Help paying for a funeral

Paying for a funeral is an expensive undertaking. We’ll help you work out who should pay for the funeral, and outline your options for how to pay for a funeral, from where to find financial help to claiming funeral costs from the estate.

Who pays for the funeral?

Sometimes, the person who’s died has already paid for their funeral. Or they’ve left some money in their estate to cover it. If so, the executor of the estate will take care of paying the funeral bill.

Otherwise, usually a relative or friend pays for the funeral. But they can get the funeral costs back from the estate if there’s enough in it.

The local council or hospital can arrange a Public Health Funeral if:

  • There isn’t enough money in the estate to pay for it.
  • There are no relatives or friends available to arrange the funeral.

This is usually a cremation. You can attend the funeral but the local authority will decide the time and date. There normally is a short service, but extras such as flowers, cars or notices in the local newspaper are not included.

Applying for Funeral Payment

The Funeral Payment is a government scheme for people on a low income who are receiving certain benefits, to help them pay for a funeral.

It won’t cover the whole funeral bill. As such, depending on where you live, you may have to pay up to a third of the cost of a simple funeral.

If you get a Funeral Payment, you’ll usually have to pay the government back from any money you get from the person’s estate, such as the deceased’s savings.

If the deceased’s estate consisted only of personal belongings and a home that they shared with their surviving spouse or civil partner, the government normally won’t claim back this payment.

How do I claim?

You have three months from the date of the funeral to make a claim.

Visit GOV.UK for more information on eligibility and how to apply claim this benefit.

For those who live in Northern Ireland, visit NIDirect to apply for this benefit.

There are other bereavement benefits available to help you cope financially after a death. Read Claiming bereavement allowance and other benefits for more information.

Paying with pre-paid funeral plan or insurance

Some people will have already arranged to pay for their funeral. This is normally in the form of a pre-paid funeral plan or funeral insurance.

What is a pre-paid funeral plan?

The deceased will have pre-paid a funeral director or a funeral care company for a specific type of funeral. With a funeral plan, you will have to use that funeral director, or one from an approved list, to arrange the funeral.

With a pre-paid funeral plan, you just need to make sure that the funeral you arrange is within the amount covered by the plan. Otherwise, you’ll need to pay for any extra add-ons you’ve chosen.

With a burial for example, the plan usually only covers part of the cost of a plot. Check if the deceased has paid for a grave in advance.

What is funeral insurance?

This is a type of insurance that pays out a fixed lump sum which should cover the cost of a funeral. This insurance is sometimes known as an ‘over-50s plan’.

When the lump sum is paid out, you can then use it to pay for a funeral from any funeral director.

You should check how much the lump sum is before you make any funeral arrangements. If the price of the funeral is more than that sum, you’ll need to pay for any extras.

How do I claim on a pre-paid funeral plan or funeral insurance?

Unfortunately, there is no central place or directory to check if the person who’s died had a funeral plan or insurance. If you think they’ve got one, you should check their papers for a copy of this.

You should also check if this was stored with the will, with a family solicitor or at the bank.

Paying with deceased’s bank account

The deceased may have left money in their account to pay for their funeral. However, the bank or building society normally freezes their individual account(s) when they’re told of the person’s death.

In most cases, you normally need the help of the executor or administrator of the estate to access the money in their account once it’s frozen.

It is however, sometimes possible to access the money in their account without their help. As a minimum, you’ll need a copy of the death certificate, and an invoice for the funeral costs with your name on it.

The bank or building society may also want proof of your identity. They can then pay the essential funeral bills directly to the company providing the service.

If there isn’t a will or an executor, you could try speaking to their bank to see if they’ll release the money to pay for the funeral. Some banks may let you do this.

It’s not a good idea to access the person’s individual accounts, even if you know their debit card PIN or online banking log-in. Speak to the bank first if you need to do this, otherwise you could get into legal trouble.

If the deceased has a joint account where the joint owner is still alive, that person can still access the money in the account.

Paying by instalments

A funeral director will often ask for at least some of the money up front. If you can’t do this, you should really think about having a more affordable funeral.

Another option is to ask if you could pay the bill in instalments. If they agree, you can then negotiate instalments but make sure that these are affordable for you.

Did you know?

The average cost of a simple funeral is £3,702. In areas such as London, you could see this cost double.

Learn more in How much does a funeral cost?

Claiming funeral costs from the estate

Whoever pays for the funeral – family, friends or the council – can seek to recover the costs from the deceased’s estate. Sometimes, their estate is not large enough to cover this.

If the deceased had other debts, funeral costs are usually paid first. However, some secured debts, such as a mortgage, are paid before funeral costs.

For more information and advice, read Dealing with the debts of someone who has died.

If you offer to pay for the funeral, it’s worth checking with the administrator of the estate that you’re able to recover the money later on if you need to.

Knowing how much money is in the estate to cover the funeral costs may also affect the type of funeral you wish to pay for. Try not to feel pressured into paying for a funeral you can’t afford.