The average price of a funeral in the UK in early 2010 was approximately £2,650, and the cost has tended to increase faster than inflation. According to the dailymail, the average price is now as high as £7,600!!! Nine out of ten people get just one quote. There are understandable reasons for this – most people do not have the stomach for shopping around or haggling over prices at a time of grief; moreover, for some people it might even seem disrespectful to the dead – but in many other aspects of life we would not spend that sort of money without looking around at the market to see what is on offer.
The way that funeral directors quote and itemise their services varies from one to another, so it can be hard to make a direct comparison. Nevertheless it is always worth obtaining more than one quote.
Funeral costs are largely made up of the following:
- Professional services, such as those provided by the funeral director: advice, support, guidance
- Additional services, chapel of rest, embalming, etc.
- Coffin / casket
- Disbursements: these are payments made on your behalf, typically including burial costs, ministers / non-religious celebrants, funeral flowers, the wake, doctors’ fees. Payment of disbursements is usually required upfront by funeral directors.
Most if not all funeral directors offer a ‘basic funeral’. If that interests you, it is worth asking some to provide information about what is included and whether it is available to all or only those on limited means. It should be noted, however, that a funeral can cost considerably less than the ‘basic funeral’ offered by some funeral directors – that is if the family make some of the arrangements.
There is no VAT on funerals, but there is on things like flowers and catering.
Click here for a good article on the fixed price funeral trend.
The Society of Allied and Independent Funerals commissioned a MORI survey which reported in early 2010. In one week in January 2010 MORI contacted 50 independent funeral directors, 50 belonging to Co-operative, and 50 belonging to Dignity, Co-operative and Dignity being the two largest chains in the UK. They asked each funeral director for a quote for the same basic funeral. Broadly, the independent funeral directors were the cheapest and Dignity the most expensive. The average quote from the independent funeral directors was £2,353, from Co-operative £2,675, and from Dignity £2,916.
Financial assistance from the state is available in certain circumstances: Funeral Payment from the Social Fund – if both the person who has died and the next of kin had/have no savings, and were/are in receipt of benefits (including pension credit, income support, housing benefit, council tax benefit, working tax credit (with a disability component), child tax credit).
The Pension Service, the Citizens Advice Bureau, or the funeral director should be able to advise on making an application. The application must be made after the death and within three months from the date of the funeral. The Social Fund will pay the cost of burial or cremation, and up to £700 of other costs for a basic funeral. Visit directgov for more information and the claim form.
- The Veterans Agency may be able to provide financial assistance if the person who died was a war pensioner
- An employer may have a benevolent fund or have made provision for a death in service payment that may be used to contribute towards funeral costs
- Some pension schemes may also pay funeral costs
If there is no money available to pay for a funeral, the council, and sometimes the hospital where the person died, might arrange and pay for a simple funeral. In this situation it is advisable to talk to the relevant council or hospital as soon as possible after the death.
The following organisations may provide useful guidance, information and in some cases financial support, depending on individual circumstances:
- Citizens Advice Bureau
- Pension Service
- Local social security office
- Veterans Agency
- The local council
The financial assets of the person who died are frozen until probate (or in Scotland, confirmation of the estate) is granted. This can make payment for the funeral difficult for the persons making the arrangements.
There are options for making provision for the funeral costs:
- Advance pre-payment with a funeral director; many have this facility for a variety of packages, sometimes also for bespoke plans
- Providing funds to the person organising the funeral in advance
- Funeral cost insurance
Where advance provision is made for funeral costs, ensure that the person most likely to make your funeral arrangements is aware.
If you use the services of a funeral director belonging to the National Association of Funeral Directors, whose members organise around 85% of funerals in the UK, and you are unhappy with the service you receive, then you can use its Funeral Arbitration Scheme to resolve the dispute. It is independently run by a dispute resolution company – IDRS. If you bring the dispute to arbitration, you pay a fee of £50 plus VAT. Aside from that it’s a free service. The funeral director has to take part in the arbitration, and both parties are bound by the arbitrator’s decision.