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Help with funeral costs

Last updated 21st May 2019

1 in 8 families find it difficult to cover the funeral costs of a loved one

How much does a funeral cost?

The average cost of a funeral is now £4,271*, which covers professional guidance from a funeral director, cremation or burial, coffin, hearse, collection and care of the deceased; along with a doctor and minister or celebrant.

Since 2004, the average cost has increased by 122.5%. With funeral prices constantly increasing, it’s hardly surprising that more and more people are finding it harder to pay for their loved one’s funeral and seeking help with funeral costs.

And as the average cost of a funeral doesn’t include any memorial service, flowers, order sheets, catering, or memorial stones, you can see how the costs can quickly spiral.

The cost of dying 2018 report shows that these additional costs alone can rack up to over £2000, which can come as a shock if you’re unprepared.

Use our funeral calculator to see how much the average funeral in your area costs.

Who pays for a funeral?

In some cases, the deceased may have put plans in place to pay for their funeral, such as a prepaid funeral plan, or they may have enough funds in their estate to cover the costs.

If they do have the money in their estate, often the deceased’s loved ones will have to cover the costs first and then recoup the money afterwards.

If the person who’s died doesn’t have the funds in their account, or hasn’t left any provision in place to assist with funeral costs, it will be down to their loved ones to cover the costs.

If you’ve recently lost a loved one and need advice but don’t know where to start, our helpful tool helps you better understand what to do when someone dies.

What happens if you can’t afford a 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 loved ones cannot choose the time or date.

Can you get help with funeral costs?

Even with prior arrangements in place, you could face an average shorfall of £2,559, so it’s hardly surprising that 1 in 8 people find that funeral costs can lead to considerable financial pressure. And that’s the last thing you need when you’re trying to come to terms with losing a loved one.

If you’d like to give your loved one a funeral but are worried about the money, there are ways to help cut the costs of a funeral, and simple things you can do to personalise a funeral while keeping costs down.

But if you’re looking for considerable financial assistance, there are a few options available.

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.

Are there charities that help with funeral costs?

There are lots of different charities that can help in the aftermath of losing a loved one. Many charities, like Cruse Bereavement Care or The Bereavement Trust, can help with the emotional side of loss and grief, but if you’re looking for financial assistance, the below could offer some support.

The British Gas Energy Trust offers grants towards funerals, and other utility providers may have relief schemes which could assist financially.

Depending on how the deceased died, there may be charities who can help. Marie Curie or Leukaemia Care are two examples of organsiations that help with specific circumstances.

Friends of the Elderly can also help to contribute towards funerals for elderly people with no family or little to no savings.

Care Workers Charity contributes towards funeral costs for those who have worked in the care profession.

If the funeral is for a child, charities like React, or Child Funeral Charity, may offer grants to help cover expenses.

Social media can be a great place to garner some assistance, for example Crowdfunding sites can be a way of charity fundraising 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.

Can you get 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 through a Funeral Expenses Payment and/or Bereavement Support Payment. It’s unlikely either of these will cover everything, but they can soften the financial blow.

Funeral Expenses Payments

This one-off means-tested payment is intended to support you in paying for:

  • Burial or cremation, including doctor’s certificate
  • Travel in arranging and attending the funeral
  • Moving the body within the UK (if over 50 miles)
  • Death certificate

It’s also possible to secure a further £700 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

Your application for a Funeral Expenses Payment must be made within six months of the funeral.

Finally, do bear in mind that you will be asked to pay the money back if it is later established the deceased’s Estate could have covered funeral costs.

Bereavement Support Payment

This is a one-off payment of £2,500 or £3,500, followed by 18 monthly payments of £100 or £350, which is available to husbands, wives or partners.

To apply you must be under the state pension age and your spouse or partner must have paid 25 weeks of National Insurance contributions or died in a work-related accident. A claim must be made within three months.

Other ways to get help

Generally speaking banks will 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.

The more you can plan ahead, the easier it will be

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. And if you’d like further advice on how you can take care of funeral costs so your loved ones don’t have to, speak with our team today.

Source: Cost of Dying report 2018

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). 

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, Dignity Funerals Ltd arranges and provides the funeral services, registered office: 4 King Edwards Court, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, B73 6AP (registered in England and Wales, No. 00041598). Dignity Funerals Ltd is a member of the National Association of Funeral Directors.

Who provides the Funeral Plans?

Dignity Funerals Ltd arranges and provides the funeral services, registered office: 4 King Edwards Court, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, B73 6AP (registered in England and Wales, No. 00041598). 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 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.