim it from the estate of the deceased if possible. You must be a partner, close relative, or close friend of the deceased to claim it. The office will only grant the payment if the deceased does not have anyone else close to them that is not receiving benefits. You can make a claim for this payment while you are waiting for a decision if you apply for one of the qualifying benefits.
Reducing Funeral Costs
It is important to give the deceased a dignified and respectful burial, even if you did not know their exact wishes for their funeral. However, you should not feel as though you need to spend more on a funeral than you have the means to. Reducing the cost of a funeral does not necessarily mean having to reduce the quality of the service. Cremation is less expensive than burial and you do not have to pay for embalming. You can look for more affordable coffins or enquire about green burial options. If other family or friends are willing to make donations, you can ask them to chip in towards the funeral costs. Or you could negotiate a repayment plan with the funeral director so that you can pay in smaller instalments. Remember that words and actions are more meaningful than expensive items when it comes to the memorial.
Families may consider using crowdfunding websites to collect donations for the funeral fund. However, crowdfunding websites often take a percentage of the funds in fees. There are several charitable trusts which offer grants to help with funeral costs in times of financial hardship. This includes British Gas Energy Trust, the Child Funeral Charity, and Friends of the Elderly. You can search on Turn2Us for grants available in your area and check if you can apply. Charitable grants are for people who can’t get financial support from anywhere else. If you apply, you will need to prove that you could not get a loan or advance benefit payment, or help from family or your local council.
Funerals are often an unexpected burden for the families of the deceased, not least financially. Plenty of lenders offer “funeral loans” of up to £5,000. It is an unsecured personal loan, and you must have good credit to be able to take out such a loan. You can use the funds at your own discretion to pay for aspects of the funeral service and burial, but you must repay them as per the terms of your loan agreement. Unfortunately, such loans often come with a high interest rate. You may be able to pay it off quickly and avoid this once you receive money from the estate of the deceased. You can apply for small loans if you can cover most of the expenses yourself. If you are receiving an income-related benefit, and have been for 6 consecutive months, then you could apply for a Budgeting Loan or Advance. You could get between £100 and £812 interest-free, but you will still have to pay it back within 2 years.
Public Health Funerals
If you absolutely cannot afford a funeral service, or no relatives or friends can arrange it, then the local council or hospital should offer a funeral. This is according to the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984, so it is called a Public Health Funeral. When there is no other alternative, it is the council who are responsible for arranging the funeral of a person who died within their borough. This usually occurs when a person dies alone and in poverty or has no relatives to claim them. The deceased person will have a coffin and transport to the crematorium or cemetery. There will be no viewings, obituaries, or flowers, and the burial may take place in an unmarked and shared grave. A Public Health Funeral is usually a cremation with a short service. Mourners can attend but the local authority decides the time and date. The local authority will not take over funeral arrangements should the family already be organizing them. They can attempt to claim back the cost of the Public Health Funeral up to 3 years afterwards (usually about £1,700).