Arranging a funeral

Suffering a bereavement is a difficult enough time without the stress of arranging a funeral. It can be an expensive business, though, so it pays to do your research and contact a few different funeral directors before making a decision. Don’t worry – this doesn’t show a lack of respect for you deceased loved one. Of course, you want the best you can get for them, but this shouldn’t have to cost the earth. Here’s a guide that will take some of the stress out of arranging and paying for a funeral.

After you’ve registered the death you’ll receive a death certificate and a certificate authorising a funeral. You’ll need this for the funeral to go ahead.

Decide what you want

The first step is to decide what type of funeral you want. Find out whether your loved one made any arrangements or requests for their funeral before their death. Check their will if they made one, as they may have made special funeral requests in it. They may also have set up a funeral plan, in which they agree arrangements with a funeral director and make pre-payments towards the cost.

If nothing has been arranged in advance, decide for yourself how you would like the funeral to take place. It needn’t be formal, and neither does it have to be religious. You can choose anywhere you want for the service, not just a place of worship. You’ll also have to decide whether your loved one will be buried or cremated.

Get quotes

Make up a specific list of what you want for the funeral before you visit any funeral directors. This will help you to establish the full costs and compare like-for-like between quotes. Many funeral directors don’t declare every expense in their quotes and it can be difficult to get the full price before the funeral takes place, so taking a specific list of requirements will help to ensure you get an accurate quote. Prices can vary enormously from one director to another, so speak to a few.

If the funeral director is a member of the National Association of Funeral Directors, they will be obliged to provide what’s called a ‘basic funeral’ if asked to do so. This should allow for a reasonable funeral for your loved one. Watch out when you’re getting quotes though – the particulars of a basic funeral can differ between funeral directors.

Your list should include the following basic requirements: a funeral director, a coffin, a hearse, family cars, looking after the body, flowers, doctor’s fees for statutory certificates, the cremation or burial fee, a minister or someone to conduct the service, a gravedigger (burial), a plot (burial), a headstone (burial) and a casket/urn (cremation).

There may be several different fees that the funeral director will have to pay to third parties for the arrangement of the funeral – doctors, churches, crematoriums. These are known as disbursements. Check whether these are included in the price.

Don’t be afraid of scrutinising and questioning the costs with the funeral director. You’re entitled to know what you’re paying for and what is included in the price – and you want to make sure you get it right for your loved one.

Burial

Your loved one is entitled to be buried in the parish in which they lived or died, providing there’s a churchyard and enough space. They can also be buried in a different parish, but permission will be required from the local minister and the fee may be more expensive.

You’ll have to pay a fee for a plot and for a gravedigger, or if you have an existing family plot, there will be a fee for opening it up. Check with the church whether your loved one has already paid for a plot in the graveyard.

There are no stipulations as to what the coffin is made of or what you place in it with your loved one. Many environmentally conscious people are now requesting coffins made of cardboard rather than wood. You’re also free to put anything you want in the coffin, such as cherished items that they owned or photographs. You can also have them dressed in their own clothes.

Cremation

Extra authorisation is required before a cremation can take place. The cause of death must be confirmed. If the case has been referred to a coroner, they will issue authorisation without charge If the person died in hospital, only the doctor who last attended them needs to certify. Otherwise, two doctors will be required to see the body and sign an authorisation form, one of whom must be the doctor who last attended the person alive. A fee will be charged by both doctors for doing this. The next of kin must also complete an authorisation form.
Your funeral director will help to organise this.

You may choose to have both the service and the committal in the crematorium – most have a chapel. You can have the service anywhere though, and jus the committal at the crematorium.

Check whether the crematorium fee covers scattering of the ashes in the memorial garden. You may also want to pay for a plaque in memory of your loved one.

DIY funeral

You could opt to arrange and manage the funeral yourself, although it may turn out to be very hard work at such a stressful time. You’ll need to sort out the appropriate statutory forms yourself, buy a coffin and other materials, arrange the service and committal, and hire or find cars and a hearse or suitable vehicle for the coffin.

Paying for the funeral

Banks generally allow funds to be released from the account of the deceased to pay for funeral expenses, so check their account balance to establish whether there’s enough to cover it.

If there aren’t sufficient funds and you have no means of paying for it yourself, you could be eligible for support from the government’s Social Fund. To qualify you or your partner must be receiving means-tested benefits already, such as jobseeker’s allowance, income support, tax credits or council tax or housing benefit. (Your deceased loved one doesn’t have to have been claiming benefits though.)

You’ll also have to be deemed to be responsible for arranging the funeral in order to claim, and the dept will also take into consideration whether there are any other close relatives who can afford to pay.

If you do receive a grant, some or all of it may have to be repaid from the estate of the deceased when these funds are released.

There are other benefits available to people who have suffered bereavement. You may be entitled to a bereavement allowance for up to a year if you have been widowed or your civil partner has died. To qualify you must be under the state pension age, you must not be bringing up children and your partner must have paid National Insurance Contributions (NICs). Find out from your local Jobcentre Plus what you’re entitled to claim.