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How to get help with funeral costs

Tim Duncan

Compliance Assurance Manager

Last updated 22nd February 2023

6 min read

If you need help with funeral costs, you may be able to get financial assistance from the government, charities and other options.

Read more about the different options available:

Help with funeral costs from the government

The government could help pay towards funeral costs. The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) help with funeral costs with two schemes: the Funeral Expenses Payment( opens in a new tab) and the Bereavement Support Payment( opens in a new tab).

It’s unlikely either of these will cover everything, but they can soften the financial blow.

If a child has died, the government’s Children’s Funeral Fund for England( opens in a new tab) can help to pay some of the costs. This is not means tested so anyone can apply, as long as the burial or cremation is taking place in England.

Funeral Expenses Payments

The Funeral Expenses Payment is one-off means-tested payment intended to support people on certain benefits that 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

It’s also possible to secure a further £1,000 payment for additional funeral costs, such as a coffin, flowers or funeral director’s fees.

To apply for Funeral Expenses Payments you need to be a close relative, partner or parent of the person who has died and receive at least one of the following benefits:

  • 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

The application for a Funeral Expenses Payment can be made over the phone or by post, and must be made within six months of the funeral.

If it is later established that the deceased’s Estate could have covered funeral costs, you will be asked to pay back the money.

If you live in Scotland( opens in a new tab) the process may differ.

Bereavement Support Payment

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

It is available to a spouse or civil partner of the person who has died.

To apply you must be under the state pension age, living in the UK when your partner died, and your spouse or partner must have paid 25 weeks of National Insurance contributions or died in a work-related disease or accident.

A claim must be made within three months of the funeral by completing a Bereavement Support Payment pack. You can still claim up to 21 months after the death, however any payments will be less.

Budgeting loan

A budgeting loan is a small, interest free sum to help pay for a variety of needs including funeral costs.

You might be eligible for a budgeting loan if you are on qualifying benefits such as:

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

You must have been on these benefits 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

It also depends on if you are able to repay it, your savings, and 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 ‘pauper’s’ funeral also known as a Public Health Funeral.

Thousands of these are carried out each year for those who have passed away and are unclaimed by relatives or died alone.

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.

These funerals will not include flowers or transport or viewings etc, and cannot be attended.

Charities that can help with funerals

There are lots of different charities that can offer financial and emotional support in the aftermath of losing a loved one.

Many 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 and grief.

For a charity that can offer financial help with funeral costs, the below could offer some support.

Care Workers Charity(opens in a new tab) contributes towards funeral costs for those who have worked in the care profession.

Friends of the Elderly( opens in a new tab) offer financial support grants of up to £400 for unexpected bills such as funeral costs. To be eligible you must be a resident of England or Wales, over state pension age and living on a low income with little savings. You can apply via a referral agent such as Citizens Advice(opens in a new tab).

If a child has died, charities like React(opens in a new tab), or Child Funeral Charity(opens in a new tab), may offer grants to help cover expenses not covered by the government support available( opens in a new tab), such as flowers and plaques.

Your location and nationality may also make you eligible for grants. Ask your local council about any schemes in the area.

Other ways to get help

Social media can be a great place to garner some assistance. For example, Crowdfunding sites such as GoFundMe(opens in a new tab) or JustGiving(opens in a new tab) can be a way of collecting donations for a loved one’s funeral.

It may not be the most conventional route but asking for donations can be an effective solution for those struggling financially to cover the costs of a funeral.

Help with funeral costs from a funeral director

Remember to speak to your chosen funeral director about possible options. Normally a funeral director will require at least a deposit up front, if not the whole sum.

But they might be able to agree a repayment plan to make the funeral costs more manageable and ensure you aren’t hit for everything in one lump sum.

Also, don’t forget to check if the funeral director accepts government benefits or works directly with any charities who might be able to help you.

A funeral director should also be able to advise you on which parts of a funeral could be omitted to try to help cut costs.

Other options

Banks may consider settling the funeral bill from a late customer’s account, if funds are available.

To do this you’ll usually need the help of the Executor or Administrator of the Estate. In most cases, they will need to secure a Grant of Probate to access any bank account(s).

However, it could take time for you to receive your payment, as they have to address all outstanding debts such as a mortgage.

The bank or building society could pay funeral costs directly

If you can provide a death certificate, proof of your identity and an invoice for the funeral costs; your loved one’s bank or building society could agree to pay the funeral service provider directly.

This can be a quicker way of covering funeral costs than working through the Executor or Administrator of Estate.

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

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

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

Get insurance to cover costs

There are insurance policies with payouts that can be used towards the cost of a funeral.

Funeral cover is an insurance policy which covers the cost of your chosen funeral services so that your loved ones don’t have to.

Pre-paid funeral plans can be another way of ensuring peace of mind.

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

Dealing with loss is never easy, the added pressure of dealing with funeral costs can make it intolerable.

For more information on funeral planning read our comprehensive 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.