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How to get help with funeral costs

Tim Duncan

Compliance Assurance Manager

Last updated 27th February 2024

6 min read

If you need help with funeral costs, you are not alone.

The average cost of funeral is now over £4,000. And one in five people who have organised a funeral say it caused them significant financial concern.

You may be able to get financial support from the government, charities and other options.

In this guide:

Help with funeral costs from the government

The government could help with funeral costs. There are two main schemes which you can apply for:

  • Funeral Expenses Payment
  • Bereavement Support Payment

These won’t cover everything, but they can be a big help.

If a child has died, the Children’s Funeral Fund for England( opens in a new tab) can help with some of the costs. Anyone can apply for this, as long as the funeral happens in England.

Funeral Expenses Payment

The Funeral Expenses Payment( opens in a new tab) is a one-off means-tested payment. It may be used to pay for:

  • Burial or cremation fees, including doctor’s certificate
  • Travel to arrange or go to the funeral
  • The cost of moving the body within the UK (if over 50 miles)
  • Death certificate or other documents

You could also get a further £1,000 for other costs, such as a coffin, flowers or funeral director’s fees.

To apply, you need to be a close relative or partner of the person who has died. You must also receive at least one of these benefits:

  • Universal credit
  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s or Employment and Support Allowance
  • Pension, Child Tax or Universal Credit
  • Housing Benefit
  • Working Tax Credits related to disabilities

You can apply for a Funeral Expenses Payment over the phone or by post. You need to apply within six months of the funeral.

If it turns out that the deceased’s Estate could have covered funeral costs, you will need to pay back the money.

If you live in Scotland you can apply for Funeral Support Payment. This is similar to Funeral Expense Payment but the amount you get varies slightly.

Bereavement Support Payment

Bereavement Support Payment( opens in a new tab) is a one-off payment of £2,500 or £3,500. This is followed by 18 monthly payments of £100 or £350.

You can apply if you are a spouse or civil partner of the person who has died and:

  • You were under the state pension age when your partner died
  • You were living in the UK when your partner died
  • Your spouse or partner paid at least 25 weeks of National Insurance contributions or died in a work-related incident

A claim must be made within three months of your partner’s death. You can do this over the phone, by post or online( opens in a new tab) . You can still claim up to 21 months after the death, but any payments will be less.

Budgeting loan

A budgeting loan( opens in a new tab) is a small, interest free sum to help pay for a variety of needs including funeral costs.

You might be able to apply for a budgeting loan if you are receiving one of these benefits:

  • Income support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Pension Credit

You must have been getting the benefit for at least 6 months.

The loan is up to:

  • £348 if you’re single
  • £464 if you have a partner
  • £812 if you or your partner claim Child Benefit

How much you get depends on:

  • if you can repay it
  • if you have savings over £1,000
  • if you’re already paying off another Budgeting or Crisis Loan.

You can apply online( opens in a new tab) or by post.

Council funeral

If you can’t afford the cost of a funeral, your local council can arrange a Public Health Funeral.

These happen when there is no one willing or able to pay for a funeral.

The funeral will be very basic and will include a coffin and the services of a funeral director. The funeral will either be a burial or cremation depending on the local authority.

Some councils will allow for a funeral service. But some will only arrange a direct cremation or burial, with no service that people can attend.

These funerals will not include extras like flowers, transport or viewings.

Charities that can help with funerals

Some charities can offer financial and emotional support when you’ve lost someone.

If you or the person who died was a care worker, you could apply for a crisis grant from the Care Workers Charity(opens in a new tab).

Friends of the Elderly( opens in a new tab) offer grants of up to £400 for unexpected bills like funeral costs. You must live in England or Wales, be over state pension age and on a low income with little savings. Speak to a referral agent like Citizens Advice(opens in a new tab) to apply.

If a child has died, React(opens in a new tab), or Child Funeral Charity(opens in a new tab) could help. They offer funds towards costs not covered by government support available( opens in a new tab), such as flowers and plaques.

Down to Earth(opens in a new tab) run a free funeral costs helpline. They can advise you on how to find the money for a funeral. They can also help to assess whether you are eligible for government support.

Charities like Cruse Bereavement Care( opens in a new tab) or The Good Grief Trust(opens in a new tab) can help with the emotional side of loss.

Ask your local council about any other schemes in your area.

Other ways to get help

Even if you get government or charity support, it might not cover the full cost of the funeral. If you need to raise more funds, there are other options.

Collecting donations

The internet can be a great place to seek help from others. For example, crowdfunding sites let you collect donations for a loved one’s funeral. Popular sites include GoFundMe(opens in a new tab) and JustGiving(opens in a new tab).

These websites let you set up a donation page where others can give money. Then you can share the link with friends and family. Posting the link on your social media profiles is a good way to share with lots of people at once.

It may feel strange asking for donations but it’s quite a common way to raise money. Many people will be happy to help if they can afford to.

Speaking to your funeral director

Funeral directors normally ask for a deposit up front, if not the whole sum. But they might have other payment options.

They might agree to a repayment plan to spread out the funeral costs. This means you don’t have to pay everything in one go.

Don’t forget to check if the funeral director accepts government benefits. They may even work with charities who could help you.

A funeral director should also be able to tell you which parts of a funeral you could save money on.

The deceased's bank account

Banks may agree to pay the funeral bill from a late customer’s account, if there are enough funds.

You’ll usually need the help of the Executor or Administrator of the Estate. They will normally need to secure a Grant of Probate to access any bank account(s).

Speak to the person’s bank to find out what the process is. Some banks may be willing to pay the funeral director without the Estate Administrator being involved.

Consider a direct funeral

Direct cremations and direct burials are funerals without a service. The body of the deceased is taken to the crematoria or burial site with no loved ones present.

They are much more affordable than traditional funerals. The average direct cremation costs around £1,500. The average cremation with a service is over £3,000. (Source: SunLife’s Cost of Dying Report)

You can choose this kind of funeral and still have a memorial for your loved one. Many arrange a direct cremation and then have a celebration of life at home with family and friends.

What else can I do if I can’t afford funeral costs?

Funeral costs can easily stack up. Even with help it can be difficult. It is possible to reduce them by opting for a cheaper service and other alternatives.

For more on this topic, see our guide to what happens if you can't afford a funeral.

Thinking about your own funeral costs

Organising a funeral can often make people think about their own plans. It’s good to know there are funds in place for your loved ones when the time comes.

Dealing with loss is never easy. And the pressure of dealing with funeral costs can make a stressful time even more difficult.

You could set aside a savings account specifically for your funeral, or consider a pre-paid funeral plan.

An over 50s life insurance policy is another way to leave a guaranteed lump sum to your loved ones when you die. This can be put towards funeral costs, or whatever might help most in their time of need.

For more information on funeral planning read our funeral planning guide.

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The thoughts and opinions expressed in the page are those of the authors, intended to be informative, and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SunLife. See our Terms of Use for more info.