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Apr 17

I Can’t Afford a Funeral: How to Manage Unexpected Funeral Costs

Reading Time: 4 mins

If there’s one thing coronavirus has done, it’s brought our own mortality to mind. Sudden deaths of otherwise-healthy people have left many families with the burden of funeral costs.

So, what do you do if you can’t afford to pay for a loved one’s funeral? And if they don’t have an estate to cover the costs?

Here’s what you need to do if you’re faced with unexpected funeral costs.

How funeral costs work

Almost nobody expects when they’re going to die. Funeral directors are equipped to deal with grieving families who have never had to navigate the funeral process before. They’ll support you through and help you understand the costs and processes involved.

You don’t have to use a director, though. Going direct to crematoriums or churches will save you quite a bit of money – but it can mean a lot of hassle at an already-stressful time.

You can pay in two ways.

  1. Banks will usually release up to £5,000 from the deceased’s estate before probate is granted, to allow for funeral expenses, or
  2. You can pay for the funeral yourself and reclaim the costs from the estate once probate has been given.

If you – or the deceased’s estate – cannot afford the costs, there are some grants that can help. See below for more details.

Some people already have their funeral costs covered in a plan. They’ll have paid into the plan when they were alive, to take the stress out of expenses and planning for you. Check with their solicitor (who has their will, too). Even if they hadn’t fully paid off their plan yet, you could use the amount paid to date to offset the cost.

Sudden funeral costs quickly add up

Typical funeral costs

The average funeral in 2019 cost almost £4,000. This can vary depending on your location and the funeral type.

Cremation, for example, is much less costly than a burial. A direct cremation (without a funeral director) averages £1,700. With a funeral director, that rises to £3,250 – but that’ll include a hearse and help with paperwork as well as support for a basic service. A more elaborate service costs more.

A burial costs on average £4,321 – and that’s not including the average burial fees around £2,000.

If you want funeral flowers, a service, and a wake, these costs add up, too.

Funerals in coronavirus times

Things have changed rapidly in 2020 due to coronavirus. For funerals, it means many crematoriums and churches are no longer holding services.

Those that are still running funeral services have strict rules to follow. It means funerals are much smaller than they may usually be: immediate family are allowed to attend, but that’s about it. People must sit 2m apart and cannot hug or shake hands with each other, to make sure social distancing rules are observed.

It does mean that funeral costs are lower than usual, too. Wakes, for example, aren’t allowed due to social distancing rules.

Help paying for funerals

Grants help cover funeral costs

The coronavirus outbreak means many people have been faced with sudden funeral costs at a time when household incomes are slashed due to redundancy, lowered hours, or being put on 80% pay for furlough.

There are a couple of grants you can apply for to get some financial support for a funeral if you can’t afford to bury or cremate your loved one.

The Bereavement Support Payment

The Bereavement Support Payment is a Government grant to spouses or civil partners. The deceased must have been under State Pension age when they died, and must have paid National Insurance for at least 25 weeks in a tax year, unless they died because of an accident at work.

There are two rates for the payment:

  1. If you had a child living with you when your spouse died, or were pregnant at the time, you can receive £3,500 in a one-off payment and subsequent monthly payments up to £350 for up to 18 months.
  2. If you had no children together, the grant is £2,500 and monthly payments £100.

Funeral Expenses Payment

If you receive certain benefits, like Universal Credit, Child Tax Credit, or Pension Credit, you’re eligible to apply for the Funeral Expenses Payment. You’ll need to be the partner, close relative or friend, or the parent (if the deceased was under 16 at the time of their death) to receive the grant.

This grant covers costs such as burial or cremation fees, transport of the deceased, death certificates, and your travel to arrange or attend the service.

If the person died prior to 8th April 2020, the grant is £700. If they died from the 9th April 2020, the grant is £1,000.

This grant helps with up-front costs. If you subsequently inherit from the person’s estate, the expenses payment amount is deducted from the amount you receive.

Delaying Payments

Service providers and directors understand that you may not have immediate access to the cash required to pay for the funeral.

Many offer a payment plan option, or will invoice you after the service has gone ahead. You can continue to defer payment if you’re paying directly from the deceased’s estate. Your solicitor will need to write a letter confirming the funeral service is listed as a creditor on the estate and the costs will be paid when funds are released.

You may need to put a deposit down before the service, though. You can put this on a credit card if you have to, or take a small loan – but ideally, the Bereavement Support Payment or Funeral Expenses Payment will cover this.

If you’re struggling to meet the deposit, talk to the funeral service operator. This could be the crematorium if you’re having a direct cremation, or your funeral director if you choose to use one.

Need more help?…

If you still have questions about organising and paying for a funeral during the coronavirus situation, put your question on our Messageboards and we will answer them asap!

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