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Funerals can be expensive, but as decisions are often made under emotional stress and with an imminent deadline, this isn't the best of circumstances to be shopping around.

On this page we give you information about:

1. Funeral directors’ fees
2. The costs of a cremation
3. The costs of a burial and church service
4. Who pays for a funeral?
5. Help with funeral costs
6. Paying for a funeral in advance

Funeral directors’ fees

If you are using a funeral director, on average a burial funeral costs £4,356 and a cremation costs £3,437 (SunLife 2016), but extras such as a headstone, flowers and catering can easily double this. A basic funeral costs around £3,897 on average.

The average cost of a basic funeral also varies between different parts in the UK, from £3,277 in Northern Ireland to £5,529 in London.

Funeral directors’ fees are made up of:

  • fees for the services and items they provide, such as the coffin and vehicles
  • disbursements: fees paid to third parties, such as a minister, doctors and the cemetery or crematorium
  • VAT: while the services of the funeral director, minister and cemetery or crematorium are exempt, items such as flowers, catering or any form of memorial, are liable to VAT.

The costs of a cremation

There are a number of costs involved. These are typical charges (2017/18):

  • Cremation fee: £660
  • Doctors’ fees for cremation forms 4 and 5: £164
  • Minister, religious or secular officiant or celebrant fee: £178

There will also be the costs of the funeral director.

The costs of a burial and church service

There are certain statutory charges for a service in church before of after burial or cremation. These include (2015/16):

  • Minister, religious or secular officiant or celebrant fee: £178
  • Burial of a body in a churchyard: £368 
  • The costs of the funeral director

A funeral director or the minister of the church where you are holding the service will be able to tell you all the charges. See also this page from the Church of England website.

Who pays for a funeral?

The person who signs the papers at the funeral directors enters into a formal contract to pay for the funeral. It is therefore wise to know how the funeral will be funded prior to signing the papers.

Normally, the cost of the funeral comes from the estate of the deceased. The bank holding the estate should release funds to pay for the funeral from the bank account of the deceased, if they are presented with an itemised account from the funeral director and a copy of the death certificate.

Help with funeral costs

Payment for the funeral takes priority over all other claims on the estate except debts secured against an asset. Often a bank will be prepared to release funds to a funeral director even if the account has been frozen. If there is not enough money in the estate, the cost will need to be met by family members.

Some people find the expenses of a funeral very difficult to meet, and are embarrassed about telling the funeral director. A good funeral director will find out whether or not there is a problem about money and, if there is, advise the client of ways in which help may be provided.

All members of the National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD) or the National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF) (see our Useful websites page for more details) are pledged to provide a simple funeral for customers who cannot afford one or do not wish to pay for any ‘extras’. This goes under various names, but it will provide the:

  • removal and care of the deceased during normal office hours within a limited locality
  • arrangement of a basic funeral
  • provision of a hearse only and staff to the nearest crematorium or cemetery
  • provision of a basic coffin
  • conducting of the funeral at a time suitable to the funeral directors.

This will be provided at an inclusive package price that is significantly lower than standard charges at around £1,000.

Social Fund Funeral Payment

You may be able to get a Funeral Payment from the Social Fund if the person who died has not left enough money to pay for the funeral and you do not have enough money and you or your partner are getting one of the following benefits:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Pension Credit
  • Housing Benefit
  • Council Tax Benefit (or the Council Tax payer where you live gets a Second Adult Rebate because you are on a low income)
  • Working Tax Credit, which includes a disability or severe disability element
  • Child Tax Credit at a rate higher than the family element.

The Funeral Payment is a grant unless money becomes available from the estate, in which case it needs to be repaid from the estate. The Funeral Payment form gives detail of what is covered. It will not cover the entire cost of the funeral, so consider how the balance is to be paid.

To claim for a Funeral Payment, download the claim form SF200 from this page of GOV.UK or contact the Department for Work and Pensions Bereavement Service on 0845 606 0625.   

Paying for a funeral in advance

Some people who have had to pay for the funerals of relatives and friends have found it difficult to find the money to pay the bill, and have decided that they want to pay for their own funeral in advance.

For some, this is not only to spare relatives from facing the cost of their funeral, but because they want to specify how things are to be done, and what they would like to take place at their own funeral.

Find out more about pre-paid plans on this page of the Which? website.

More information

  • Funeral paperwork: an explanation of which forms you need for a cremation or burial.
  • Planning a cremation: find out what happens at a cremation together with scattering of the ashes after the ceremony.
  • Planning a burial: the options that are available to you for burying a loved one.

Page first published: April 2017
Next review due: April 2018