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Help with funeral costs

The cost of a funeral varies depending on a number of factors, from where you are in the country, to the decisions you make when arranging the funeral. As well as the cost of the funeral itself, which averaged at £4,417 in 2019*, third party costs such as flowers and food for the wake also need to be taken into consideration.

If you’re struggling to cover the cost of a funeral, there are options for financial help available. The first step is to explore whether the person who has died had any money or funding which might help to cover the cost of the funeral.

Who pays for a funeral?

The funeral is usually paid for by the family or friends of the person who has died. In some cases, people may have invested in a pre-paid funeral plan. These pre-paid plans mean that the funeral costs and arrangements are taken care of in advance, minimising the financial impact on those left behind.

How do I find out if my loved one had a funeral plan?

In some cases, your loved one will have talked to you about their plans, or may have included details as part of their will. However, if you’re unsure whether your loved one has a funeral plan in place, there are a few steps you can take. First and foremost, you’ll usually find paperwork relating to a plan amongst your loved one’s possessions, or details of payments in their bank or building society records which will tell you who the provider is. If not, the Funeral Planning Authority can help to trace plans simply by filling out a form on their website.

Paying for the funeral from the estate

Sometimes, the costs of the funeral can be covered by the estate of the person who died. In simple terms, the estate is the money and assets that they have left behind. It is important to remember that the estate also needs to cover costs such as debts or mortgages, so check with the administrator of the estate before you commit to any funeral costs.

It is also possible that the person who died might have money in their bank account which could cover funeral costs. Some banks will allow you to access these funds to cover the cost of a funeral, or can arrange to pay the Funeral Director directly from the account on your behalf. Again, it is important to check with the administrator or executor of the estate before speaking to the bank.

Using life Insurance or death in service payments to cover funeral costs

If your loved one had life insurance, you might want to consider using part of the lump-sum payment to cover funeral costs. Equally, check whether employers or professional bodies such as trade unions might offer a death-in-service payout when someone dies.

I can’t afford the funeral, what help can I get with funeral costs?

If you’ve explored all of the options and cannot cover the costs of the funeral from the estate or other insurance policy, there are ways to get help:

Government help with funeral costs

Funeral Expenses Payment (England, Wales and NI)

Also known as a Funeral Expenses Payment, the Funeral Payment scheme will help to pay for the cost of a funeral if you fit certain criteria and are on certain benefits.

The money won’t cover the full cost, but will cover travel expenses, death certificates and cremation or burial fees, as well as up to £700 towards other costs such as Funeral Director’s fees, the coffin or casket and flowers. The payment is set to increase in April 2020 to £1,000.

The funeral expenses payment will be paid into your bank account if you’ve already paid for the funeral, or direct to the Funeral Director if you have not yet settled the bill.

You can get help towards the cost of a funeral if you or your partner receive one of the following benefits (England, Wales and NI):

  • Universal Credit
  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Pension Credit
  • Housing Benefit
  • Disability or severe disability element of Working Tax Credit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Support for Mortgage Interest loan

Common reasons for refusal

Applications will usually be refused on the grounds that the applicant has savings or insurance, is not a partner, close friend or relative of the person who died, that they are not in receipt of benefits or that they there is another close relative or partner who is responsible. It is therefore worth taking the time to thoroughly review the eligibility criteria before you apply.

Crowdfunding, donations and eligibility

The payment is means tested. However, the testing criteria no longer include money raised via donations or crowd-funding. Recipients of a Funeral Payment are able to receive contributions from relatives, friends or charities without it being deducted from the payment.

For more information, visit the Funeral Expenses page on the GOV website for England and Wales or the NI Direct website for Northern Ireland.

What does it cover?

The Funeral Expenses Payment can help to pay for:

  • burial/cremation fees, including the cost of the doctor’s certificate
  • travel to the funeral
  • the cost of moving the deceased within the UK, if more than 50 miles
  • death certificates or other documents

It also includes up to £700 for other funeral expenses, such as funeral director’s fees, flowers or the coffin. The cover for these additional expenses is set to rise to £1000 in April 2020.

How much is the funeral expenses payment?

How much you get depends on your circumstances and takes into account funds from insurance policies or the deceased person’s estate. It will not usually cover all of the costs of the funeral. The average payout in 2019 was around £1,400, this is set to increase in April 2020, as the government has raised the allowance for other costs from £700 to £1,000.

How to apply

If you are in England or Wales, you can apply by phone by calling the Bereavement Service helpline, or by downloading and filling in the claim form.

Telephone: 0800 731 0469
Welsh language: 0800 731 0453
Textphone: 0800 731 0464
Welsh language textphone: 0800 731 0456
NGT text relay (if you cannot hear or speak on the phone): 18001 then 0800 731 046

If you are in Northern Ireland, you must apply via NI Direct.

You must apply within 6 months of the funeral, even if you’re waiting for a decision on a qualifying benefit.
You can make a claim before the funeral if you’ve got an invoice or signed contract from the funeral director. It cannot be an estimate.

Funeral Support Payment: Scotland

The Funeral Support payment is available to people in Scotland who need support paying for a funeral and fulfil certain criteria.
You can get a Funeral Support Payment if you live in Scotland and all of the following criteria apply

  1. I live in Scotland.

  2. I haven’t already had help with funeral costs from the government for this funeral.

  3. I (or my partner) are getting at least one qualifying benefit. These are:
    • Income Support (IS)
    • Income Based Jobseekers Allowance (JSA)
    • Income related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
    • Pension Credit (PC)
    • Child Tax Credit (CTC)
    • Disability or severe disability element of Working Tax Credit
    • Universal Credit (UC)
    • Housing Benefit (HB)
  4. I’m applying after the person died, but less than six months after their funeral.

  5. The funeral is for someone who lived in the UK.

  6. I (or my partner) had the nearest relationship to the person who has died.

  7. I (or my partner) are responsible for paying for the funeral (i.e. named on the funeral bill).

  8. The funeral is being held either in the UK, a country in the EU, or Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland.

How much is the Funeral Support Payment in Scotland?

The average total payout is currently around £1,300. This is set to increase from April 2020 (see above).

It is important to note that how much you get depends on your circumstances, including any other money that may be available to cover the costs, such as an insurance policy or the person’s estate. It can be paid either to you or the funeral director who is helping you to plan the funeral.

How do I apply?

Online

Most people take around 25-35 minutes to complete the form at MyGov.scot 

You cannot apply online if you:

  • do not have a permanent address
  • do not have a bank account and have agreed on a way for the Department for Work and Pensions to pay you
  • are applying for someone who cannot manage their own affairs

You'll need to apply by phone or post if any of these apply to you.

Phone

Call Social Security Scotland on 0800 182 2222 to make your application over the phone. An advisor can help you make your application at your own pace.

If you're a British Sign Language user, you can use the contactSCOTLAND app to contact Social Security Scotland by video relay.

The call centre opening times are Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm

Post

You can apply by filling in a paper form. Social Security Scotland has different forms to apply for the funeral of a:

This is because they do not need as much information when you apply for the funeral of a baby, child or young person who was 17 or under.

Other sources of support for paying for a funeral

Children’s funeral fund

If you live in England, Scotland or Wales your local authority will not charge you fees for a standard burial or cremation of a child under the age of 18. The Children’s Funeral Fund does not cover other funeral costs. However, Dignity Funerals understands that a child’s funeral is a particularly distressing event for families and has a long-standing policy of not charging for funerals for people under the age of 18.

We will cover the cost of a funeral service, including caring for your loved one, a basic coffin, hearse and funeral director’s fees. In the case of a cremation, we will cover the cost of the chapel, provision of music, the cremation service and administration. Extras such as non-standard vehicles, the wake, flowers, plaques and orders of ceremony are not included. Contact your local funeral director for more information.

Budgeting loans

A budgeting loan is an interest-free loan which is available to people who have been on Pension Credits, Income Support, Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance or Income-related Employment and Support Allowance for a minimum of 26 weeks. These loans are repaid directly from your benefits and are intended for essentials - the money can be used to cover funeral costs and must be repaid within 104 weeks.

If you are in England and Wales, you can apply online for a Budgeting Loan. If you are in Northern Ireland, you must apply via NI Direct.

Bereavement Support Payment

The Bereavement Support Payment (BSP) is available to people who have lost a spouse or civil partner, as long as they are under state pension age. The payment will be made either as a one-off lump sum, which could be used to cover funeral costs, or as a smaller, monthly payment for a period of 18 months. The amount varies according to whether the surviving partner has dependent children or not.

Find out more about the Bereavement Support Payment on the GOV website.

Public Health Funeral

If there isn’t enough money in the estate to pay for the funeral, friends and family are unable to arrange to cover costs and you are not eligible for other support, then the council can arrange a Public Health funeral. Sometimes referred to as a Pauper’s Funeral, they are usually a short, simple cremation service which does not include flowers, viewings, obituaries or transport for family members. People can attend a public health funeral, but the time, date and funeral director will be selected by the local authority and any extras paid for separately.

Other sources of help to cover funeral costs 

War Pension: If your loved one was receiving War Disablement Pension or died as a result of serving in HM Forces, you may be able to apply to Veterans UK for help covering the cost of a funeral. Visit Veterans UK for more information.

Charities and benevolent societies: There are many charities and benevolent societies which could help to cover the costs of a funeral. These charities are often associated with a specific trade or vocational job, but there are also charities which will help fund funerals for the young, the elderly or people with specific illnesses such as types of cancer.

Quaker Social Action focuses on helping people on low incomes in East London and the UK to seek solutions to the issues affecting their lives. As part of their work, they provide practical help and support with funeral costs

Funeral Link Dundee was set up to support those struggling with the costs of funerals. They are able to offer help, advice and support when planning a funeral.

Friends of the Elderly provides grants to older people living on low incomes, these grants can be used to cover unexpected costs such as those related to organising a funeral.

The Child Funeral Charity offers financial support to families that have lost a child under the age of 16. While many funeral directors do not charge a fee for child funerals, the additional expenses and extras can still add up. React and Children are Butterflies also offer support to those who have lost children.

Leukaemia Care also provides grants to leukaemia sufferers who fulfil their eligibility criteria.

*Costs based on the annual Dignity Funerals funeral costs survey 2019 and SunLife Cost of Dying Report 2019

 

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