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Funeral costs

How much is a funeral likely to cost and what are the options for funding?

In this article
How much does a funeral cost? Who pays for a funeral? Comparing funeral prices
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 £4,184 on average, but this can vary between different parts of the UK, from £3,222 in Northern Ireland to £5,235 in London (SunLife, Cost of Dying Report, 2021).

A funeral with burial will cost an average of £5,033 (at 2020 prices), while a funeral with cremation averages at £3,885. 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
  • fees paid to third parties, such as a minister, doctors and the cemetery or crematorium – known as disbursements
  • VAT – the services of the funeral director, minister and cemetery or crematorium are exempt, but 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, which varies in different parts of the UK
  • 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’re holding the service will be able to tell you all the charges.

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.

Comparing funeral prices

This might not be the easiest of times for investigating costs, but it’s advisable to ask friends for recommendations. You might also want to get some comparative quotes before you choose a specific funeral package.

However, comparing costs can be tricky. A Which? investigation has found that some funeral directors still don't include prices on their websites. This is despite being put on notice by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) who called for clearer pricing information in the funeral industry. 

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 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
  • 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

If you or your partner are claiming certain state benefits, such as Income Support, Pension Credit, Housing Benefit or Council Tax Benefit, 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

The Funeral Payment is initially a grant, but if money becomes available from the estate it will need to be repaid. It won’t cover the entire cost of the funeral, so consider how the balance is to be paid.

For more information on Funeral Expenses Payment eligibility and how to make a claim, visit Gov.uk, or call the Bereavement Service helpline on 0800 731 0469.

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, in 2020 the average cost of a direct cremation was £1,554.

Paying for a funeral in advance

To avoid any difficulties in arranging or paying for their funeral, some people choose 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.

For more information and to compare the prices of some leading plans, read our guide to pre-paid funeral plans.

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