In 2019 the average cost of a funeral in the UK was £3,785* but that figure disguises big differences between regions and types of funeral. Average costs for a burial in Kensal Green in London soared to over £13,000 while the cost of a cremation in Belfast, the least expensive area for funerals, came in at £2,844.
And the reality is that you can expect to pay even more because these figures only cover the basics such as the funeral director’s costs, doctor’s fees (where applicable), minister’s fees and burial or cremation charges. If you’re planning a gathering after the funeral then any catering costs or venue hire will be extra, as will funeral notices, car hire and flowers.
If you arrange a funeral, you’ll be responsible for paying the funeral director’s bill. So, it’s important to think about how you will pay for it.
Usually you have to pay for a funeral 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). However, it’s worth checking with the deceased’s bank or building society as some will release money specifically to pay for a funeral.
Five ways to keep down the costs of a funeral
There are ways you can manage the costs and still give your loved one a good 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. Increasingly funeral directors are offering lower-cost options including direct cremation (a cremation without a funeral service).
- 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 keep the costs under control. 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. Ask for a written estimate detailing what’s included so there are no surprises later.
- Burials cost on average £1,071 more than cremations*. A cremation won’t always be appropriate but where it is, this can bring down the cost quite considerably.
The Money Advice Service has more help on how to reduce the cost of a funeral.
Help paying for a funeral
Funerals are expensive but you may be able to get some help with the costs. If you receive certain state 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 the Funeral Expenses Payment 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 them cover the cost of the funeral. The amount you’ll get will depend on your circumstances but is unlikely to cover all of the costs. 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 claim by completing the Funeral Payment claim form or by calling the government’s Bereavement Service on 0800 731 0469. You must apply within three months of the funeral.
If you’re in Northern Ireland the process is different. You can find out about it on the nidirect.gov.uk website or by calling 0800 085 2463.
You may also be able to apply for an interest-free Budgeting Loan towards the costs (or Budgeting Advance if you get Universal Credit).
What if there’s no money to pay for a funeral?
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
*The Royal London National Funeral Cost Index Report 2019.
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