Planning and paying for a funeral

Our Advocacy Officer, Charlotte Martin, has written a handy blog on planning and paying for a funeral, and what support is available to help cover costs.

What is a funeral? This may seem an obvious question to answer but funerals are becoming ever more diverse and individual. A funeral is defined as the ceremony that accompanies the burial, cremation or other internment of a corpse. There is already a choice there; burial or cremation? A funeral is an important opportunity for you loved ones to mourn for you but also celebrate your life. It can even be centred around your favourite activities, or personal achievements. Therefore, it is important to express your wishes and plan ahead, so you are remembered in the way you want.

What do I need to plan?

The first thing you might like to do is to discuss options with those close to you. This will help you decide what you want to happen, as your family and friends may want to remember you in a particular way too.

  1. What happens to your body after death?

This can seem a gruesome thought, but you will need to decide how your body is treated after death. Burial is restricted to a cemetery or other designated area, and it can be hard to arrange a space unless you have booked in advance. It can be particularly important to arrange this early if you want to be buried with other family. Cremation is the act of burning your remains to create ash, which could be stored for your loved ones, or scattered at a place important to you. There are environmental concerns around each method of disposal, which can be addressed (for example, using biodegradable materials for a coffin). Therefore, you may like to research your options fully if this is important to you.

  1. Do I want a memorial service?

A traditional funeral would be a religious service, in a church or crematorium. However, this does not have to be the case. You can have non-religious services at a crematorium, organise your own celebration of life, or even have no ceremony at all.

  1. Do I want a wake?

A wake is traditionally an opportunity for the attendees of a funeral to gather afterwards, usually with refreshments, to remember the person who has passed away. This will usually be at an extra cost to the funeral service itself.

Most people use a funeral director to care for the body and to arrange the essentials for them, such as booking the service and preparing the paperwork. However, it is possible for someone to arrange everything themselves. The Money Advice Service has some good advice about what you need to do to arrange a funeral yourself.

How much does a funeral cost?

The average cost of a funeral is £3757, according to the Money Advice Service. However, this will vary depending on whether you have paid for a plan in advance and the exact features of your funeral and celebrations. More detail on the costs of a funeral can be found here.

How do you pay for a funeral?


It is a common misconception that you can put aside savings in a bank account for a funeral and it will be accessible after your death. In fact, your bank accounts are usually frozen after your death until the probate process has established who has the right to the money, according to the will. You can ask the bank to pay the money direct to the funeral service provider for essentials, but this will require a lot of paperwork and the help of an executor of the will. This means that funeral fees can be left for the family and friends of the deceased to pay. They will be able to claim the cost of the funeral from the estate, but only if there is enough money left following the payment of debts, and this can place pressure on the family in the meantime. Therefore, if you choose to pay for your funeral this way, ensure there will be enough funds to pay for the funeral you want.

Paying for a funeral ahead of time can help you budget and create less work for others. There are two main types of funeral plans: a pre-paid plan or an insurance policy. If you choose these options, make sure you leave the paperwork I a place where you family can find it easily, so they are not delayed while planning.

  • Pre-paid plan: This is where you pay a flat fee, paid in one go or monthly, for a funeral according to a plan agreed with a funeral director. This could be from a choice of set plans (you can see examples from Co-op here) or you can design a personalised plan with a funeral director and get a quote. Always check exactly what is covered by a plan before you buy.
  • Funeral insurance: This is where you pay for a policy, sometimes called an over 50s plan, and a lump sum will be given when you die. This may be your choice if you want your family to have the freedom to plan a funeral themselves.

Is there any help available to pay for a funeral?

There is limited help available for those who cannot pay for a funeral. Therefore, it is always better to plan ahead, as this will allow you to budget or pay over a length of time (see above).

If your family members are in receipt of certain benefits, they may be eligible for funds from the Government to help pay for your funeral. This is called the Funeral Expenses Payment. To receive help, they must be your partner or another close relative, in receipt of benefits like Universal Credit or Income Support, and they are unlikely to get help if another close relative is in work (and so deemed to be able to pay instead). It can cover things like cremation or burial fees, travel to the funeral, moving the body as needed and a limited fund towards flowers, coffins and directors’ fees. It is designed to help towards a simple funeral. The person who receives the payment may be required to pay up to a third of the cost. It will be paid directly to the funeral director unless your relative has already paid when they claim. A claim must be made within 6 months of the funeral. Any money given to a relative will have to be paid back from anything they receive from your estate, if there is anything leftover once the surviving spouse has had their share. If you have paid for a funeral plan, but the plan does not cover everything, there is a small sum of money available for any extras (£120 at the time of writing).

You can find out more, including the full list of benefits, from website here.

If you die with insufficient money to pay for a funeral, and no family or friends are available to help, you may be given a public health funeral. This is simple service, usually a cremation, with the time and date arranged by the council or the hospital. People will be able to attend, but things like flowers, cars or adverts of the date and time are not included.

It may also be worth contacting charities to ask if they are able to assist. For example, Friends of the Elderly will provide grants, including for funeral expenses, for those of state retirement age on a low income and with less than £4000 savings.

My child has passed away, can I get any help towards the cost?

If you are in receipt of certain benefits, you may be eligible for the Funeral Expenses Payment, as listed above.

In March 2018, the government announced it would set up a fund to cover the cost of children’s funerals. This has not yet been set up at the time of writing. Please get in touch with the Advocacy Team to find out the latest updates on this policy.

Certain funeral directors have pledged to provide their services for free for those arranging a funeral for children under the age of 18; one such example can be found here. There is also a charity called the Children’s Funeral Charity, who can assist in finding funeral directors who work fee-free for children. They can also provide funds to cover funeral directors’ fees, or provide floral tributes, a personalised plaque or cremation fees. You cannot apply for this fund if you are eligible for the Funeral Expenses Payment and you must apply through a professional, such as bereavement nurse, GP or hospice manager, among others. You must also apply before any arrangement have been made. More information on the charity can be found here or call 01480 276088.

Two other charities that can assist with the costs of a child’s funeral are React and Children are Butterflies.

Further information:

Please note that our Patient Advocacy team are unable to provide:

  • Detailed medical advice or recommendations
  • Legal advice
  • Advocacy for a course of action which is contrary to the aims and objectives of Leukaemia Care.

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