Paying for a funeral

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What do I have to consider when paying for a funeral?

Arranging and paying for a funeral

The cost of a funeral can cause additional stress at what is already a difficult time. There are lots of different costs that can be involved with a funeral, many of which are optional or can be tailored to your budget. They include:

  • Arrangements and administration
  • Care of the deceased
  • Conducting the funeral service
  • Coffins and caskets
  • Funeral vehicles and transportation
  • Additional products and services, such as stationery or floral displays
  • Third party payments (disbursements) such as doctors’ fees or crematorium charges

Whatever you are looking to spend, we are available to talk through the different choices, as well as a range of different payment options. We have funeral packages to suit all tastes and budgets.

About funeral costs

We want to make sure that you have complete peace of mind when you arrange your funeral with East of England Funeral Services. We promise to be completely up front with you and make sure you know exactly what services we will give you.

Answering your questions

We know you may have many questions about finance for a funeral. We have done our best to answer these here, but If you're worried about cost and financing a funeral, or don’t see the answer you need, a member of our team can guide you through the different options and suggest any financial support you might be eligible for. 

If you're worried about cost and financing a funeral, a member of our team can guide you through the different options and suggest any financial support you might be eligible for.

How much does the average funeral cost?

The average cost of a funeral with a traditional burial is around £4k and the average cost of a funeral with cremation is around £3k. Of course, this will differ based on where you live, the circumstance of the death and what sort of funeral you choose. 

The extra services and personalisation of the funeral you choose to have will affect how much it costs. Things to consider when planning a funeral, that could put the costs up, are:

  • Flowers
  • Coffins and casket selection
  • Transportation for relatives
  • Order of service
  • Music
View our prepaid plans

How do the poor cover funeral expenses? 

A funeral can sometimes have been pre-paid for by the person who has died, or they may have left some money in their estate to cover the costs. If they have left money in the estate, the executor of the estate will take care of paying the funeral bill. If there has been no money left behind or no pre-payment, usually a relative or friend will pay for the funeral.

The funeral costs can be claimed back from the estate by whomever pays if there’s enough in it.

What if no one can cover the cost of the funeral?

If no one can afford to cover the costs of the funeral, the local council or hospital can arrange a Public Health Funeral. This is usually a cremation, and anyone can attend the funeral, but the local authority will decide the time and date. A short service is provided, but extras such as flowers, cars or notices in the local newspaper are not.

If you’re receiving certain benefits, you can also apply for Funeral Payment from the government to help you pay for the funeral.

At the East of England Co-op, we recognise that a funeral can be expensive, so as part of our commitment to the Fair Funeral Pledge we offer a simple, dignified funeral at a low cost. 

Financial support

We understand how difficult it can be if you find there are insufficient funds to pay for the funeral. However, there are various options for financial support, including:

  • Funeral payment from the Social Fund
  • Bereavement payment
  • Bereavement allowance
  • Widowed parent's allowance

You can find out more about the different types of financial support available and the criteria for eligibility here.

What happens to the body if you can’t afford a funeral?

If you cannot afford a funeral, the local authority or hospital trust will provide a public health funeral. Once called a pauper’s funeral, these do not have the same social stigma as perhaps they once had. This type of funeral is provided as part of the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984.

Every local authority in the UK has a statutory duty to make arrangements for a public health funeral when:

  • A person has died in circumstances where the family is unable to be traced, or
  • No funeral arrangements have been made for that person

Local councils carry out public health funerals to cremate or bury people who have died alone, in poverty, or are unclaimed by their relatives.

When a council arranges a public health funeral, a coffin and the services of a funeral director to bear the body to the crematorium or cemetery are provided. However, public health funerals do not include flowers, viewings, obituaries or transport for family members. You cannot choose the funeral director or the date or time of a public health funeral and burials may take place in an unmarked graved shared with other people.

Who pays for a public health funeral?

Under the terms of the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984:

“It shall be the duty of a local authority to cause to be buried or cremated the body of any person who has died or been found dead in their area, in any case where it appears to the authority that no suitable arrangements for the disposal of the body have been or are being made otherwise than by the authority.”

In other words, if no one else will take responsibility, it is the council’s duty to take care of the final disposition (cremation or burial) of people who die or are found dead within their boundary.

The law also says that if someone has written a will, it is the duty of the executor to arrange and pay for their funeral if the person did not leave enough of value to cover their own funeral costs.

How to prevent children having to pay upon your death

Most people do not want to leave the payment of their funeral to their children or loved ones and there are ways of preventing children having to pay for a funeral. Taking out an insurance policy that allows for finances to be made available should you die, or, paying into a pre-paid funeral plan will ensure that money is set aside for a funeral.

Your children may also be receiving benefits, which allows them to access certain government schemes that alleviate the pressure of paying in full for funeral arrangements.

Why are funerals so expensive?

Funeral costs can vary. Depending on your location, the circumstance of the death and your requirements for the funeral, they can become expensive. According to the Royal London National Funeral Cost Index Report 2017, the average cost of a funeral with a traditional burial is £4,257 and the average cost of a funeral with cremation is £3,311.

Paying with pre-paid funeral plan or insurance

To help you manage the cost of a funeral, you can choose a pre-paid plan or choose an insurance policy that helps pay for your funeral.

  • Pre-paid funeral plans allow you to organise and pay for your funeral upfront. They can be bought from a funeral plan provider or a local funeral director. It is worth checking that the plan includes the costs of everything you would want, as there can be considerable variation.

Funerals on benefits

Funeral Expenses Payment (also called a Funeral Payment) is a government scheme set up for people on a low income who are receiving certain benefits to help them pay for a funeral.

You have three months from the date of the funeral to make a claim. If you are successful in claiming a Funeral Payment, you’ll have to pay the government back from any money you receive from the person’s estate, such as their savings.

If you’re currently receiving one of the following benefits, you may be eligible for a Funeral Payment:

  • Income Support
  • Housing Benefit
  • The disability or severe disability element of Working Tax Credit
  • Pension Credit
  • Universal Credit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance

More information on eligibility and how to apply to claim this benefit is available from GOV.UK.

A Funeral Expenses Payment won’t cover the whole funeral bill, but it can help to pay for:

  • The cost of moving the body within the mainland UK (if it’s being moved more than 50 miles)
  • Travel to arrange or attend the funeral
  • Death certificates or other documents
  • Cremation fees, including the cost of the doctor’s certificate
  • Burial fees for a particular plot

You could also get up to £700 for any other funeral expenses, such as funeral director’s fees, flowers or the coffin.

Help towards funeral costs

Accessing funds

Unless your loved one's money is in a joint account, where the surviving joint owner becomes the sole owner, any funds held in their name will be frozen after their passing.

You can get in touch with their bank or building society to learn whether they are willing to release funds to the executor or administrator of the will to help pay for the funeral.

Many High Street banks and most building societies will often agree to this and will arrange to pay for the funeral services directly. If you need help understanding how to access funds works, we are available to give you advice.

First steps

Check whether your loved one had a pre-paid funeral plan or funeral insurance, or whether they had put aside any specific funds for their funeral. If not, you may be able to check what finances they have and use some of that money to cover the funeral costs.

We don't charge for funeral services for children aged 16 or under. We also have affordable options under our pre-paid funeral plans.

Speak to a member of our funeral team for more information

How much does a funeral cost if you are cremated?

What is cremation?

Cremation is an alternative to traditional burial in a coffin or casket. Placed in a cremation container, the remains are incinerated in an industrial furnace (called a cremation chamber) and reduced to ashes which can be scattered, placed in an urn (or more infrequently a columbarium), or even turned into glass to be used in jewellery or paperweights.

Disbursement costs

In the UK the average burial costs nearly £2,000, and the average cremation costs around £700. However, there are also various other associated fees. These are known as disbursement costs.

Before a cremation is legally allowed to take place, a cremation certificate must be signed by two doctors. Each death certificate costs around £80. These two documents must be given to the crematorium prior to the service.

Direct cremations

A direct cremation means there is no ceremony and no minister provided for the funeral. Some people may wish to bypass the organising of a traditional ceremony, so this is an option available to them. Direct cremations are often available for less than £1,000.

Reduced after costs

A direct cremation can save money for a number of reasons:

  • The body is not embalmed and there is no viewing. This reduces hair and makeup application costs and embalming.
  • There will be no need for an expensive casket. You can choose to place the body in a special cardboard box called an “alternative container.”
  • Some funeral homes may also perform the cremation themselves, reducing transportation fees.
  • Placing an urn in a cemetery memorial garden is significantly cheaper than a burial and provides an equally dignified tribute to the deceased without headstone fees and plot maintenance.
  • The option of a physical space to honour the dead, rather than spreading ashes, is still available through memorial benches or plaques.

Catholic cremation

The Catholic churches’ rule of cremation being forbidden was overturned in 1963. Most Catholic churchyards now have a dedicated space for urn placement. However, the body of the deceased must be present at the church funeral service making the costs closer to a traditional burial.

Funeral firms

If you don’t want to make the arrangements yourself, funeral directors and firms can be used to organise cremations. Overseeing the legal aspects and logistics of a ceremony can be overwhelming, so this option reduces the stress. Their fees usually don’t include all the service and disbursement costs so you will need to pay extra.

What is a columbarium?

A columbarium is a place for the respectful and usually public storage of urns holding a deceased's cremated remains. A columbarium resembles a wall with cavities designed to hold cremation urns and they are usually made of stone such as granite. Quite popular in Europe and the US but not as much currently in the UK, they cost around £400- £500. Nearly all options are on a lease basis, so you have the ongoing annual cost to consider.

How much is a burial plot?

Where to be buried

The costs of burial location can vary vastly, so it’s important to consider where you wish to bury a loved one or be buried yourself. Some cemeteries, such as those in small parishes, will charge a relatively small amount for a burial plot for residents of the area, but non-residents can face significantly higher costs.

Burials in an inner-city cemetery usually cost more due to increased maintenance costs and a lack of available space. If the burial plot is purchased in advance you may receive significant discounts.

If you do not want a traditional burial plot, several other options are available. You can opt for a woodland or sea burial.

It is important to remember that you must pay not only for the burial plot, but also the headstone, burial ground fee and possibly even a grave digging cost. The typical price of a headstone is between £1,200 and £2,000.

How long does a burial plot last?

The ownership of a grave does not last forever, the average lease on a plot is 75 years and graves cannot legally be sold for more than a century. However, when the lease expires the family are given the opportunity to renew it at a cost, allowing graves to be ‘owned’ for generations.

A columbarium lease lasts for five or ten years, depending on the cemetery. In order to extend the lease, it is up to the family of the deceased to make the arrangements for this with the local council.

Are cremation funerals cheaper than burial funerals?

Cremation is on average a cheaper option compared to burial. This is due to the fact that you don’t pay for a burial plot, or the upkeep of the plot after the funeral.

Of course, the cost of any funeral will depend on other factors such as location and the extra services of personalisation you have as part of the funeral. A direct cremation is a cheaper option for those wishing to avoid any extra stress or strain of funeral arrangements and would be significantly cheaper than a funeral that included a service and burial.

Funerals without Funeral Directors

Although most funerals in the UK are arranged through funeral directors, it’s possible to arrange a funeral yourself without using one. The total cost of the funeral will depend on disbursement costs and the optional extras you choose. There are important factors to remember when considering organising a funeral yourself. Without a funeral director you will have to take care of duties such as:

  • Care of the person who has died

If the person died in a hospital or hospice, they’ll keep and care for the body for a reasonable amount of time and usually arrange for a medical certificate with a cause of death. If the person died at home, you must call a doctor or ambulance to obtain the medical certificate. If the death does not need to be referred to the coroner, you can care for the person at home (ideally for under a week) while you buy a coffin and book the ceremony.

  • Register the death

You must register the death at a registry office within five days (or eight days in Scotland). You can’t make further arrangements until you do this. You’ll need to take the medical certificate, which is signed by a doctor, when you register the death. Visit the GOV.UK website for more information on how to register a death. You’ll get a Certificate for Burial or Cremation (you’ll need this to book a crematorium) and Certificate of Registration of Death.

You can sometimes find more affordable coffins online.

  • Book the crematorium

To book the crematorium, you’ll need the Certificate for Burial or Cremation and fill in a form at the crematorium, usually named as an “authority for the disposal of cremated remains”. You’ll need to let them know your preferences for timings and music during the ceremony as well as the details of the deceased.

  • Choose who will lead a ceremony if you want one

You can plan and lead a funeral ceremony yourself. The Good Funeral Guide website has some advice on this. Alternatively, you could ask an independent funeral celebrant or a member of the clergy to do this.

If you don’t want a ceremony, you could opt for a direct cremation.

  • Transport the body

You don’t have to use a hearse to transport the body to the crematorium. You can transport the coffin in an estate car or van. You can get more advice on arranging the funeral yourself on the Good Funeral Guide or Natural Death Centre websites.

Couldn’t find the answer to your questions here?

We have tried our best to answer all your questions but understand that you may have more. If you're worried about cost and financing a funeral, want more advice or simply to talk through your options, a member of our team can guide you through and suggest any financial support you may be eligible for.

Take a look at our price list, or contact your local funeral team for more information.