Who pays for a funeral if there is no money?
Let’s be honest – it isn’t every day that families or friends suddenly have to face planning, organising and paying for a funeral. If you’ve never lost anyone close, then you could be forgiven for not knowing the associated costs when it comes to paying for a funeral.
One thing that is always a constant when it comes to funerals is the fact that there is usually a bill due, especially if a traditional funeral managed by a local funeral director is opted for. Funeral companies sometimes have high overheads, from coffins and funeral cars all the way to cremation or burial fees. In the UK, the average price for a basic funeral is £4,271* with burials usually costing more than cremations.
Who is legally responsible for funeral costs in the UK?
In the UK, there are no laws that state who legally has to pay for a funeral. However, if you have engaged the services of a Funeral Director and entered into a contract with them, you are legally responsible for paying their fees.
Anyone who pays for a funeral has the legal right to claim that money back from the estate of the person who died. The executor (if there was a Will) or the family (if there was no Will) will normally accept responsibility for arranging the funeral. In which case they can pay for it using funds from the bank account of the person who has died (most banks will release up to £5,000 for funeral costs if they are presented with an invoice) or they can take the money from the estate later on, after assets and property are sold. Funeral costs are usually the executor’s first priority, after secured debts such as a mortgage.
But what happens if there is no money in the estate to cover funeral costs?
If there simply aren’t enough funds in place to pay for a funeral, then families have several options to ensure that their loved one can have still be honoured with a dignified funeral, as well as an option that allows for a ‘no frills’ burial that still offers plenty of respect and dignity. Here are some of the options for when there simply is no money for a funeral, as well as some ideas to spread or save on funeral costs.
Check for funeral plans and insurance
One way of avoiding a large one-off payment when the time does come is to invest in a funeral plan or funeral insurance policy when you are still alive. It may be the case that your loved one set up a funeral plan, but you may not have known anything about it.
In the first instance, check to see if there is any record of a funeral plan or insurance policy, or if you have access to their personal documents or email account, check here for any mention of a funeral plan. Even if you can’t find any in-depth details but maybe the odd letter or email, you can always call the particular provider to see if they have anything on record. If you manage to find a plan or policy, then this could cover some or all funeral costs.
If you’re curious about funeral plans or want to set something up for the future that will help your family when the time comes, then don’t forget to check out our range of prepaid funeral plans.
Ask for help
Asking others for money can be tough, but friends, family members or other associates may be willing to help with funeral costs. If people who knew the person are made aware that there isn’t enough money to pay for a funeral, then they may be willing to contribute even a small amount towards the costs, which could either add up to cover the whole thing or at least help to make the final bill more manageable.
Apply for a Funeral Expenses Payment
Funeral Payment is a government scheme aimed at helping low-income people to pay for funeral costs. If you claim any sort of income support, housing benefits, jobseeker’s allowance or other benefits then you may be eligible to receive Funeral Payment support. Be aware that Funeral Payment may only cover around a third of funeral costs, plus you may need to pay the amount back if the person’s estate is found to have enough value to cover the amount paid out at a later date.
Learn more about funeral payments for people on a low income.
A Public Health or 'pauper's funeral'
Every year, thousands of people across the UK die without any next of kin to organise the funeral or only distant relatives who cannot or do not want to pay for the funeral costs. In this case, the local authority will organise a Public Health Funeral, commonly known as a pauper’s funeral. These funerals are usually ‘no frills’, with cremation usually chosen early in the day and no flowers, procession or death notices. Pauper’s funerals do include a funeral service at the crematorium or graveside, so they are still dignified and the person will not be interred or cremated alone.
Trying to arrange a Public Health Funeral for a loved one can be a tough ask. Councils try to avoid having to arrange funerals this way and won’t step in if a funeral has already been arranged or planned. They’ll also ask any next of kin to look for other ways to pay, with a pauper’s funeral the last resort if there is no money for a funeral, so this option should generally be discounted unless you can prove that there is no way that even the most basic of funerals can be afforded.
Take steps to reduce funeral costs
One important thing to remember when it comes to arranging a funeral is that it doesn’t have to cost the earth in order to be a good send off. Traditional funeral providers may be keen to upsell their services and it’s important to remember that they are a business as well as your guidance through a tough time, so you may be met with an array of add-ons and extras that may seem like good value, but soon add up.
Many people do not realise that you don’t actually need to have a funeral – you can look into much cheaper alternatives such as direct cremation that involve only the necessary elements of a cremation, including transport and associated cremation costs.
If you feel that the quotes you have been given look pricey or you don’t feel the person you have lost would be happy with their loved ones having to pay so much, then our flexible funeral packages offer plenty of options for all budgets.
Contact us for more information on low cost funeral options, starting from £995.
*Source: SunLife Cost of Dying Report 2018