This Commons Library briefing paper considers who is responsible for arranging and paying for a funeral in England and Wales. It also considers the cost of a funeral and ways of reducing thisJump to full report >>
This briefing paper deals with the position in England and Wales, except where specifically stated.
If a deceased person left a will and appointed executors, they have the primary responsibility for arranging the funeral. Where there is no will, the person who would be entitled to administer the estate (usually the closest relative) would generally have this responsibility. In practice, it is often family members or friends who arrange the funeral, sometimes on behalf of, and with the specific authority of, the executors.
It is sometimes possible to arrange a funeral at short notice, for example, to meet religious requirements. It is necessary to notify the coroner before the body of a deceased person may be moved abroad for a funeral.
Reasonable funeral expenses are payable out of the deceased’s estate in priority to the payment of any unsecured debts or liabilities. Anyone who arranges the funeral will generally be responsible for paying the funeral directors, so it is important to establish where the money will come from, especially if there is insufficient property in the deceased’s estate to pay for the funeral.
In certain circumstances, the local authority or NHS may have a duty to organise and pay for a funeral. This is where it appears that no other suitable arrangements have been or are being made. Local authorities do not have power to reimburse funeral costs where a third party has already arranged the funeral.
Payments from the Social Fund can be made to claimants of means-tested benefits and tax credits to help meet the costs of a funeral. The rules governing access to Social Fund Budgeting Loans have now been changed to provide additional help to low income families facing funeral costs, although these are repayable.
This briefing paper complements Library briefing SN01419, Social Fund Funeral Payments, which provides more detailed information about the Funeral Payments Scheme.
In Wales, local authority burial and cremation fees for children are no longer payable. In March 2018, the Prime Minister announced a Children’s Funeral Fund for England. Under the proposed scheme, burial and cremation fees for children will be waived by all local authorities and met instead by Government funding. In February 2019, the Prime Minister indicated that the fund would be implemented by the summer. In May 2018, the Scottish Government confirmed that they would work together with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) to remove local authority charges for child burials and cremations.
Sun Life and the Royal London publish annual reports on the average costs of funerals. The Money Advice Service has an online guide, How much does a funeral cost? This includes information about direct cremation and how to find a local low cost provider.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is carrying out a market investigation into the supply of services by funeral directors at the point of need and the supply of crematoria services. Separately, on 1 June 2018, HM Treasury announced a call for evidence on the pre-paid funeral plan market, with a view to strengthening regulation of this sector.
Commons Briefing papers SN06242
Author: Catherine Fairbairn