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ADVICE SECTIONS

Can’t Afford a Funeral in the UK? Here are 5 Smart Ways to Pay for a Funeral

Benjamin Elliott<span> • </span><span style="font-size:0.9em; font-weight:400;">Founder of NEO Cremations</span>
Benjamin ElliottFounder of NEO Cremations

Who pays for a funeral when there is no money?

The passing of a loved one is always a difficult time, and while it can feel out of place to worry over finances, the reality is that the costs for a funeral can become a source of yet additional distress. In the UK, the cost of arranging a funeral has become prohibitively expensive, and many people have begun to search for alternative arrangements. Perhaps the death was unexpected, or the actual cost of a funeral was unknown before the fact, or the death occurred at the same time as the family has fallen on hard times; whatever the reason,  you should know that there exists many ways to ease the stress associated with paying for a funeral. If you are arranging a funeral but are faced with limited funds, there are various public and private means to seek financial assistance.

Primary responsibility for funeral costs will normally go to either the executor of the estate or the family of the deceased, depending upon whether there is a will or not.  Regardless of who pays for the funeral costs, any expenses can be recouped from the estate of the deceased. However, if funds are low, you are rarely required by law to pay for the funeral.  Exceptions include parents burying or cremating their child, but there are government programs to help you such as the Children’s Funeral Fund. Finally, if there is no estate or family then the local council will provide for a public health funeral. 

  1. Charities and Funds provide comprehensive support that is not necessarily well advertised and well known.  Along with financial aid, charities can provide you with the emotional, spiritual and communal support that you might need when dealing with the loss of a family member and/or friend.  Most charities are geared for assistance towards specific situations so it is worth thinking of your particular circumstance. Please see below a list of the charities that can offer their assistance:
    • Religious institutions have a wealth of experience and charitable infrastructure when it comes to funerals.  If you or your loved one belong to a religious community then they are often a reliable source of both financial and spiritual help.  Even if you are not religious, there are religious groups, such as Caritas Westminster and Quaker Social Action, who will still offer  a helping hand. 
    • There are a number of charities that serve the elderly.  Friends of the Elderly is one such charity and they provide funeral support for those at the age of retirement who are managing a low income with savings of less than £4,000. 
    • The loss of a child or a baby brings an intense sorrow for a life that we had hoped so much for.  There are a number of charities, like Child Funeral Charity and REACT which offer financial as well as emotional support for parents experiencing such a tragedy.
    • There are many career-based support structures and charities.  If your loved one made a career in a particular profession, such as the military or hospitality, then there are charities and funds that will stand with you at this time of need.
    • If you or your loved one are nationals of another state, your embassy or consulate can provide you with information about charities dedicated to expatriates living in the UK. 
    • You can also receive assistance that is tied to your location.  Examples include ScotsCare which provides care for Scots living in London.  It is also worth contacting your local council about charities dedicated to residents. 
    • Your financial concerns might go beyond funeral costs and there are many services as well as trusts, such as the British Gas Energy Trust, who can assist you.  Many utility providers operate relief schemes to assist the families of the deceased to cover bills so it is always good advice to contact your provider.
    • There are a great deal of charities, trusts, and grant schemes that can help you.  A comprehensive list would stretch too far so we hope this list has been effective in showing you what to look for and where you may find help.  As mentioned above, most charities cater to specific circumstances; websites such as Turn2US can help you find those organizations which can best accommodate your individual needs and situation.
  1. Government Assistance is a more accessible and available means of finding the help you need.  While charities are more specialised by nature, public assistance is widely available and easily accessible.  When it comes to paying for a funeral, there are two programs that offer immediate help: 
    • Funeral Payments are a public program to help low-income individuals with the costs of a funeral.  A Funeral Payment will help you cover the costs of cremation, doctor’s fees, death certificates, transportation and up to £700 of additional fees.  Applicants can expect £1,400 on average although this will depend upon individual circumstances.

      In order to be eligible, you will need to be in receipt of one or more of the qualifying benefits listed on the government website. You must also make your claim within 6 months of the funeral and provide proof of a particular relationship with the deceased.  It is important to keep in mind that any Funeral Payment will be refunded from the estate of the deceased. You can make a claim by phone/post either before or after paying for the funeral.
    • The Bereavement Support Payment is a government grant for husbands, wives, and civil partners under the age for a state pension.  Depending on your circumstance, you may be eligible for the Bereavement Payment as well as the Bereavement Allowance or the Widowed Parent’s Allowance.  The Bereavement Payment is a one-off payment that can vary between £2,500-3,500, while the Allowance Payments are 18 monthly payments of £100-350 per month.  In order to receive the full amount, you must apply within 3 months of your partner’s death so it is best to act quickly. However, later is better than never and you may still make a claim up to 21 months following the death, but you will not be entitled to receive the full amount.  If you wish to claim Bereavement Support, you can apply by form or phone as listed on the government website.
  1. Family & Friends are always there for us. Asking for help can make us feel vulnerable, but being asked to help a friend or family member is, in actuality, the very opposite of a burden: it is a privilege.  Doing whatever we can to help those we love is also an opportunity to come closer together at a time when we need it most:
    • When it comes to arranging a ceremony or wake, some opt to pay for a venue and caterer.  However, hosting a wake in your own house or a friend’s house can be a more intimate and cost-efficient alternative.  Rather than paying for a caterer, this can also be an opportunity for friends and family to bring home-cooked meals that bring a much appreciated personal touch.  You could also hold a raffle sale to raise funds to cover the funeral costs or for a charity or cause that was dear to the deceased.
    • Crowdfunding has increasingly been used to finance funeral costs.  There are a number of crowdfunding websites. Some crowdfunding websites include: GoFundMe, JustGiving, and Crowdfunding Funerals.    
  1. Financial Planning is important and you need to know what your options are.  Below are some additional avenues to examine if you are wondering about costs:
    • Your loved one may have already prepared for this with a pre-paid funeral plan or insurance policy.  These plans typically cover the entire cost of the funeral and possibly a cemetery plot. Please make sure you check your loved one’s personal papers for any such plans or instructions so that you can inform the funeral director.
    • Sometimes you cannot access the funds in time due to any number of reasons.  Many funeral directors are understanding of this and will allow you to pay in installments after an initial deposit.  If you find it necessary, you can select a repayment plan or a grant that will allow you to spread the cost of the funeral over the course of months or years.
    • Natural Burials are both inexpensive and environmentally friendly.  The body of the deceased is returned to the earth. Natural burial grounds come in all shapes and sizes and are located all over the UK.  
    • Pauper’s Funerals are organized by the local council in cases where the next of kin cannot be located and no funeral plan has been prepared.  The council will ensure the deceased is provided with a casket, a funeral director, and minimal service.
  1. Direct Cremation, sometimes called a “simple cremation”, is one of the more cost-effective ways to conduct a funeral.  A direct cremation precludes all the little things that make traditional funerals expensive, whether it is the embalming process, the costs of the casket, the funeral director, and so on.  Not only does this save you money, but it also saves the environment by reducing deforestation, chemical waste and all the usual tolls of industry on our planet. While the reduced cost has strong appeal to many, there are many who go for a direct cremation because of its simplicity.  Celebrities from David Bowie to John Lennon had the means to conduct a lavish funeral: instead they chose a direct cremation. If you wish to learn more about direct cremations and how NEO Cremations can assist you, please visit our website.

We hope that this blog has included some useful tips and resources that you can put to good use so you can be free to focus on how you will choose to honour the memory of your loved one.

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