A summary of the costs involved, planning your budget & where to get help

 

How we say goodbye to and mark the death of a loved one is an important and emotive choice. Whilst it can feel uncomfortable to consider cost when arranging a service, funerals can be expensive so it is important to think carefully about a budget, how payments will be met and by whom.

This section sets out some of the costs involved and, if required, ways to keep them to a minimum.

The whiteballoon BUDGET PLANNER in the Planning Tools section can help you to keep track of what you are spending. Please note that you will need to register to use this function.

Funerals can be expensive. According to Sunlife's Cost of Dying 2022 Report*, the average cost of a basic funeral with a burial in 2021 was £4,927. This can vary considerably depending on the location of the burial ground or cemetery (the cost is substantially higher in London) and the type of service.

By the time you have accounted for other possible expenses, such as flowers, coffin, the post-funeral gathering and fees for hiring someone to administer the estate, the total 'cost of dying' can often double.

Although there is no legal requirement to do so, the majority of people appoint a Funeral Director to arrange, co-ordinate and oversee most aspects of a funeral (see Appointing a Funeral Director). How much you wish them to take care of, and consequently their total costs and fees, is up to you. Some people choose a Funeral Director to just take care of the legal and more unfamiliar tasks (such as collecting and storing the body) and then organise transport, flowers, music, and production of the order of service, etc themselves.

POSSIBLE COSTS

    • the Funeral Director's costs & fees, including disbursements (payments made on your behalf). These will vary (see above) 
    • an Officiant (for example, a Celebrant, Vicar or Priest)
    • church fees (or place of worship)
    • coffin 
    • transport
    • flowers
    • pallbearers
    • organist  
    • musician or choir
    • printing of the order of service
    • announcement or notice of death
    • a post-funeral gathering
    • a burial plot**
    • the interment fee (the preparation of the burial plot)**
    • memorial masonry**
    • the placing of a headstone**
    • maintenance fees (for cutting the grass and insurance)**

** costs specific to a funeral with a burial

RESEARCHING ITEMS IN ADVANCE

If you would like to research some of the items in advance, or get an idea of price, please visit the Providers section of whiteballoon or use the search facility above. For ideas and inspiration, please go to Inspiration or view the many beautiful photos on our Inspiration Wall.

Budget Planner in our Planning Tools section can help you to set a budget and keep track of costs. Please note that you will need to register to use this facility.

 

*for the SunLife Cost of Dying Report click here.

 

Funerals can be expensive. According to Sunlife's Cost of Dying 2022 Report*, the average cost of a basic funeral with a cremation in 2021 was £3,765. The average cost of a basic funeral with a direct cremation (a cremation with no funeral) was £1,647. This can vary substantially depending on the location (even crematoria in the same area can vary) and the type of service.

By the time you have accounted for other possible expenses, such as flowers, coffin, the post-funeral gathering and fees for hiring someone to administer the estate, the total 'cost of dying' can often double.

Although there is no legal requirement to do so, the majority of people appoint a Funeral Director to arrange, co-ordinate and oversee most aspects of a funeral (see Appointing a Funeral Director). How much you wish them to do, and consequently their total costs and fees, is up to you. Some people ask the Funeral Director to just take care of the legal and more unfamiliar tasks (such as collecting and storing the body) and then organise transport, flowers, music, and production of the order of service, etc themselves.

 

POSSIBLE COSTS

    • the Funeral Director's costs & fee, including disbursements (payments made on your behalf). These will vary (see above)
    • an Officiant (for example, a Celebrant, Vicar or Priest)
    • church fees (or place of worship)
    • coffin 
    • transport
    • flowers
    • pallbearers
    • organist
    • musician or choir
    • printing of the order of service
    • memorial plaque
    • announcement or notice of death
    • a post-funeral gathering
    • cremation fees at a local crematorium**
    • doctor's fee for Certificate of Medical Attendant (usually from the doctor who signed the MCOD)**
    • doctor's fee for Confirmatory Medical Certificate (must be from a different doctor)**
    • interment of ashes, or scattering of ashes in a Garden of Remembrance (if required)**
    • collection of the cremated remains**

** costs specific to a funeral with a cremation 

RESEARCHING ITEMS IN ADVANCE

If you would like to research some of the items in advance, or get an idea of price, please visit the Providers section of whiteballoon or use the search facility above. For ideas and inspiration, please go to Inspiration or view the many beautiful photos on our Inspiration Wall.

Budget Planner in our Planning Tools section can help you to set a budget and keep track of costs. Please note that you will need to register to use this facility.

 

*for the SunLife Cost of Dying Report click here.

 

The cost of a funeral reception or wake will vary greatly depending on where you hold it, what you choose to do in terms of catering and how many people you are expecting.

Some people decide to have a very simple gathering at home with sandwiches and cakes, often provided by family and friends. If necessary, and if you have a suitable outdoor space, a marquee or gazebo can provide extra room. Do not be afraid to ask for help. People are only too happy to give support at this very difficult time.

If you have quite a few people coming, or would rather host it elsewhere, local village halls, pubs and hotels are also popular.

POSSIBLE COSTS TO CONSIDER

    • the hire of a venue or marquee
    • catering (food and refreshments)
    • flowers
    • hire of cutlery, glasses, chairs and tables, if required
    • waitresses, if required
    • music/musicians
    • personal touches

For ideas and inspiration, or lists of local venues, please look at Funeral Reception & Wake Venues in our Inspiration and Providers sections.

 

Funerals can be expensive, but there are a number of ways to keep your costs down while still creating a wonderful ceremony for your loved one.

IDEAS FOR REDUCING COSTS

FLOWERS

Flowers can be picked from your garden or ask a kind friend or family member to provide them. People are usually only too happy to help. Your Funeral Director may be able to source flowers for you, or you can order them directly from a local florist (see Flowers & Plants in the Inspiration and Providers sections of whiteballoon).


COFFINS & URNS

There are many options for coffins, urns and shrouds with prices varying considerably depending on style and material. A rented external wooden or wicker coffin with a cardboard coffin insert that is removed before cremation will significantly lower the cost. Shrouds can be less expensive and are an acceptable alternative for most types of funeral. Coffins & Urns in our Inspiration and Providers sections have lots of lovely ideas and you can sometimes order directly, although many companies only supply through a Funeral Director. Also, please note that coffins and urns bought as part of a package from a Funeral Director are exempt from VAT. 


CREMATORIA

Prices vary not only from site to site to site but also depending upon the time of day, so do compare crematoria in your local area (see Funeral Locations).


ORDER OF SERVICE

Some people choose to print the order of service themselves or use an online company. Planning a Funeral has information on how to put together an Order of Service and the Stationery for Funerals section in Inspiration and Providers  has lots of examples and ideas and can connect you with suppliers.


PALLBEARERS

Typically, six pallbearers are used to carry or escort a coffin, although depending on the weight you may require a different number. Some people choose not to have a procession and instead arrange for the coffin to be quietly placed inside the church, chapel or crematorium, ready for when mourners arrive.

You may like to ask family or friends. Both men and women can be pallbearers and it is a lovely opportunity for them to take an active part in the funeral. When choosing from family and friends, bear in mind how the coffin will be carried (on shoulders, at waist height, or on a wheel bier - a small trolley) and also the distance from the hearse to where the service is taking place. If it is to be borne on the shoulders of the pallbearers, choosing people of a similar height will be important. If the coffin will be placed on a wheel bier, then height, strength and distance is less important.


CATERING

It is a time when family and friends really want to rally round and help. Spreading the load by accepting offers or asking those close to you to bring cakes or sandwiches can save time and money. If you do need outside help and want to compare the options, see Caterering & Planning and Caterers & Planners in the Inspiration and Providers sections.


HEADSTONES

These come in many different shapes, sizes and materials and the prices vary enormously. The best thing to do is to decide on your budget then look for Inspiration and Providers in the Monumental Masons & Memorials sections to get ideas and find local suppliers. Don't forget to check with the place where your loved one is going to be laid to rest to see if there are any restrictions in size, etc. The stonemason or your Funeral Director will be able to give you further advice on what is available.


GRAVE DIGGERS

Some people choose to dig the grave of their loved one themselves. This will depend on the rules of the cemetery or natural burial ground and you would need to obtain written consent from the appropriate authorities.


HYGIENE TREATMENT

Embalming is only necessary if the body is going to be viewed before the funeral. These days, chilled matresses can allow you to have your loved one at home for a few days before the service, so embalming is often not required.


CONDUCTING THE SERVICE

There is no legal requirement to have an officiant take the funeral service. If your loved one was not religious and if the ceremony is not on consecrated ground, you, a family member or a friend can conduct the service.

 

If someone has died later in life it may be that they have set aside funds in some shape or form to pay for their funeral. If a death is sudden or sooner than expected, this usually will not be the case and finding the required funds at short notice can be a source of great anxiety.

RESPONSIBILITY FOR PAYMENTS

If the deceased has appointed an executor in their will, then they are responsible for ensuring that the Funeral Director and other expenses are paid. Otherwise, it is the responsibility of the person organising the funeral (usually the next of kin).

Eventually, costs can be recovered from the deceased's estate (if there are sufficiant funds), although the process of applying for probate and settling accounts can take some time. Some banks and building societies are happy to release funds from a single account in the deceased’s name, if there are enough funds. They will need to see an invoice and a copy of the death certificate. If the deceased had a joint bank account, the account will not be frozen and funeral costs may be able to be paid from this.

The Financial Support & Benefits section below has information on government support and details of some of the charitable help available.

Finally, if there is no next of kin or funds for a funeral, then the Local Authority or Hospital Trust will provide a Public Health Funeral. For further details on meeting the costs of a funeral, see the Governement information on funeral payments..

 

FUNERAL PLANS, PENSION SCHEMES & OTHER POLICIES

These days many people have pre-paid funeral plans. If you are not sure whether this is the case, or do not have the relevant paperwork, the Funeral Planning Authority (FPA) have an online search facility to enable you to check. They also have useful information about what to do if there is a plan in place.

You will also need to check if there is a payment due from a life insurance policy or a pension scheme.

 

GOVERNMENT SUPPORT

If you or the deceased person had some form of government support, the Department of Work & Pensions may approve a Funeral Expenses Payment. This is a one-off grant and it will have to be paid back from their estate if there are sufficient funds. For further details, see the Government information on funeral payments..

As a spouse or civil partner of the person who has died, you may be entitled to a Bereavement Support Payment. This is a one-off, tax free payment for those who are not claiming benefits but meet the required criteria.  To find out more, see the Government information on bereavement support payments..

In July 2019, the Government launched the Child Funeral Fund for England which is a non-means tested contribution towards the cost of a funeral for a child under the age of 18 or stillborn after the 24th week of pregnancy. For further details, see the Government information on child funeral costs..

For further information on Government support and benefits relating to death and bereavement, see the Government information on benefits relating to bereavement..

CHARITIES THAT PROVIDE FINANCIAL HELP

There are numerous charities and benevolent societies that provide practical, emotional and financial support for the bereaved. Many are linked to trades or professions (for example, The Retail Trust), or to particular areas of focus (for example, cancer care or childhood illness). The best way to find one that might be able to help you is to search on the internet based on your particular circumstances.

The national charity TURN2US is another great source of help and information.