Throughout our site we answer all sorts of questions, this dedicated FAQ page should cover the most commonly asked funeral planning questions, in a simple and concise way, and with links to more detailed answers on this site.
Simply click over a question below to open and see the answer...
Knowing where to start when arranging a funeral can be emotionally difficult and hard to understand. Depending on your geographical area and the wishes of the family, organising a funeral can happen within a short period of time. Firstly you need to register the death.
Depending on your geographical area, organising a funeral can take between In the UK (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) you have five days and in Scotland, you have eight days to register the person’s death. Then it is important to find the person’s will as this will outline the process they wanted for their funeral.
Some people have pre-established funeral plans that will help speed up the process. Once this has been identified, it is then a case of organising a date with the funeral proceedings the passed loved one wanted.
If you are looking to find capital to spend on your funeral, you may look to release equity from your home. With this scheme, you don’t have to move from your home, but can remortgage in order to access some of the cash tied up in your property.
There are two primary types of equity release scheme, home reversion schemes, and lifetime mortgages. With a home reversion scheme, you sell part of your home to a provider in exchange for a lump sum. With a lifetime mortgage, you secure a loan against your property in order to receive a single lump sum or to receive the money in instalments.
Unlike with a traditional mortgage, you don’t have to pay back the loan each month, but interest will accrue until you pass away, at which point the remainder of the loan and all interest is payable. Provided your property is valued over £65,000 and you are aged over 55, you could be eligible to release equity from your property and spend the lump sum on anything you choose, including funeral plans.
However, there are some things to consider when choosing this option. For example, interest rates can be particularly high when choosing a lifetime mortgage, which means you end up paying a great deal more than you otherwise would.
Funerals can cost anywhere up to £5,000 depending on the type of funeral, coffin, burial, that you choose. To have a cheap funeral, one way to do that is to have a cremation, which keeps costs down somewhat. Another is to 'lock in' the price of the funeral at today's rates by getting a funeral plan quote and talking through your options. Further information available from our funeral calculator page, and our prepaid funeral guide.
Many people want to use payouts from life insurance to cover funeral costs, and this can indeed be possible. As a beneficiary, you can choose to spend the payout as you wish, and many people will use the money to pay for a funeral.
However, this will only work under the assumption that you receive the payout in a timely manner. Depending on the circumstances of death and the specific policy you have in place, it may be that you have to wait to receive the money. This can mean you have to find other ways of paying for the funeral in the interim, which can place you under financial duress if you’ve not got money set aside for this.
Funerals can happen fairly quickly after death. Once the death has been registered then it can happen within a couple of days or weeks, it is up to the family to decide on the date in accordance with the organisations in the local area that deal with the type of funeral the deceased wanted.
Prior to the service, the hearse will arrive at the crematorium with the coffin. The coffin is then removed and moved to the chapel and is placed upon the catafalque where it remains during the service. Once the service is over and the mourners have left, the coffin is transferred onto a trolley, the identity is confirmed and logged, and then the cremation begins.
The cremation takes approximately one and a half hours and once completed the remains are placed into a cooling chamber. Once cooled, the remains are transferred into a container that clearly states the identity of the remains and stored until it can be picked up by the family or person acting on their behalf. Finally, the ashes are usually dispersed wherever the deceased wished.
Depending on the type of funeral, it can last anywhere from half an hour to an hour. Afterwards, there is usually a wake with where guests can pay their respects to the family and have something to eat/drink. This usually lasts a couple of hours.
Whether be due to weather, the wishes of the deceased or because there is a national holiday, you can delay a funeral for up to a couple of weeks depending on the funeral of choice. For a more specific timeframe, you should contact your funeral director who will be able to give you a personal quote.
If you are struggling to pay the funeral expenses and are a low-income family, on benefits or tax credits then you can apply for assistance through the government's website, although eligibility for this is strict. In some cases, such as unexpected deaths, communities come together to crowd fund a funeral.
People make donations to help the family of a loved one left behind to cover the cost of a funeral and often provide leftover funds for the family if young children are affected. Another way is to have a pre-paid funeral plan. They are an affordable option for those who want to pre-pay for their funeral expenses well before they’re necessary. By paying a low monthly fee each month, your family won’t have to pay for your funeral themselves, and the funeral will have already been planned by yourself.
If you are on a low income and need help to pay for a funeral that you are arranging then you could be eligible for a Funeral Payment. If you are settling the estate, then you can claim back taxes dependant on the level of inheritance and this could help you cover the funeral expenses. For more info click here.
When it comes to future planning and ensuring your wishes are met and loved ones are cared for following your passing, will writing is incredibly important.
There are will writing companies available as well as service providers that can do this online, or you can go the more traditional route and instruct a solicitor to take care of this for you. There are many benefits to having a professional will written up - for a start, you may not understand the legalities of writing a will, and so entrusting this important document to a professional can give you peace of mind that it’s compliant and legally sound.
When writing your will, you may also want to take the time consider drafting up your funeral plans at the same time. After all, if you’re already planning the inevitable, it makes sense to take care of everything at once. Estate planning is rarely easy, but ensuring it’s all taken care of can put to rest your mind and those of your loved ones.
With a pension annuity , you can essentially purchase “lifetime income” with a lump sum.
Upon your death, the sum will be returned less any money received in income to your chosen beneficiaries. Many people choose to use this money to cover the cost of a funeral, but as tax is payable on this sum, families don’t receive the full amount. Depending on the type of annuity purchased, an inheritance tax charge may also be levied. Of course, while you are alive, you may also choose to use the income you receive to put towards a prepaid funeral plan. This means you don’t have to worry about what’s left over from the lump sum after your death, and you can be completely sure that the costs of your funeral are covered.
If you are worried about who will make decisions on your behalf if you no longer possess the mental capacity to do so, you may wish to put a lasting power of attorney in place. This is a document that enables a chosen party to act on your behalf should you no longer want to make your own decisions, or no longer be able to.
You can put one into place over the short term, which can be helpful if you need to be hospitalised briefly. If you are diagnosed with alzheimer's or dementia for example, you may need to make longer term arrangements to ensure someone is able to make decisions on your behalf once you lost the ability to do so.
Whoever is named in your LPA faces a great deal of responsibility. One thing you can do to make his or her life easier is put in place plans for your funeral. This means that while they may have to make a number of difficult decisions during your life, they are absolved from having to worry about arranging a funeral, as this will already be taken care of.
When a death happens abroad, it needs to be registered according to the law of that country. It should then be reported to the British Consul who will be able to make arrangements for the death to be registered at home in the UK also.
Returning the body to the UK can be costly but most of it can be covered by any travel insurance taken out. Once the body is back in the UK, the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages for the district where the funeral is to happen will be notified and will provide a certificate for the funeral of choice to take place.
If it is to be a cremation, then you will need to notify the Home Office to get permission. Lastly, if the death was not due to natural causes, then the coroner of your district will need to be informed and an inquest will be arranged.
Traditionally in Western culture, guests are asked to wear black or conservative clothing that is respectful. Ultimately, though, it is up to you and what you feel your loved one would have wanted. Wearing colours is becoming more common to bring more of a focus on to celebrating life, but when it comes down to how to dress for a funeral, the decision lies with you if you plan ahead and make your wishes known.
Often before the funeral, the family of the passed loved one will advise whether people should wear traditional black or colours. Either way, you should dress respectfully and comfortably. Remember that Churches can often be cold, and if you are standing outside for a graveside service, you should aim to dress warmly.
Unsure of how to dress for a funeral? Ultimately you should ensure that you look respectful. Black is the most common dress code in Western culture, however, you may be asked to wear colours by the family as they wish to put an emphasis on celebrating the life of the loved one.
Wearing black as a colour for mourning dates back to the Roman Empire. The family of the deceased would wear a dark-coloured toga, known as a toga pulla. During the Renaissance, wearing black for mourning became ingrained in social etiquette. Women were expected to wear black clothing for their deceased husbands for several years after their death. Wearing black is also closely linked with Christianity.
Deciding what to write on funeral flowers can be very difficult. Avoid phrases like, “I know what you are going through.” You may be able to empathise, but every situation is different and it is important to remember that. Instead, focus on a message that shows that they are in your thoughts and that they have your support in this difficult time.
A funeral thank you card only requires a couple of sentences as many will understand that there is a lot to organise after the funeral. People will be sympathetic to that and will be touched that you’ve taken the time to thank them. Our main advice is to be sincere and display gratitude. For example, “We deeply appreciate your kindness at this difficult time…” can often be enough.
Now this can be a difficult one. Of course you want to pay your respects, but it can be hard to see family, friends and loved one overwhelmed on the day. You could also find that you’re worried about saying the wrong thing. The simplest thing to do if you’re worried about what to say at a funeral is to simply express your sympathies, and offer to help in any way you can. Remember, people are likely to be overwhelmed by the day, their own emotions, and the number of people that they are talking to, so don’t take anything too personally!