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Paying for the funeral

The person who died may have had a prepaid funeral plan, insurance or other money set aside.

Funeral costs usually come out of the person’s estate. If the deceased had other debts, funeral costs are usually paid first. But some secured debts, such as a mortgage, might be paid before funeral costs. Sometimes, the estate may not be enough to cover this. 

Try not to feel pressured into paying for a funeral you can’t afford. Many people have funerals which they struggle to pay for later.

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Unless an estate is quite small, you cannot access funds from it until probate (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) or confirmation of the estate (Scotland) is granted. This can take several months. Most large banks and building societies, however, will release funds from the person’s accounts to pay the bill on sight of a certified copy of the death certificate.

Some funeral directors ask for a deposit to cover third-party costs payable in advance of the funeral (disbursements). The final bill is usually sent soon after the funeral.

Average cost of a funeral

Funeral costs in the UK have increased in the last few years, so it’s worth having an idea of what to expect. Burials are more expensive than cremations, but you won’t have to arrange a headstone until six months after the burial to allow time for the ground to settle. The amounts below are approximate – actual costs may vary.

Essential funeral costs

  • Funeral director (if you use one) – £2,000-£3,000.
  • Doctor’s cremation authorisation forms  ̶  £165.
  • Cremation fee – £500-£700.
  • Burial fee – £800-£1,500.
  • Minister fees (if holding a religious ceremony) – £160 (these are voluntary in Scotland). There can be additional charges if you’re holding the service in a church.

Non-essential funeral costs

Has the person’s estate provided for catering after the funeral or for a gravestone? If not, check that any individuals or organisations due to get a share agree before making a commitment to use the estate’s money. If they don’t, you may have to find the money elsewhere. The following items usually add up to around £1,500:

  • funeral flowers
  • death notice or obituary
  • funeral notice announcing the time and place of the funeral
  • additional limousine
  • order sheets
  • catering for a wake
  • venue hire for a wake/reception
  • memorial

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If there isn’t enough money

The Money Advice Service has some useful advice on ways of reducing funeral costs. It’s worth noting that it’s not always cheaper to do things yourself. Other things to consider include:

  • A funeral director may agree to accept payment by instalments.
  • There are a few charities that will help with funeral expenses, such as Child Funeral Charity .
  • If the person died in hospital (England and Wales, Northern Ireland) contact the bereavement service or equivalent at the hospital to arrange a public health funeral. This is a basic but respectful cremation service that the hospital (or local council, below) must provide if there is no-one available to pay for the funeral.
  • If the person died at home or elsewhere (and in hospital in Scotland) contact the bereavement service at the local council to arrange a public health funeral.
  • The British Gas Energy Trust  sometimes offers payments for people who having trouble paying outstanding funeral expenses. You can apply for this grant on its website. 

How to get Funeral Payments from the government

If you’re on a low income or getting certain benefits, you may be entitled to claim a Funeral Payment from the government to contribute to costs. The claim period runs from the date of death to up to three months after the funeral.

Generally, you won’t qualify for a Funeral Payment if the person who died had a close relative who isn’t getting benefits. A close relative is the daughter, son, parent, brother or sister, by blood or marriage, of the person who died – or the relative’s partner.

Funeral Payments are different to Bereavement Benefits (formerly known as Widow’s Pension, LINK), which can also be used to help with funeral costs. Contact Citizens Advice to see if you qualify (details below).If your only source of money is a Funeral Payment, tell the funeral director before you commit to any arrangements. They can advise you on what to do next.

To qualify for a Funeral Payment you must be one of the following:

  • the partner of the person who died
  • a close relative or close friend of the person who died
  • the parent of a baby stillborn after 24 weeks of pregnancy
  • the parent of a child who died, if they were under 16, or under 20 and not in full-time education
  • if the dead child’s parent is ‘absent’ (uncontactable or uninvolved in the child’s life), you must have been responsible for the child and the absent parent must get a qualifying benefit

Are you eligible for a Funeral Payment?

To be eligible for a Funeral Payment you (or your partner) must get one of the following:

  • one of the extra parts of Child Tax Credit
  • Housing Benefit
  • Income Support
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Pension Credit
  • Universal Credit
  • Disability or severe disability part of Working Tax Credit

More information on all of these benefits can be found on the GOV.uk website or the nidirect website.

How much can I expect?

The exact amount depends on whether there is any money available, for example from an insurance policy or the estate. The maximum payment, however, won’t cover the cost of even a simple funeral. If you absolutely can’t meet the costs then you may need to have a public health funeral.

Paying back the funds

The government will reclaim payment from the estate if funds are found in the estate at a later date.

To find out more

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Useful links

Benefit Shop   (Northern Ireland) – find your local branch

Child Funeral Charity   – help with the cost of a child’s funeral

Funeral Costs Help   – understanding funeral costs

GOV.uk   – funeral payments eligibility

Jobcentre Plus   – find your local branch

Money Advice Scotland  

NIdirect   – Northern Ireland government services

The Real Deal   – Funeral Costs in Scotland (PDF 263KB)

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