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Funerals can be expensive. Although it can be difficult to make quick decisions, especially when you are grieving, you should still make sure that you get a clear breakdown of the costs involved, think carefully about what is realistic and how you are going to pay for the funeral.

On this page we give you information about:

1. How much does a funeral cost?
2. Who pays for a funeral?
3. Help with funeral costs
4. Paying for a funeral in advance

How much does a funeral cost?

The price of a funeral can vary enormously, depending on the options you choose. A basic funeral costs around £4,078 on average, but this can vary between different parts in the UK, from £2,982 in Northern Ireland to £5,951 in London (SunLife, September 2017). A funeral with a cremation will cost an average of £3,596. However, extras such as a headstone, flowers and catering can easily double this.

Funeral directors’ fees usually consist 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.

Disbursements (third-party costs) will depend on whether you choose a cremation or burial, but will usually include the following items.

Cremation

  • Cremation fee
  • Doctors’ fees for cremation forms 4 and 5
  • Minister, religious or secular officiant or celebrant fee.

Burial

  • Minister, religious or secular officiant or celebrant fee
  • Burial of a body in a churchyard.

A funeral director or the minister of the church where you are holding the service will be able to tell you all the charges. A guide to costs is also available on the Church of England website.

This might not be the best of times for investigating costs, but it’s advisable to ask friends for recommendations and you might also want to get in some comparative quotes.

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. So it’s important to understand who is paying for the funeral before you sign. If your relative had a pre-paid funeral plan (see below), then the costs may already be taken care of.

If not, the cost of the funeral is usually paid from the estate of the deceased, although it may be difficult to get access to the funds in time for the funeral. The bank holding the estate should release funds to pay for the funeral from the deceased’s account, if they are presented with an itemised account from the funeral director and a copy of the death certificate.

If funds can’t be released in time, the family may need to fund the funeral and be reimbursed later. Family members could all contribute, or you may need to take out a loan to cover the cost until probate comes through.

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 isn’t 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
  • arrangements for a basic funeral
  • provision of a hearse 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. Disbursements to third parties may be charged on top.

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.

Many funeral directors offer pre-paid funeral plans. In this situation, it is worth shopping around and speaking to at least three funeral directors to see what services they can offer.

The Which? Money guide to funeral plans gives more details about pre-paid plans.

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 last reviewed: October 2017