What happens if you can't pay for a funeral?

If you can't afford burial or cremation costs, you must inform your local authority. They will cover the costs needed to bury or cremate the body, and may recover the costs through the estate of the deceased person. 

Frequently asked questions

A ‘pauper’s funeral’ is an old-fashioned term for what is now more commonly known as a council funeral, or public health funeral. This is a very basic, no-frills type of funeral that is arranged and paid for by the local council when someone dies with no friends or family to take care of the arrangements.

This type of funeral may also be arranged if friends and family cannot afford to plan the funeral. Under the Public Health Act 1984, councils have a statutory duty to arrange a funeral for someone who dies within their borough when no one else can. They may take the money spent on the funeral from the estate at a later date (if it is large enough to cover the cost).

It is possible to pay for your own funeral before you die. In most cases, undertaking your own funeral planning can save your family a lot of stress at a very emotional time. You can pay for it in advance by taking out a funeral plan.

A local authority funeral is one arranged by the council. It is also known as a 'pauper’s funeral', a public health funeral or council funeral. This is where a simple, no frills funeral arrangement is paid for by the local authority, where the relatives are either unwilling or unable to pay, or where no relatives can be found. The local authority may also arrange a funeral for any person who was in the care of or receiving assistance from the authority immediately prior to their death, including children in local authority care. The local authority may seek to recover costs from the estate of the deceased.

While the law does not require everyone to have a traditional funeral service, the Births and Deaths Registration Act 1953 does state that you must ‘dispose of the body of the person who has died by burial, cremation or any other means’. If you do not wish to have a full funeral service, the most simple and affordable disposition option is a direct cremation.

In many cases, you may pay monthly for a funeral plan. Paying in smaller, monthly instalments can be more affordable than paying in one lump sum.

A ‘pauper’s funeral’ is an old-fashioned term for what is now more commonly known as a council funeral, or public health funeral. This is a very basic, no-frills type of funeral that is arranged and paid for by the local council when someone dies with no friends or family to take care of the arrangements.

This type of funeral may also be arranged if friends and family cannot afford to plan the funeral. Under the Public Health Act 1984, councils have a statutory duty to arrange a funeral for someone who dies within their borough when no one else can. They may take the money spent on the funeral from the estate at a later date (if it is large enough to cover the cost).

It is possible to pay for your own funeral before you die. In most cases, undertaking your own funeral planning can save your family a lot of stress at a very emotional time. You can pay for it in advance by taking out a funeral plan.

A local authority funeral is one arranged by the council. It is also known as a 'pauper’s funeral', a public health funeral or council funeral. This is where a simple, no frills funeral arrangement is paid for by the local authority, where the relatives are either unwilling or unable to pay, or where no relatives can be found. The local authority may also arrange a funeral for any person who was in the care of or receiving assistance from the authority immediately prior to their death, including children in local authority care. The local authority may seek to recover costs from the estate of the deceased.

While the law does not require everyone to have a traditional funeral service, the Births and Deaths Registration Act 1953 does state that you must ‘dispose of the body of the person who has died by burial, cremation or any other means’. If you do not wish to have a full funeral service, the most simple and affordable disposition option is a direct cremation.

In many cases, you may pay monthly for a funeral plan. Paying in smaller, monthly instalments can be more affordable than paying in one lump sum.