Arranging a funeral

Arranging a funeral is often one of the first things that family or friends will think about. For many it is difficult to know who to contact or where to begin organising a burial, cremation and/or memorial.

The guidance below sets out some of the key things to consider and some helpful organisations that can assist you.

Legal requirements

There are very few legal requirements when it comes to funerals. The only requirements are that the death is certified and registered, and that the body is properly disposed of (you have a choice between cremation and burial). Apart from that you can do whatever feels right for you.

Don’t rush

When planning a funeral, it can feel like there is a lot of pressure on you and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. You might feel an expectation that the funeral should take place as soon as possible. Try not to let yourself be rushed by others. There is no a strict timeframe that you need to stick to. Take your time to work out how you want to say goodbye.

You don’t need to use a funeral director

There is nothing stopping you managing the funeral arrangements yourself. There is no legal requirement to use the services of a funeral director . Some people find this process very helpful as part of the grieving process and it can often be a cheaper option.

Further information about planning a funeral without the assistance of a funeral director is available from The Natural Death Centre or from your local council cemetery or crematorium.  Alternatively, you may with to use a funeral director for only limited aspects of the process, retaining some areas for you/the family to deal with yourselves.

The benefits of a good funeral director

If you choose to use one, a good funeral director can make planning a funeral easier. Some will offer bespoke services which allow you to manage some elements of the funeral. Alternatively, you might decide that you want the funeral director to plan and coordinate the entire funeral.

Picking a good funeral director

There are two UK Funeral Trade Associations – NAFD and the SAIF.

Funeral directors who belong to these associations have to follow a Code of Practice which means that they are held to a higher standard. You can also access reviews of funeral directors online that might help inform your decision. Speaking to family and friends is also a useful way of ensuring that you get a funeral director who comes recommended.

Don’t be afraid to shop around

A good funeral director will be happy to provide an estimate of costs. Don’t be afraid to ask about the different charges if there is anything you don’t understand. Obtaining estimates from a number of providers will enable you to ensure that you are provided with value as well as quality. There are lots of helpful resources online that will help make the process easier.

Understanding your contract

If your funeral director provides you with a cost estimate to sign, read through it carefully as it will form part of the contract. Once you’ve signed the contract you will be responsible for paying the funeral director’s fees. Importantly, if you signed the agreement in your own home, you have seven days in which to cancel it.

Cremation or burial?

If your loved one expressed a preference between burial and cremation you might find the choice straightforward. If they did not, you may have to decide yourself. You may wish to consider factors such as whether you wish to have the ashes to keep or to scatter in a special place, or whether you want a burial place to visit, or there may be more practical considerations such as cost and logistics. Cremations and natural burials tend to be more affordable than a traditional burial.

You may also wish to consider a direct cremation or burial. Direct funerals mean that the deceased is buried or cremated without mourners being in attendance. This is less costly than a formal funeral service and people often choose to hold a celebration at a later date.

In addition to traditional funerals or cremations, there are a number of other ways families can choose to use their loved ones’ ashes to celebrate or memorialise them. These include using the ashes to grow a memorial tree, using them in fireworks, to make jewellery or items such as bird baths. If you wish to scatter your loved ones’ ashes there are a few rules to follow, including that if you scatter them on land then you are likely to need permission from the landowner.

Paying for the funeral

There are a number of different sources of funding for funeral expenses:

  • Prepaid Funeral Plan – your loved one may have taken out a prepaid funeral plan in their lifetime which may cover some, or all, of the funeral costs. If you believe the person had a funeral plan but you cannot find the documentation, you can use the Funeral Planning Authority’s ‘trace a plan’ tool to try and locate it.
  • The deceased’s estate – a bank will often release money if you provide a copy of the death certificate and the funeral bill.
  • Insurance policies – check whether the deceased or their family have an insurance policy that will cover the funeral expenses.
  • Pension – a pension fund may be available to cover some of the costs
  • Children’s Funeral Fund – if a child under 18 has died, the government has a special fund to provide financial support to all parents to pay for burial or cremation expenses, no matter a family’s income. The fund can be accessed by your funeral director, or directly by a family online.

Ensure you keep all receipts for arranging a funeral as these may be required when completing a probate application and/or if there is any related claim for compensation.

Help with funeral expenses

If you’re struggling to pay for the funeral there are organisations that might be able to help:

  • Funeral Expenses Payment from the Department of Work and Pension – you may be eligible to apply for government funding to cover some of the cost of a funeral if you or your partner is in receipt of qualifying benefits, such as Universal Credit, Housing Benefit, Child Tax Credit or Pension Guarantee Credit. You can apply for the Funeral Expenses Payment within 6 months of the funeral, or prior to the funeral if you have an invoice (not quote) from a funeral director. You can claim for the payment by telephoning the government’s Bereavement Service Helpline on 0200 731 0469
  • Trade Unions or other work-associations may provide a grant or financial assistance for a member who has died whilst employed and a member of the union. You can contact the union or association for more information on any benefit they may provide.
  • Charities – Turn2us offer a grant finder tool which will help you find charities that might be able to offer financial help.
  • You may also be eligible for additional benefits on the death of a loved one which could be used to pay for the funeral, more detail is available here.

Finally, discuss the issue with your funeral director. They might be able to agree a repayment plan that you can afford which would help reduce the financial pressure on you. You may also find our bereavement resources and links to external organisations helpful