There is no sadder experience in life than trying to come to terms with the death of a beloved family member or dear friend and adjusting to the reality that a person who had been a central figure in our lives for so many years is no longer with us. On top of the emotional grief that death entails, there is also the practical matter of arranging a funeral and funding all of the funeral expenses that will arise.
Let our guide below help you with understanding funeral costs by outlining the average cost of a funeral, the most common funeral expenses, prepaid funeral plans and how to avail of a funeral grant.
What is the average cost of a funeral?
While funeral costs will vary from one funeral to another, the average cost for such a service in the UK is £3,693. In addition to the inclusion or omission of expenses as outlined below, the cost of a funeral can also vary according to its location. For example, funerals in London are often twice the national average.
On average, cremation costs £3,300 while a burial service has an average cost of £4,100. These averages cover all common funeral expenses (see below), but do not include the cost of an elaborate ceremony should you choose to have one.
What funeral expenses are you likely to incur?
Even though every funeral is different, and your loved ones may have clearly defined their funeral wishes to you prior to their death, there are some expenses that are applicable to the vast majority of funerals. It is always advisable to consult with a funeral director for a breakdown of the expenses that will be involved, and the funeral director can also advise as to exactly what expenses will need to be made. Funeral expenses are commonly divided into two sub-categories: 1) funeral director’s charges and 2) disbursements, which are expenses paid to a third party on your behalf.
Funeral director’s charges are usually applicable to expenses such as:
- Books of condolence
- Bereavement support
- Care for the deceased
- Coffin bearers
- Making and dressing the grave
- Provision and use of a hearse
- Removal of the deceased
- Use of the funeral home
Disbursements would usually include expenses such as:
- Catering/venue hire for a wake
- Cemetery fees
- Church offerings
- Cremation fees
- Death notices in local media and specialist national websites
- Doctor’s fees for death certification
- Minister’s fees
A breakdown of our funeral expenses costs can be found here.
Getting help with funeral costs – Funeral payment options explained
This video discusses some of the different methods of paying for a funeral
The SunLife Cost of Dying Report 2015 uncovered some rather striking statistics about paying for funeral costs. Just over 40% of people had made no financial provisions to pay for their funeral before they died, while an additional 16% did not have sufficient financial provisions to cover funeral costs and, on average, had to find £2,449 to cover the costs incurred by the funeral.
In some cases, the deceased person may already have paid for their funeral or left some money in their estate to cover funeral costs, in which case the executor of the will takes care of the funeral expenditure. Otherwise, the funeral costs are generally incurred by a friend or family member.
If you suffer a bereavement and your income is such that you are struggling to cover the costs of a funeral, you can avail of help through the Government’s Funeral Payments scheme, as explained in further detail below.
Prepaid funeral plans
If the deceased person has already financed their funeral with a prepaid funeral plan, you simply need to use either the specified funeral director, or one from an approved list, to arrange the funeral. Also, you need to ensure that the costs of the funeral don’t exceed the amount covered by the plan, or else you will have to pay for any additional items that you have selected. For example, a funeral plan for a burial will generally only partly cover the cost of a plot, so it is important to check if the deceased has prepaid for a grave.
Funeral insurance, also known as an over-50s plan, will pay out a fixed lump sum which will almost certainly cover the cost of a funeral. Once this sum is paid out, it can then be used to reconcile the costs of a funeral with your funeral director. Ensure to check the amount of the lump sum before making any funeral arrangements, as any expenses in excess of the lump sum amount will need to be paid by you.
Paying with the deceased’s bank account/estate
This may not sound like the most ethical means of paying for a funeral, but it can happen that the deceased leaves a sum of money in their bank account to cover funeral expenses. Where this happens, you will usually need the help of an executor, as the bank will more likely than not have frozen the deceased’s account upon hearing of his/her death.
If you can access the account without help, you will need to present the bank with a copy of the death certificate, an invoice of funeral costs with your name on it and, in all probability, a document providing proof of your identity. In any event, you should never attempt to access the deceased’s account without first consulting the bank or executor. Not only is this highly immoral, but it can also result in legal charges being pressed against you.
Alternatively, you can investigate if the funeral costs can be covered by the deceased person’s estate. If the deceased had other debts, funeral costs will generally be paid first, although it is possible that secured debts such as mortgages could be paid before funeral costs.
Paying by instalments
Funeral directors will often ask for a portion of the funeral costs to be paid up front. If you expect to be unable to pay for the entire funeral in one go, it is a good idea to consider asking your funeral director if you can pay in instalments. If your request is granted, you can then negotiate the regularity and amount of instalments in a manner that’s affordable to you.
How to avail of funeral grants through the Funeral Payments scheme
The Government’s Funeral Payments scheme is intended to help people on lower incomes to cover the costs of a funeral. It is important to note that this grant doesn’t cover the entire funeral cost, while the money from the grant will have to be repaid from the deceased’s estate. If the deceased’s estate consisted only of personal belongings and a home that he/she shared with his/her surviving spouse or civil partner, the Government normally doesn’t claim back this payment. The deceased’s estate includes any money or property they owned but not any property or belongings left to a widow, widower or surviving civil partner.
The Funeral Payments scheme can help with covering the costs of expenses such as:
- Burial fees and exclusive rights to burial in a specific plot
- General funeral expenses (e.g. funeral director’s fees, flowers, coffin) of up to £700
- Travel to attend the funeral
- Costs involved with moving the body within the UK for journeys of more than 50 miles
A full list of the expenses that can be included in the Funeral Payment is contained in the Funeral Payment SF200 claim form. If the funeral director has been paid, the money is paid into your bank account. If the funeral director hasn’t been paid, the money is paid to them.
In order to avail of a Funeral Payment, you must be responsible for the funeral and you need to claim within three months of the funeral. Your relationship with the deceased must fall under one of these categories:
- Partner of the deceased at the time of their death
- Close relative/friend of the deceased
- Parent of a baby stillborn after 24 weeks of pregnancy
- Parent of the deceased if he/she was under 16 years (under 20 years if not in full-time education)
You must also be availing of at least one form of tax credits such as Income Support, Jobseeker’s Allowance, Pension Credit, Housing Benefit or Universal Credit. If you meet all of these criteria, you can claim for the Funeral Payment by completing the SF200 claim form and either submitting it to your local Jobcentre Plus or posting it to ‘Freepost DWP Funeral Payments’ – you do not need to include anything else on the envelope.