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Help with Funeral Costs

Information on what financial help is available for your loved one’s funeral

Last updated: 17 July 2019

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What happens if you can’t afford a funeral?

The government has a number of different schemes and grants available to help when you are unable to pay for a funeral. It is true that the person organising the funeral is responsible for covering the costs, but that shouldn’t make you worry.

There are rules in place to make sure you have financial support if you are responsible for arranging a funeral, but are not able to do so financially.

Your loved one’s estate

If your loved one had enough funds in their estate, including bank and building society accounts, their funeral expenses may be claimed from this when it has gone through the legal process of probate.

It’s helpful to be aware of the value of your loved one’s estate, but banks and building societies must be informed when someone dies. They will freeze or close individual accounts until the estate has gone through probate and they receive a Letter of Administration to open up access to the funds.

If they died without leaving written instructions, a bank statement could provide you with information about funeral plans, insurance policies or other assets your loved one may have had.

Some funeral directors will allow payment to be delayed until your loved one’s assets have been unfrozen. In the event that this doesn’t happen, or your loved one’s estate cannot cover the cost of the funeral, other payment options need to be explored.

Who pays for a funeral if there is no money left?

If your loved one died but left no money for a funeral in their will, then it is the responsibility of whoever is organising the funeral to provide for the cost of it.

If you are unable to pay the full amount, most funeral directors will be able to offer you a payment plan.

Insurance or pre-paid funeral plans

Life and funeral cover insurance plans and pre-paid funeral plans are designed to be paid out after the death of your loved one is registered with the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages.

Similar to banks and building societies, the insurer or funeral plan provider that your loved one had accounts with will only release the funds once you have showed them the Death Certificate.

Evidence of these payment schemes should appear in your loved one’s bank or building society account, as they often require monthly instalments. Also details of these accounts are often shared with those closest to the account holder, or referred to in the will.

The Social Fund Funeral Payment

If you’re paying for the funeral and receiving means-tested benefits, the Social Fund could help you. The Social Fund is a welfare scheme set up by the government to give financial support to those needing to make one-off payments.

Funeral Expenses Payments are one of the options available to you under this scheme. Your eligibility is dependent on the benefits you receive, your relationship with your loved one (parent, sibling, spouse, etc.) and the other financial resources available to you, excluding your personal savings. If you receive one of the below benefits, you may be considered:

  • Pension Credits
  • Housing Benefit
  • Child Tax Credits
  • Income Support
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
  • Working Tax Credits

To be eligible, you must also be the partner, the parent or guardian, or a close family member or friend responsible for the payment of your loved one’s funeral.

Any funds still held by your loved one’s estate that could aid in the payment of the funeral will be considered as part of the means-testing process. These funds include funeral plans, insurance policies and your loved one’s bank and building society accounts.

Budgeting Loans

Budgeting Loans are small, interest-free loans that are repaid directly from your benefits. Your eligibility is dependent on whether you or your partner have been receiving one of the below benefits for the past 26 weeks:

  • Pension Credits
  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance

You can apply online for a Budgeting Loan. If you are in Northern Ireland, you must apply via NI Direct.

War Disablement Pension

Another possible source of help with funeral costs, is if your loved one was receiving War Disablement Pension or died as a result of serving in HM Forces. In this scheme, Veterans UK will contribute to the cost of a simple funeral.

To check eligibility criteria, visit Veterans UK or call their dedicated bereavement line on 0800 1693458.

Charitable Funds

Charitable funds, or benevolent society funds, can be really helpful if your loved one died in a way that makes you eligible to apply for one. The funds are usually connected a certain trade, service, profession, or location, and there will be additional criteria that each of them will require for you to receive a funeral grant. Many trade unions will also have emergency funds available to help members and their dependents in case of sudden loss or bereavement.

If you are struggling to find out how to pay for a funeral with no money put aside in your loved ones will, then their respective trade union may be a good place to start.

For some examples of these charities that help with funeral costs, we have compiled a list of 10 charity funds that help the bereaved.

Bereavement Support Payment

The UK government offers the Bereavement Support Payment (BSP), effective from April 6, 2017. From this date, BSP has replaced the old three-tiered system of Bereavement Payment, Bereavement Allowance and Widowed Parent’s Allowance.

BSP is available to those who have lost a spouse or civil partner. It is not available to those who have lost an unmarried or cohabiting partner. When your spouse or civil partner died you must have been under State Pension age.

Surviving spouses or civil partners who are pregnant or have dependent children will receive:

  • A one-off lump sum of £3,500
  • £350 a month for 18 months

Surviving spouses or civil partners who do not have dependent children will receive:

  • A one-off lump sum of £2,500
  • £100 a month for 18 months

Find out more about the Bereavement Support Payment and how to claim it.

Learn more about the costs involved in planning a funeral, go to our cost of a funeral page.

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