Planning and paying for your funeral

 

Planning your own funeral may sound like a daunting task but planning ahead can ease the burden on family and friends who could be forced to make difficult decisions at an already emotional time. If they know what your funeral wishes are and how it can be paid for, they can organise the funeral you would have wanted.

 

How can I communicate my funeral wishes?

You could outline your funeral wishes with a letter in your will so that a copy can be provided to those organising your funeral following your death. This could include information on who you would like the funeral directors to be, whether you wish to be buried or cremated, the music or hymns you would like played or whether you wish donations to be made to a charity. You can change your wishes at any time.

If you have taken out a pre-paid funeral plan, make sure your loved ones know are aware so they can notify the funeral provider. If your will is kept with a solicitor then provide them with a copy of your funeral plan so that they can keep it with your will.

 

How can my funeral be paid for?

The figures show that the average cost of a funeral in the UK is around £4,000.

Banks will release funds to pay for the cost of a funeral following a death, meaning that your family do not have to pay themselves. On receipt of a copy of the death certificate and the funeral director’s invoice the bank will settle the invoice directly with the funeral director.

It may be that you have insurance, pensions or death in service benefits which will pay out immediately on your death and therefore these could be used to pay for your funeral.

There may also be joint accounts where funds can be accessed straightaway.

Other options include a family member or friend paying and being reimbursed from the estate in due course.

 

What about pre-paid funeral plans?

 You can pre-arrange your funeral with a funeral company and pre-pay for it. The main benefit of paying for your funeral in advance is that it freezes the cost. For example, if you took out a funeral plan now for £4,000 and when you died the cost of the funeral had increased to £6,000, you have protected your loved ones from that increase.

It can also offer peace of mind and relieve your relatives from having to make difficult decisions as you can plan the funeral you want.

Before entering into such an arrangement, you should read the plan carefully so that you are aware of what’s included and what isn’t. Things like the cost of the headstone, funeral flowers, the wake and the burial plot may not be covered.

Other factors to consider are:

  1. Are there additional charges, for example, if you wish to alter your funeral plan at a later date?
  2. What happens if you move? Will the funeral company still be able to carry out your funeral in that new location?
  3. If you decide to pay for your plan by instalments, but die before paying all of them, what happens? Will the funeral company waive the payments, or will your family need to pay the balance?
  4. The funeral industry is unregulated, so your money is not protected like it is in the bank. That said every funeral director must legally invest the money in a specified way so it should be ring-fenced.

 

Are there ways I can reduce the cost of my funeral?

If your family is willing to undertake some of the tasks themselves (purchasing the coffin, completing paperwork etc) then the funeral could be arranged without a funeral director or with them only carrying out certain tasks.

You could consider a “direct cremation”. The cost is reduced because the funeral director can be flexible on the time of the crematorium. There is no ceremony and therefore also no associated costs such as a hearse, funeral flowers etc.

With the pandemic causing restrictions on the numbers who can attend funerals and requirements to socially distance, direct cremation has become more popular. Rather than the traditional funeral service, families are choosing to hold a celebration of the person’s life later in the year, perhaps on what would have been their birthday, when it is hoped the restrictions will have eased.

 

What happens if you cannot afford a funeral?

 If there’s not enough money in your estate to pay for your funeral, the local council or hospital can arrange a Public Health Funeral for you.

If you would like to find out more about paying for your funeral, you can speak with a local SFE lawyer today. Find one here: https://sfe.legal/find-a-lawyer/

 

 

 

Alison Craggs

Senior Solicitor in Estate Planning at The Burnside Partnership in Oxford. 

She specialises in Wills and Powers of Attorney and administering estates. Alison is a full accredited member of the Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE) and a member of the Society of Trust and Estates Practitioners (STEP). The Burnside Partnership won the National Solicitors Firm of the Year Award in The British Wills and Probate Awards 2020.  They also have several other awards and accreditations to their name.