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Funeral payment

How much is a funeral likely to cost and what are the options for funding?
5 min read
In this article
How much does a funeral cost? Who pays for a funeral? Help with funeral costs
Direct cremation 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 £4,271 on average, but this can vary between different parts of the UK, from £3,231 in Northern Ireland to £5,880 in London (Cost of Dying Report, SunLife, 2018).

 

A funeral with burial will cost an average of £4,798 (at 2018 prices), while a funeral with cremation averages at £3,744. However, extras such as a headstone, flowers and catering can easily double this.

 

Funeral director’s 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.

Cremation fees vary in different parts of the UK. In 2019 fees ranged from around £390 to £960 for cremation at a council-operated crematorium. Private crematorium fees were generally higher.


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’re holding the service will be able to tell you all the charges. 

 

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 director’s 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 loved one had a pre-paid funeral plan, 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. See Which? Money for further information about loans.

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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 tactfully 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 (NAFDD) or the National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF) 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. 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 don’t 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 Expenses Payment form gives detail of what is covered. It won’t cover the entire cost of the funeral, so consider how the balance is to be paid.

 

To claim for a Funeral Expenses Payment:

 

Gov.uk (Funeral Expenses Payment)

How it works, eligibility and how to make a claim.

gov.uk/funeral-payments

Claim by phone by calling the Bereavement Service helpline:

0800 731 0469

Mon–Fri, 8am–6pm

Direct cremation

A direct cremation is a cremation without a funeral service. It is the simplest and generally the most inexpensive form of cremation available. It's sometimes called a basic cremation, cremation without ceremony or a simple cremation.

Relatives cannot usually choose the time or place of the cremation, and mourners are not able to attend. After the cremation the remains are returned to the loved ones.

According to Sun Life, the average cost of a direct cremation is around £1,700, but some funeral directors offer services starting at around £1,000.

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’s 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.

Further reading

Cremation service

The majority of UK funerals involve a cremation. The ceremony might be short, but you can make it as personal as you ...

Planning a burial

Find out how to arrange a burial, whether in a churchyard, cemetery, natural burial ground or on private land.

Last updated: 09 Aug 2019