Paying for a funeral
Last updated 5 October 2015
Average funeral costs
The average cost of a basic funeral in the UK is now £3,702 – that’s £140 more than just a year ago*.
And the reality is that you can expect to pay much more than this because this figure only covers the funeral director’s costs, doctor’s fees (where applicable), minister’s fees and burial or cremation charges. Death and funeral notices, catering, cars and venue hire are all extra.
If you arrange a funeral, you’ll be responsible for paying the funeral director’s bill. Usually you have to pay this before any money is released from the estate of the person who has died (the estate is anything they left behind including property, money and personal items). So, it’s important to think about how much you can afford to pay for a funeral and where the money will come from.
Five ways to keep down the cost of a funeral
There are ways you can manage the costs and still give your loved one a proper send-off.
- If you’re on a budget or worried about the cost, make sure the funeral director understands this at the outset so they can advise you. Also, ask about a ‘simple’ funeral’. These cover the basics and most funeral directors offer them.
- Think about what it’s important to spend money on and what you could do without – flowers, catering, cars, newspaper notices, venue hire and memorials are all things you can tailor to your budget.
- Consider if there’s anything you can do yourself to bring down the cost. For example, printing your own order of service, using your home for the post-funeral gathering or asking friends and family to help with the catering.
- Not all funeral directors charge the same. Of course, shopping around may be the last thing you feel like doing but if you feel up to it, you can make significant savings. Funeral Choice, an online service which gathers information about funeral costs, says people can save £700 on average. Get a written estimate detailing what’s included so there are no surprises later.
- Burials cost on average £816 more than cremations*. A cremation won’t always be appropriate but where it is, this can cut the cost quite considerably.
Help paying for a funeral
If you get certain benefits or tax credits, are the person responsible for arranging the funeral and meet certain rules about your relationship with the deceased, you can apply for help paying for a funeral from the Social Fund.
The Social Fund Funeral Payment is designed to help people on low incomes who don’t have any relatives who can help cover the cost. The amount you’ll get will depend on your circumstances but is unlikely to cover all of the costs - in 2014/15 the average payment was £1,375**. The other downside is you won’t know how much you’re going to be awarded at the time you’re making the funeral arrangements.
You can make a claim either by completing the Funeral Payment claim formor by calling the government’s Bereavement Service on 0345 606 0265 (0800 085 2463 in Northern Ireland). You must apply within three months of the funeral.
You may also be able to apply for an interest-free Budgeting Loan (or Budgeting Advance if you get Universal Credit).
Local councils have a duty to arrange a public health funeral for anyone dying in their area where there is no one willing or able to arrange the funeral. They then reclaim the cost from the money or property (if any) the deceased person left behind.
Planning ahead for funeral costs
If you’re concerned about how your family would manage to pay for your funeral, there are some options you can consider:
- You can take out life insurance which pays out a lump sum when you die.
- You can buy a pre-paid funeral plan.
- You could start to save a regular amount each month. Alternatively, you could put away a lump sum into a savings account specifically to cover your funeral costs
*Royal London’s National Funeral Cost Index 2015.
** Annual report by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on the Social Fund 2014-15.