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Paying for the funeral

Paying for the funeral can be a shock, and sometimes the money from the deceased's estate takes a long time to be released.

The average cost of a burial is around £3,500. For a cremation it’s £2,000.

Most funeral directors will require all or part payment, or have some sort of proof of ability to pay, before agreeing to organise the funeral. In particular they will require advance payment for their disbursements (costs they have to pay to others).

Which means that for many families, one of the first – and most troubling - issues to address is to pay for the funeral.

While the final cost is likely to be met from the estate of the deceased, it is often several months before probate (the sorting out of the deceased’s affairs) allows the release of the funds.

The situation will be more time consuming if the deceased has not made a will (died intestate).

The situation can be made more stressful because the bank account of the deceased will be frozen, unless it is a joint account.  

However, banks, building societies and National Savings may release sums of money to pay for funeral expenses, although they are not bound to do so until a grant of probate (proving a will has been written) or letters of administration (when the deceased died intestate) are obtained.

The hospital, hospice or residential home where the family member died will hand over the deceased’s possessions to close relatives, the executor or to a person with written authority from the executor.

Meanwhile, identify other sources of financial help to pay for the funeral arrangements.

Check if the deceased:

  • had taken out a pre-paid funeral plan;
  • had a life insurance policy which covered funeral costs
  • had a life assurance policy to provide a lump sum payment on death;
  • was eligible for lump sums payable from a trade union, professional body or other association, or from a provident club which pays benefit when a member dies.

It is also worth visiting the website of benevolent charities to find out if they can help pay for the funeral. The outcome will depend on the profession, trade or job of the deceased and the circumstances of their families. 

Funeral payments from the Social Fund

The Social Fund, part of the social security system, can give grants for those arranging a funeral who do not have sufficient money to cover the cost.

There is a single lump sum payment which must be claimed within three months of the funeral.  However, immediate family members have to be claiming benefits or tax credits and not have savings over a certain amount.

If a grant is made and there are assets in the estate of the person who has died, the Social Fund will demand reimbursement. Only if the local authority decides that there are no friends or relatives, and that no suitable arrangements are being made for the disposal of the body, will the authority take responsibility for making suitable arrangements.  

The local council will organise (and pay) for the funeral of those who have no family...normally destitute and homeless people. These are sometimes known as pauper's funerals.

Low cost funerals

To get the most economical funeral, you should visit a number of local funeral directors.

You will get a better deal if you are properly informed and know what services you want to buy from the funeral director, what the disbursements are going to be; and what you can do yourself.

All funeral directors can provide a basic funeral which includes:

  • making the funeral arrangements including booking the crematorium or cemetery and the officiant (aka celebrant);
  • providing necessary staff;
  • taking the deceased to a suitable resting place (normally their premises), within ten miles;
  • supplying a simple coffin and shroud;
  • transportation of the coffin to a local cemetery or crematorium.

Ask what each of these elements cost.  Some such as the fees for the cremation or burial, will be fixed.

Compare these prices, but do not always choose the cheapest. Personal qualities are important, as are recommendations.

You are buying professional services and cheapest does not always mean best.

Advance planning

To ensure that these stressful and upsetting issues are dealt with as effectively as possible, plan the funeral, and its payment, in advance.

There are many benefits in taking out a pre-paid funeral plan. These include:

  • Your family do not have to worry about your funeral arrangements, other than confirming them when the time comes;
  • Your family does not have to find the money to pay for the funeral;
  • Your family will know that you made the choices for yourself and will be more likely to implement them, knowing that they were your decisions;
  • You pay at today’s prices rather than the higher price when the funeral is required;
  • You can pay by installments;
  • You can transfer it if you move to another part of the country.

If you don't want to take out a pre-paid plan, many funeral directors will arrange pre-pay policies and will accept advance payments and payment in instalments. 

My Last Song has made it easy to plan your funeral, or that of a loved one, by providing a wish list which you can fill in to ensure you have the funeral that best suits your needs.

When you have filled this in, put it in your Lifebox.  This is a secure area which only you can acceess. Only on your death, or when you give permission, your second key holder can open the Lifebox and fulfil your wishes. 

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