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5 things I wish I had known when organising a funeral

Posted on 8 December 2014

Helpful tips for organising a funeral

When my partner passed away in 2011 I decided to arrange the majority of the funeral myself. Making decisions during what was one of the most confusing times of my life was very difficult, but I wouldn’t regret it for the world. To me my husband’s funeral was my last opportunity to say goodbye, so I wanted it to be perfect. On the back of everything I learnt, I decided to set up my own website funeralcostshelp.co.uk to help others.

Everything went smoothly at my partner’s funeral but in hindsight there are a few things that I would’ve done differently, mainly because at the time I was unaware of the rules and regulations.

1. There can be leeway with headstone design

As a devout member of the Church of England, I was led to believe that my partner’s headstone options were limited. After placing the order and choosing the memorial passage, however, I discovered that I could have applied for special permission to have a more unique headstone design. While I’m not disappointed with the shape and finish, it would’ve been nice to have a few more options. While approval must be granted from the parish, I would’ve happily sacrificed the prominent position of the burial plot for a stone that was more to my husband’s tastes.

2. Low income benefits are available

Before I started dipping into my own personal savings I used whatever I could to cover the costs from my husband’s funeral insurance plan. As a pensioner, I don’t have or make a lot of money, so I was disappointed to recently discover that I could’ve got financial aid from The Social Fund. While the full fee of £700 was definitely out-of-reach, I’m almost certain I would’ve qualified for the £120 expense cover had I applied at the right time. Although it may not seem like a great deal to most people, at the time it would’ve really helped.

3. Non-disbursement costs really add up

Generally speaking the disbursement fees are the essential costs, such as the burial fees, cremation fees and doctor fees. These costs equated to around £1,000 when arranging my husband’s funeral. I knew there were plenty of other costs to consider as well, such as the coffin and flowers, but I wish I knew that the optional fees would be just as expensive. For example, the post-funeral service – reception and catering – alone cost almost £500. Looking back it would’ve been more appropriate to host the reception at home and ask visitors to bring some food for the table.

4. I could’ve arranged more myself

Hiring a funeral director is great and I couldn’t recommend it enough; however, there were many aspects of the funeral that I could’ve just as easily arranged myself. Funeral directors are invaluable for the legal and admin side, but they certainly aren’t a necessity for the more personal aspects.

5. Will requests are completely optional

My partner hadn’t updated his will for many years; therefore, some of his written wishes for the funeral had changed. While we discussed these things in person on occasion, he never updated the document. Out of pure worry I made a few smaller arrangements – such as the reception venue and choice of flowers – based on his will, knowing full well that he would’ve preferred something different. While the changes didn’t spoil the ceremony, it would’ve been nice to give him the send-off he would have genuinely wanted.

Take my regrets on board and hopefully when you’re making funeral arrangements you’ll be a little more aware about how much control you have.

This was a guest post written by Jan Andrews founder of FuneralCostsHelp.co.uk, a website dedicated to help people understand the process and costs involved when planning a funeral.

SunLife offers a range of straightforward and affordable products including over 50s life insurance, funeral plans, equity release, pet insurance, home insurance, car insurance, ISAs and Will writing services.

Here's the information that you need to know about who we are and the other companies that we work with in order to provide our products and services.

Who are SunLife?

Phoenix Life Limited trades as SunLife and is the provider of the Guaranteed Over 50 Plan, SunLife Insurance and the life insurance policy payment option for Funeral Plans. Phoenix Life Limited’s registered office is at 1 Wythall Green Way, Wythall, Birmingham, B47 6WG (registered in England, no. 1016269). Dignity Funerals is not authorised or regulated for this activity by either the Financial Conduct Authority or the Prudential Regulation Authority. Dignity Funerals Ltd is a member of the National Association of Funeral Directors.

SunLife Limited distributes financial products and services and is a company limited by shares, registered office: 1 Wythall Green Way, Wythall, Birmingham, B47 6WG (registered in England, no. 05460862). SunLife Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and is entered on the Financial Services Register (registration no. 769427).

You can contact us by post at SunLife, PO Box 1395, Peterborough, PE2 2TR or by phone on 0800 008 6060.

If you choose to add Funeral Benefit Option to your Guaranteed Over 50 Plan the funeral services are arranged and provided by Dignity Funerals Limited. Dignity Funerals Limited is a company registered in England and Wales No. 00041598. VAT registered No. 486 6081 14. 4 King Edwards Court, King Edwards Square, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, B73 6AP. Telephone No. 0121 354 1557. Fax No. 0121 355 808. Part of Dignity plc. A British Company. Dignity is not authorised or regulated for this activity by the Financial Conduct Authority or the Prudential Regulation Authority but is a member of the National Association of Funeral Directors.

Who provides the Funeral Plans?

Dignity Funerals Ltd arranges and provides the funeral services. Dignity Funerals is not authorised or regulated for this activity by either the Financial Conduct Authority or the Prudential Regulation Authority. Dignity Funerals Ltd is a member of the National Association of Funeral Directors.

The life insurance policy that pays for your funeral will be provided by Phoenix Life Limited, trading as SunLife.

Who provides My Smarter (ISA)?

My Smarter (ISA) is provided by Scottish Friendly Asset Managers Limited. Authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Details can be found on the Financial Services register, registration No. 188832. Member of The Investment Association. Registered Office: Scottish Friendly House, 16 Blythswood Square, Glasgow G2 4HJ.

Who provides the Will writing services?

Hugh James is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA Number:303202).

The information contained on this website is based on Hugh James' understanding of the law of intestacy in England and Wales only as at April 2014. The law in Scotland and Northern Ireland is significantly different. This is for information purposes and is not intended to be legal advice.

Who provides Family Life Insurance?

SunLife Family Life Insurance is provided by Scottish Friendly Assurance Society Limited which is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Details can be found on the Financial Services register (registration number 110002). Registered Office: Scottish Friendly House, 16 Blythswood Square, Glasgow G2 4HJ. 

Who provides SunLife Pet Insurance

SunLife Pet Insurance is arranged and administered by BDML Connect Limited. BDML Connect Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (No. 309140). Registered in England and Wales Number 02785540. Registered Office: 45 Westerham Road, Bessels Green, Sevenoaks, Kent, TN13 2QB.

Who provides SunLife Home Insurance

SunLife Home Insurance is arranged and administered by BISL Limited and underwritten by a panel of insurers. BISL Limited are an intermediary authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered in England no. 03231094. Registered office Pegasus House, Bakewell Road, Orton Southgate, Peterborough PE2 6YS.

Who provides SunLife Car Insurance

SunLife Car Insurance is arranged and administered by BISL Limited and underwritten by a panel of insurers. BISL Limited are an intermediary authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered in England no. 03231094. Registered office Pegasus House, Bakewell Road, Orton Southgate, Peterborough PE2 6YS.