You need to know: If you sign what is often called ‘the arrangement form’ provided by a funeral director or it may state that it is an estimate of the costs, you are usually signing a legal contract which means you have agreed to take on responsibility for paying for the funeral. If you are not able to pay the funeral director may approach a debt collector to obtain the money from you.

If you know that there is not enough money to pay for a funeral, you should think very carefully before giving instructions to a funeral director. This may be difficult if the person died at home so you have had to use the funeral director to look after their body.

ADVICE: Be honest with the funeral director if you have concerns about being able to pay for the funeral. This is something they are very used to and they would much prefer to support you while you find out what may be possible than be faced with a bad debt after the funeral.

Most funeral directors ask for a deposit for the funeral so they are going to find out if you are struggling. The deposit is usually to pay other organisations that have to be paid by them on your behalf BEFORE the funeral takes place, such as the cemetery or the crematorium.

Many funeral directors will be able to offer you payment by instalments for the balance left after the deposit has been paid.

Also look at the Information Pathway ‘What do I need to know about funerals and funeral directors?’

You have different choices available depending on the reason that it is difficult to find the money to pay for the funeral so choose which of these descriptions best fits your circumstances. You may find that this is a combination of two or more:

Please click on the question below you are interested in to find the support you need.
The person who died has enough money in the estate but there is not enough cash – the money is all in the property
The person who died has money but we can’t access it because we have been told we need probate
The person who died had no money and we don’t qualify for any benefits but we have to use every penny we earn just on ordinary costs of living – there is no money left at the end of the month
The person who died had no money and I am on benefits as well
I don’t know anything about the person who died. I am technically the next of kin but we were estranged or had had no contact for very many years. I don’t want to be involved at all or to be responsible for arranging a funeral
Can I get help from a charity?
Am I entitled to bereavement benefits?

 
 

The person who died has enough money in the estate but there is not enough cash – the money is all in the property

You will have to pay for the funeral yourselves if you are able to do so. You will then be able to reclaim the money if and when you sell the property.

If the property is not being sold because it is passing to a surviving husband, wife or civil partner who co-owns the property, you would not normally be expected to sell the property just to be able to pay for the funeral. Check whether any of the other sections listed here also apply to your situation. If there are any other debts owed by the deceased person please also read that section of this Information pathway.
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The person who died has money but we can’t access it because we have been told we need probate

You need to pay for the funeral in the short-term but will be repaid from the money left by the deceased person when probate has been granted and the money has been released to whoever is dealing with the estate. If you are using a solicitor or probate specialist company to do probate for you, you can pass the bill for the funeral to them and they will deal with it.

If you are getting certain benefits you may be able to claim a Funeral Payment to help immediately but this then has to be paid back once the money in the estate has been released. Click here for more information.

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The person who died had no money but we are on good salaries and have savings

In this situation you will not be able to obtain any financial help towards the cost of the funeral and you will have to pay for it yourselves.

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The person who died had no money and we don’t qualify for any benefits but we have to use every penny we earn just on ordinary costs of living – there is no money left at the end of the month

This is a tough situation and you will have to decide how you want to go forward. If you have a reasonable credit rating you may be able to obtain a loan to cover the cost of the deposit and negotiate with the funeral director to pay the remaining cost of the funeral.

However if you don’t have a good credit rating or are unable to take on (more) debt you may have to consider a public health funeral described under 6 below. You should be able to attend the ceremony but will probably not have any control over the style of coffin or when and where the funeral takes place.

Many people find themselves in this position so you do not need to feel embarrassed about asking form this type of help.

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The person who died had no money and I am on benefits as well

Not all benefits entitle you to claim for government help towards the funeral. You have to be getting an income-based benefit, often called a means tested benefit to be able to make a claim to the Department for Work and Pensions Social Fund for a Funeral Payment.

You need to do this using Form SF200. The registrar may be able to give you one, or the funeral director and they should be able give you one at your local Jobcentre Plus. You can also download the form here but you cannot apply online because you need to provide additional documents which are explained in the notes that come with the form. Please read the notes carefully to check whether you can apply. About half of all applications are refused because so many people apply without checking the rules first.

Essential Information: To apply for the Funeral Payment you must be the nearest next of kin or to be able to provide a very good reason why that person is not making the application. The DWP will also want to know if there are other relatives of the same standing as you, e.g. brothers and sisters if your parent has died and why they cannot help pay for the funeral.

The Funeral Payment will not pay for the entire cost of the funeral – most people find they still have to find at least £1000 more than the grant and sometimes more.

You cannot apply until you have the final invoice for the funeral, which means you will have to find the money for the deposit yourself. Payment is made directly to the funeral director but it may take a couple of weeks or so before you learn whether your application has been successful and how much the contribution to the funeral will be.

A number of organisations have been campaigning for changes to this process for several years, but so far without any success.

If you feel you cannot risk being turned down by the Social Fund, or you have no way at all of finding the balance even if your application is successful you may need to consider a public health funeral. You can find out more about this under 6 below.

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I don’t know anything about the person who died. I am technically the next of kin but we were estranged or had had no contact for very many years. I don’t want to be involved at all or to be responsible for arranging a funeral

No-one can be made to arrange a funeral for someone else, regardless of whether you are technically related to them or not. If the person who died did have money and they did not make a Will and you are the closest relative it may be worth considering arranging the funeral. You are not obliged to attend and if there is no-one else to attend, there is no obligation to have any kind of ceremony.

However if the person had no money and you are asked by a hospital or coroner’s officer or council official to make the funeral arrangements you can say no. Sometimes people state they feel pressurised to make arrangements but stay firm if it would be too difficult for you to become involved again. You do not have to explain your decision unless you choose to do so.

If someone died in hospital it is usually the hospital who makes the funeral arrangements although they may use the local council service for the practicalities. (In Scotland it is always the local authority that makes the arrangements.) If the person died at home or elsewhere the local authority (unitary authority where there is one, otherwise it is the district council) will arrange the funeral. This will be a simple funeral with an appropriate faith ceremony. If the person who died had friends they are usually welcome to attend. These are called public health funerals regardless of whether they are paid for by a hospital or council. If the person who died has left any money at all the hospital or council can reclaim this money from the estate.

If you need to contact someone to request a public health funeral from a hospital, ask to speak with the bereavement officer. Not all hospitals have someone with this title but you will normally get put through to the person who fulfils this type of role. When someone has died outside of a hospital you need to ask for the council funerals officer. Again, this may not be their precise title, but usually a switchboard will get you through to the correct person if you cannot find it on their website.

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Can I get help from a charity?

Very few charities and benevolent funds are able to give people financial help with the costs of a funeral. If you have already tried for the DWP Social Fund Funeral Payment (if you are eligible) and every other possibility you may be able to obtain support from the British Gas Energy Trust which is administered by Charis Grants but you do need to be able to demonstrate that paying for the funeral has caused you real financial hardship.
A few benevolent funds associated with specific occupations may be able to give some assistance and you could look at the website of Turn2Us which has information about the type of help many charities give. Many organisations specifically exclude funeral costs from what they will give money for.

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Am I entitled to bereavement benefits?

Not everyone is entitled to claim for bereavement benefit – click here to find out more.

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