Funeral Costs: How to avoid the spiralling cost of funerals
A Step By Step Guide to Better Manage Funeral Expenses
The death of a loved one is never easy. Aside from emotional issues, there are also a variety of practical matters which can be complicated and costly. Unfortunately, if the person did not properly plan for their funeral before their passing, the surviving loved ones can be faced with a complicated financial situation.
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"I wish I'd known about how to beat funeral costs sooner..."
When my Uncle Colin passed away in a car accident, everyone in the family was taken by complete surprise. Only 52 years of age, Colin had made no legal preparation regarding his posthumous wishes. During a time of heartbreak and shock, I was also left with a variety of financial and legal obligations on his behalf, including the burial expense.
Certainly my uncle didn’t purposefully want to leave me with no assistance with funeral prices. He simply hadn’t properly prepared for his funeral, and the related funeral plan cost, in any way. Today, about 10 months later, I’ve created this guide to help others avoid the situation I was in.
Below is my complete guide to funeral expenses and the various options available. While this isn’t the most pleasant topic, the cost of funeral services is an issue which affect us all.
This guide is for both those who want to compare funeral plan pricing for either their own funeral arrangements or for those of a loved one. We’ll discuss the average cost-price of a funeral, and the various ways pre pay funerals can result in a cheaper, more affordable funeral plan suitable for any budget.
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When Should You Prepare for Your Funeral?
Nobody wants to dwell on thoughts about their own death or the death of loved ones. But, at the same time, nobody wants their passing to be a financial or logistical burden for those still here.
A fatal, unexpected accident can occur to anyone. For instance, people between the ages of 15 and 19 make up 25% of all road fatalities.
Every adult, even young adults, could consider making some basic preparations regarding their wishes and their finances should they die without warning. This is especially important when family members depend on that person for financial support.
Step 1: Create a “Financial Factsheet”
This is a simple document with a clear overview of the person’s entire financial picture. You’ll want to list all bank accounts, credit cards and other financial accounts. Spouses and adults children often don’t know all the details of every financial account, especially if the finances are mainly controlled by one family member. The Financial Factsheet is a broad overview of your entire financial picture.
Along with your financial information, you also want to list all the various accounts associated with your household. These will be organisations like the power company, water company, milk delivery and even Facebook. You’ll want to list all necessary login information, too.
Obviously, your Financial Factsheet is a pretty valuable document. So you’ll need to store it securely. Instead of online, many people find the most secure option is to write the information on a piece of paper. Then you can store that paper in a home safe, a safe deposit box (with joint access for a spouse) or even at a solicitor’s office.
Step 2: Create A Will Or Have A Will Written Up
You’ll want to also create a will so your property is distributed as you wish. If you have a relatively simple estate, you can probably create a will yourself using online resources. But if your estate is larger or has complications (such as personal debt) you’re probably better off consulting a legal professional. Often this person can help you create a Financial Factsheet, too.
How much do Funerals Cost?
An average funeral service starts around £3,000 and then increases based on the individual’s wishes, needs, location and budget. The Centre for Death & Society did a study on funeral affordability and published their research and findings here. For most people, the price of the funeral must be taken into careful consideration. Assistance with funeral expenses is often available in the form of funeral plans. There are also a few options for low-cost funerals:
Options for Paying for Your Own Funeral
If you die, your assets aren’t immediately made available to your heirs, even if you have a will. So loved ones left behind might have to pay for the cost of funeral services out of their own pocket. There are a few options to prevent this, however, including:
You can always simple set up a savings account to be used for your funeral expenses. The advantage here is that interest will grow over time. Saving for a funeral using a traditional bank account is also very easy to setup and requires very little attention.
Unfortunately, in most cases interest will not keep up with inflation. This means the cost of your funeral could be more than the money in the account, even if the account has been open for decades.
Over-50's Life Insurance
Available only for those over the age of 50, this policy pays a fixed lump sum to the family of the deceased. Most of these products are available for purchase without a medical screening. This makes the policy appealing to anyone who can’t afford or otherwise obtain life insurance due to a pre-existing medical issue, which differs to that of end-of-life insurance.
Like a savings account, this product does not also grow with inflation. There’s a possibility the policyholder could pay more in premiums than the eventual claim. For this reason, over-50 life insurance policies aren’t always the best option, especially those who are generally healthy.
Pay for Your Own Funeral from Your Estate
After your death, certain funeral expenses can still be deducted directly from your back account. Most banks will release the necessary amounts as long as a family member provides a copy of both the death certificate and a bill from a funeral home.
The disadvantage here is banks will typically only release funds for average funeral expenses. In the immediate aftermath of a death, the survivors might need money from the estate for more than just the price of a funeral.
Even if you choose the cheapest funeral plan, help with funeral expenses might be only one reason why your heirs will need immediate access to your funds. They might need help with rent, utilities and similar expenses which you normally helped pay for.
Pre-paid Funeral Expenses
According to the National Funeral Directors Association, pre paid funerals are an increasingly popular option. The idea is simple: You simply pay for the funeral in advance, locking in prices while also choosing exactly what type of funeral you want.
Paying funeral costs in advance will cover most everything related directly to the funeral services. This includes:
Most pre pay funeral plans do not include burial plots or headstones. However, most funeral directors will add those into the plan, although this will increase the price of the funeral.
Some plans offer “guaranteed payments” which means the provider will pay all burial expenses. Other plans offer partial payments for burial expenses, where an additional fee will be required upon death. A partial payment can still help you beat inflation.
A funeral plan is far more likely to cover the price of cremation than burial. The average cost of cremation is a relatively fixed expense, whereas burial plots only grow in scarcity over time. If you’re interested in pre paying for cremation, make sure the policy includes a “guaranteed payment.”
See how much you could save with a funeral plan:
There is no one type of funeral plan, or even one type of cheap funeral plan. Most providers will certainly be happy to add as many options as you’d like to pay for. They’ll also work with you to provide low cost funerals whenever possible. You can even arrange payment plans for funerals.
Can I Pay for My Funeral in Advance? Should I?
Yes, but whether you should or not will depend on your own circumstances, as everyone's will be different...
After my uncle died, we had to plan for his entire funeral in just a few days. To be honest, we weren’t terribly concerned about having a fancy service with a theme or anything particularly elaborate. He was a humble guy who would’ve have been more concerned with the price of the funeral than the colour of the flowers.
But even the simple logistics of organising the funeral was daunting. This, to me, is the huge advantage of paying for your own funeral well before it occurs. Not only is the expense of funeral services generally lower, but your loved ones will be relieved of a possibly unexpected burden.
Mini FAQ - Common Questions About Funeral Expenses
How much do funerals cost?
Funerals can cost anywhere up to £5,000 or more depending on the type of coffin, funeral and burial you choose. For some examples of costs see our funeral plan comparison page. On average it's around £3,000.
To find out how much your funeral might cost you in YOUR area, click over to our Free Funeral Calculator.
How much does a cheap/affordable funeral cost?
Those who want the cheapest funerals usually opt for cremation instead of burial. The most affordable funerals start from around £1,500.
How to reduce expenses and save money on funeral costs?
One of the best ways of keeping costs down is to 'lock in' the price of the funeral at todays' rates. This will ensure, come time for the funeral whether in 5, 10 or so years, you will still pay that rate, and NOT the going rate in 10 years time, which is sure to be much higher. This can be done by getting a funeral plan quote and talking through your options; and working out what works best for your needs.
Another way to reduce costs is by going for a cremation, so you don't have burial costs, and keeping everything nice and simple.
Who should pay for a funeral?
The money advice service has some information on this - but they suggest, if there are debts/no money, it is usually paid by family, friends or the council. The costs are then recovered from the deceased's estate. Otherwise it would rest with the close family to cover. This is why it can be worthwhile to have it paid for in advance, for one the financial side of things would be taken care of (no pressure on family to pay), for two, the funeral would be organised in advance so every detail would be already in place (less stress on family to sort).
How do you pay for a funeral?
For a traditional funeral, you would pay the funeral director fees, which would cover most aspects of the funeral.
Financial help with funeral expenses / How to get help towards funeral costs?
If you need help with funeral expenses, if you are a low income family, on benefits or tax credits and fear you can't afford a funeral or have no money, you can apply via the government website for assistance, but there are strict eligibility criteria to be able to claim.
Alternatively, if you're not on benefits or receiving tax credits, or are a pensioner, but can see potential difficulties when the time comes but you can still get help paying, a pre paid funeral plan could offer the kind of help you need; by paying a set monthly sum each month it will ensure you won't have any financial worries and enable to have the funeral you want.
Can funeral expenses be paid from the estate?
This is indeed possible yes. As long as the estate can cover any remaining mortgage and secured debts, first. If you can't afford to do it this way, for example if there is no money left after paying off debts, then it may not be an option based on affordability. In this case getting a funeral plan quote may relieve some of the pressure, if it suits your circumstances.
How to pay for a funeral without life insurance?
If you don't have life insurance, which many people do not, there is an alternative which would cover the cost of the funeral, directors' fees, burial or cremation, this may be the ideal option for you - enquire here.
Do you have to pay for a funeral upfront / Can you pay for a funeral in instalments?
Upfront costs do not apply in the case of a funeral plan where you pay a set, agreed upon monthly fee, this would enable you to have the funeral you want without paying the full cost upfront, only the deposit.
Why do funerals cost so much?
Usually because of the rising cost of burial plots as well as funerals themselves. Planning a funeral isn't something we do very often, and for that reason alone most don't think of 'shopping around' for a better price, the cost and expense is usually just accepted as is. Cremations usually cost around half of burial costs, which can increase or decrease based on location. London being the most expensive place to be buried. Everything added increases the cost, such as headstone, flowers and a reception. The average cost of a funeral sits around £3,000 in the UK.
How much is a cremation funeral?
Funeral cremation costs vary greatly but the average cost of a cremation is around £650-£700. The cost of having a funeral after the cremation will depend on if you have a reception, flowers, and other miscellaneous items.
How much does a funeral plot cost?
Cemetery plots cost, on average £750 to £950 (75-100 year lease time). Ash plots sit around £450.
How much does the cheapest funeral cost?
For those really on a budget, direct cremation is one way to keep costs low. With this option, there isn’t a funeral as such, but rather the body is collected and taken directly to be cremated and the remains dealt with accordingly. For individuals who do want more of a ceremony, there are affordable funeral plans available that start at around the £1,500-£2,000 mark.
What is the average cost of a funeral?
The average cost of a funeral in the UK is now £3,675, a figure expected to rise dramatically in coming years. Dependent on the so-called “postcode lottery” (e.g. where you live), the average price could be even more! One way to avoid the hike in prices and secure a competitive rate is to do your research and compare pre-paid funeral plans.
How much is a horse and carriage for a funeral?
A traditional touch, horse drawn carriages can make a beautiful and lasting impression in your final hour.These are for those who don’t mind paying a bit more however, as a pair of horses starts around the £1,000 mark, while a team of four can cost upwards of £1,800. It’s worth noting that some providers of horse drawn carriages will have limitations in place regarding how far the horses can travel, which may impact other aspects of your burial plans.
Is there any help with funeral costs for low income families?
Depending on your household income, you may qualify for financial assistance when it comes to funeral costs. There are certain criteria that must be met, and rules are different for overseas deaths. You can find out more about government Funeral Payments here.
What is available in terms of seniors funeral cover?
If you have left it until later in life to put in place funeral plans, there are still some options. If you are aged between 50 and 79, you could be eligible for Over 50s Life Insurance, which could help cover the costs of your funeral.
When it comes to funeral cover for over 80 years, there are some life insurance policies available that may be able to help. However, as many insurers consider individuals over 80 at higher risk to ensure you’ll likely need to contact a specialist insurer to discuss your options. If you are not approved, your loved ones won’t receive anything financially upon your death, meaning you leave them nothing to help cover the cost of your funeral. This is yet another reason why planning your funeral ahead can be so advantageous.