How to Get Help With Funeral Costs

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The average cost of a funeral in the UK can run to several thousand pounds according to SunLife’s reports. Add optional items such as catering and flowers, and the price can go through the roof. It is possible to keep costs down, but you might still need help with funeral costs. Funeral cost assistance is available for bereaved families.

In this guide, we’ll look at some of the options available, such as the Bereavement Support Payment and the Funeral Expenses Payment. As well as government help, there are charities, nonprofit organisations, and other sources of financial support for a funeral.

The Funeral Expenses Payment (Funeral Payment)

The Funeral Expenses Payment is a grant that you can apply for from the government. Its purpose is to help people on certain benefits pay for a funeral. 

What is a Funeral Payment?

Funeral Payment (administered by the DWP) is a government scheme designed for people on a low income, who receive certain benefits, to help them pay for a funeral. If you receive a Funeral Payment, you are typically required to pay the government back any money you get from the person’s estate. For example, this could include their savings.

In England and Wales, a full award will be a significant contribution towards the typical cost of a funeral. However, you’ll probably have to find additional funds to pay the total cost, unless you've chosen a very simple service.

You can use a government funeral payment to pay for the following:

  • The death certificate and other documents
  • Cremation fees, plus the cost of the doctor’s certificate
  • Travel costs when you arrange or attend the funeral
  • Any additional costs of moving the deceased body more than 50 miles
  • Burial fees for a particular plot
  • Up to £1,000 to cover any other funeral expenses, for example, the coffin or the funeral director’s fees

How much you get depends on your circumstances and what other money is available to cover the costs, such as the deceased person’s estate, funeral insurance, or prepaid funeral plans.   

What is the Funeral Payment eligibility?

To apply for a Funeral Payment, you must be a close relative, partner, or parent of the person who has died. You also need to receive one or more of the qualifying benefits. These include:

  • Income support
  • Income-based Jobseekers Allowance
  • Employment and Support Allowance
  • Pension, Child Tax, or Universal Credit
  • Housing Benefit
  • The element of Working Tax Credit that relates to those with disabilities

You might also be eligible if you’re getting a Support for Mortgage Interest Loan. It’s possible to claim Funeral Expenses Payment if you’ve applied for one of these benefits and are waiting to hear about your claim.

How long does the Funeral Payment take?

While the DWP Bereavement team work as quickly as they can, it could take a number of weeks to process your claim and to make an award.

You can apply over the phone by calling the Bereavement Service helpline. You can also download a claim form (SF200). Send the completed funeral payment claim form to the address provided.

You must make your application within six months of the funeral. You can claim before the funeral if you have a signed contract or a final invoice from the funeral director. 

If you receive Universal Credit, you won’t get a decision on your claim until after your next payment. 

The Bereavement Support Payment (BSP)

The government introduced Bereavement Support Payment (BSP) to replace the Bereavement Allowance, Widowed Parent’s Allowance, and the Bereavement Payment. The government pays it to people who have lost their husband, wife, or partner.  

What is a Bereavement Support Payment?

Bereavement Support Payment is a payment designed to help widowed partners adjust to a change in their household income. The benefit is payable in one of two ways, depending on whether you are responsible for any children. Payments are made at either a higher rate or standard rate. 

The higher rate is paid to pregnant women or if you’re entitled to Child Benefit. The payments include a monthly sum of £350, which continues for 18 months following a partner’s death. You would also receive a one-off payment of £2,500 during the first month. 

The standard rate is paid to everyone else and includes a monthly payment of £100 for 18 months, together with a one-off payment of £2,500 during the first month. 

You can only receive BSP for 18 months after your partner or spouse’s death, so you should claim as soon as possible to avoid losing money. 

Are you eligible for a BSP?

You must be below State Pension Age if you want to claim Bereavement Support Payment. Your spouse or civil partner must have paid their National Insurance Contributions for a minimum of 25 weeks during their working life, for you to qualify. However, if your partner or spouse died due to an industrial injury, their National Insurance Contributions might not be a requirement.   

Is Bereavement Support Payment taxable?

BSP is a welfare benefit. The payments are not taxable. Neither are they regarded in the benefit cap when entitlement calculations are made for means-tested benefits. However, after one year, the income you get from DWP bereavement payment will be taken into account.   

The Budgeting Loan

There is one other way the government can help with funeral expenses. 

What is a Budgeting Loan?

A Budgeting Loan is extra money, on top of other benefits, that you can use to help pay for specific essentials. Funeral costs are considered one of those essentials. 

Can you apply for a Budgeting Loan?

You may be eligible for a Budgeting Loan if you’ve been on certain benefits for six months. You do have to pay back the amount of your loan. However, the loan is interest-free. Repayments are deducted directly from your benefits. 

Covering funeral costs from the deceased’s estate

Funeral expenses can generally be paid for from the deceased person’s estate, however the probate process can take as long as 12 months and it is unreasonable to expect a funeral provider to wait until money is released from the estate. 

It is quite common for people to make an allowance for funeral costs in their estate so that their family can use it later on.   

Access funds from a savings account

Your loved one may have left money in a savings account to pay for their funeral. To access these funds simply present the bank with the death certificate and the funeral provider’s invoice or receipt at the same time as informing them of the death.

This will reduce the risk of financial strain for you - once a bank freezes an account it can take weeks to release funds, even when an executor requests the payment of a funeral invoice.

If you have paid the funeral invoice yourself and need to reclaim this money from the executor or administrator then you'll have to provide proof of this payment such as a receipt in your name. You may have to offer proof of your identity.  

Use the occupational pension for some funeral expenses

Some employers provide occupational pension schemes that pay a lump sum to help with funeral costs. You can check with the deceased's employer (or former employer) whether they have a death in service or similar benefit within their occupational pension scheme.  

Who pays for the funeral if you have no money?

Suppose there isn’t enough money in the estate to pay for the funeral, or there are no relatives or friends to arrange the funeral. In that case, the arrangements become the responsibility of the local council or hospital and they arrange a Public Health Funeral, which is usually a cremation.

The service is typically a short one, and there will be no extras such as flowers, cars, or notices in the local newspaper. You can attend a Public Health Funeral, but the local authority decides the date and time. Many local authorities won’t release the ashes to you afterwards, but that is gradually changing.

Charities that help with funeral costs

Several charitable organisations offer financial and other kinds of help with funeral expenses. Here are some examples:

  • Cruse Bereavement Care: Offers telephone, email, and website support for all bereaved people.  
  • Veterans UK: It’s possible to claim funeral expenses for a veteran whose death was due to service before 6 April 2005.
  • Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide: Meets the needs and breaks the isolation experienced by those bereaved by suicide. 
  • Child Funeral Charity: Assists families financially if they have lost a child aged 16 or under. The charity also provides practical support for those who are struggling to make the arrangements. A referral is required from a relevant professional. 
  • British Gas Energy Trust: Can provide grants to help with bill payments. Applicants must specify their relationship with the deceased, whether or not they’ve received a benefit to help cover the costs and give the reason why the estate of the deceased isn’t enough to cover the funeral costs. 
  • Money Advice Service: Provides financial advice for those experiencing bereavement.
  • Civil Legal Advice: Offers legal advice for those experiencing bereavement. 

Prepaid funeral plans and insurance to cover the funeral cost

An increasing number of people are planning ahead for their funeral. This can be done by making arrangements to pay for their funeral in advance. Usually, it is in the form of pre-paid funeral plans or whole of life insurance policies. The latter pay out a fixed sum, which may be enough to cover the cost of a funeral. 

Always check what each plan includes and read the terms and conditions to fully understand the costs, benefits and limits of different plan options.

Any funeral plan should be allocated to a funeral provider within 30 days of purchase, and you may get to choose this firm. Some plans can be paid in full or over a fixed number of instalments. Either way, you are protecting the people you leave behind from the worries of making decisions and covering the costs. 

Plan ahead and save your loved ones the stress and heartache. Get in touch with Pure Cremation to make the arrangements for your funeral.