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.
How much does an average funeral cost?
The average cost, before optional items like flowers and catering, is around £3,989, although this can vary a lot depending on the type of funeral chosen. You can find out more about how to keep this cost down in our article ‘How much does a funeral cost?
The coronavirus outbreak has imposed serious restrictions on funerals, which makes organising a meaningful ceremony seem difficult. You can find out more about what you can do on the Quaker Social Action website
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.
Children’s funeral fund
If you live in England, Wales or Scotland, your local authority will not charge you fees for a standard burial or cremation of a child under the age of 18, including stillborn and foetal remains.
Other fees, such a funeral director, flowers and memorial will still need to be paid.
In England, there is also a £300 contribution towards the price of a coffin, casket or shroud. This can be reclaimed by the funeral director, or, if you’re not using one, by yourself.
If you’re on a very low income and getting certain benefits, the Social Fund may be able to help with other funeral expenses.
What happens if you can’t afford a funeral?
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.
If you’re getting certain benefits, you can also apply for Funeral Payment from the government to help you pay for the funeral.
Funeral Payment is a government scheme for people on a low income who are receiving certain benefits to help them pay for a 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 their savings.
It won’t cover the whole funeral bill, so you might have to pay up to a third of the cost of a simple funeral. It can help to pay for:
- death certificates or other documents
- cremation fees, including the cost of the doctor’s certificate
- travel to arrange or go to the funeral
- the cost of moving the body within the UK, if it’s being moved more than 50 miles
- burial fees for a particular plot
- you can also get up to £1,000 for any other funeral expenses, such as funeral director’s fees, flowers or the coffin.
Who gets it?
If you’re getting one of the following benefits you may be eligible:
- Income Support
- Housing Benefit
- The disability or severe disability element of Working Tax Credit
- Pension Credit
- Universal Credit
- Child Tax Credit
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
How do I claim?
You have six 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.
If you live in Northern Ireland, visit NIDirectopens in new window 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 benefitsopens in new window 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 person who has died might have pre-paid a funeral director or a funeral care company for a specific type of funeral. This is called a funeral plan.
With a funeral plan, you have to use that funeral director, or one from an approved list, to arrange the funeral.
It’s a good idea to check exactly what’s covered by the plan before you arrange the funeral. Funeral plans often don’t cover all the expenses of a funeral so you need to be prepared to pay for some of the costs yourself.
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 the bank account of the person who died
The person who died might 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.
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 might also want proof of your identity.
They can then pay the essential funeral bills directly to the company providing the service.
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 person who died 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.
Claiming funeral costs from the estate
Whoever pays for the funeral – family, friends or the council – can seek to recover the costs from the estate of the person who died.
Sometimes, their estate is not large enough to cover this.
If the person who died had other debts, funeral costs are usually paid first.
However, some secured debts, such as a mortgage, are paid before funeral costs.
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 if you need to.
Knowing how much money is in the estate to cover the funeral costs might 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.