What happens if I can't afford a funeral?
The cost of funerals in the UK is increasing year on year, with the average basic funeral now costing £4,184*. Unfortunately, this means that a lot of families cannot afford the total cost of a funeral for their loved one, and are forced to look for alternative ways to cover costs.
If you simply cannot afford a funeral, the local authorities will step in to arrange the funeral, however as this is considered a last resort, it is worth considering who is responsible for funeral costs and reviewing any financial support which may be available to you.
Who is responsible for paying funeral costs in the UK?
In the UK, there are no laws that state who is legally responsible for paying funeral costs. However, if you have engaged with the services of a Funeral Director and entered a contract with them, you are legally responsible for paying their fees.
The executor of the estate (if there is a Will) or the family (if there was no Will) will usually take responsibility for arranging the funeral. If the option is available, they can:
Pay for the funeral using funds from the bank account of the deceased
Most banks and building societies will release up to £5,000 from the deceased’s account to cover funeral costs when presented with a funeral director’s invoice with your name on it and a copy of the death certificate, even if the bank account was previously frozen following their death.
It is important to always speak to the bank first if you need to access the deceased’s account - otherwise, you could get into legal trouble. It’s not a good idea to access the person’s individual accounts without contacting the bank or building society first, even if you know their debit card PIN or online banking log-in.
Take the money from the deceased's estate, at a later date, after assets and property has been sold
Anyone who pays for a funeral (family, friends or the local authority) has the legal right to claim that money back from the estate of the person who died, at a later date after assets and property are sold. Funeral costs are usually the executor’s highest priority, after secured debts such as a mortgage.
Check for a funeral plan or insurance
Sometimes, the person who’s died has already planned and paid for their funeral, with a prepaid funeral plan.
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 plan 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 interested in learning more about funeral plans or want to set something up for the future that will prevent your family planning a funeral with no money, then check out our range of prepaid funeral plans.
But, who pays for the funeral if there is no money in the estate or a funeral plan is not in place?
If there aren’t sufficient funds in the deceased’s bank accounts or within the estate to pay for the funeral, and they did not have a funeral plan, then the family would normally cover the funeral costs.
If the family does not have the funds to pay for a funeral, there may be help available to ensure that your loved one can still be honoured with a dignified funeral.
How to get help with funeral costs
Here are some ways you may be eligible to get help with funeral costs or suggestions for how you may save on funeral costs.
Ask for help
Asking others for money can be tough, but friends, wider family members or other associates may be willing to help with funeral costs. If people who knew the person are made aware that there is no money 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 total funeral cost or at least help to make the final bill more manageable for those arranging the funeral.
Crowdfunding is another way you could raise money towards funeral costs, by requesting donations from family and friends or the general public. Crowdfunding is now easier than ever, with a number of online tools and websites available such as GoFundMe and JustGiving.
Depending on how the deceased passed away, there are also several charities who may be able to offer financial help with funeral costs, such as the Child Funeral Charity and Friends of the Elderly. We’ve included a list of other charities that help with funeral costs depending on your circumstances in our help with funeral costs guide.
Apply for a Funeral Expenses Payment
A Funeral Expenses Payment (or Funeral Support Payment if you’re in Scotland) is a Government scheme aimed at helping those people on a low-income or receiving certain benefits, to pay for a funeral. If you claim any sort of income support, housing benefits, jobseeker’s allowance or other benefits, then a Funeral Expenses Payment may be able to help with funeral costs. You can check if you are eligible for Funeral Expenses Payment on the gov.uk website.
Be aware that it is unlikely Funeral Expenses Payment will cover all of the costs of a funeral, 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 the Funeral Expenses Payment.
Take steps to reduce funeral costs
There are several ways you can reduce the cost of a funeral.
Suggestions to reduce funeral costs include:
• Considering cremation instead of burial
• Cutting down on optional funeral costs
• Choosing a low cost funeral provider.
At Simplicity Cremations, we specialise in affordable funerals, which provide the practical and essential elements of a funeral, without the obligation to pay for traditional ceremonial elements you may feel are unnecessary. This allows you to reduce funeral costs by up to 76% compared to the average basic funeral*.
Our services are available throughout mainland Great Britain. Unlike many funeral providers, the cost of our services remains the same regardless of where you live. Using our own nationwide mortuary facilities means we won't charge you with additional mileage fees. With the practicalities covered, this allows you the opportunity to arrange a fitting celebration of your loved one's life.
Our funeral packages
If you feel that the quotes you have received from other funeral providers 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 options for all budgets:
Unattended Funeral from £995 - A simple and respectful direct cremation, conducted without any mourners' present and without a service beforehand.
Intimate Funeral from £1,395 - If you’d prefer to attend the crematorium on the day of the funeral, this funeral offers a small group of people (up to 12) a short time in the chapel to reflect and say a few words if they wish.
Family Led Funeral from £1,895 - This funeral suits those families looking for something a little closer to a traditional funeral. You will have the option to arrange a family-led funeral service.
Contact us for more information on low cost funeral options, starting from £995.
What happens if you can't afford a funeral?
If you cannot afford a funeral and financial assistance is not available to you, the local authorities will step in to arrange a Public Health Funeral.
Every year, thousands of people across the UK die without any next of kin available to organise the funeral, or only distant relatives who cannot or do not want to pay the funeral costs. If there’s no family or friends to pay for the funeral, and there’s no estate, the local authority will organise a Public Health Funeral, commonly known as a pauper's funeral.
A Public Health Funeral is typically the last resort; the local council will only take on the responsibility if there are no other options available. For this reason, you will not be able to choose the funeral director who will make the funeral arrangements, although you will be able to attend the funeral, with the date and time of a public health funeral chosen by the local authority.
A Public Health Funeral is a basic funeral (often a simple cremation) which will not include viewings, floral tributes or transport for family members.
It is important that you inform the local authority as soon as possible if you believe a Public Health Funeral may be required. Learn more about a pauper's funeral.
*SunLife (2021), Cost of Dying Report, sunlife.co.uk/costofdying2021