House of Commons Library

Arranging and paying for a funeral

Published Monday, December 16, 2019

This Commons Library briefing paper considers who is responsible for arranging and paying for a funeral in England and Wales.

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This briefing paper deals with the position in England and Wales, except where specifically stated.

Arranging the funeral

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.

Paying for the 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 may incur responsibility 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.

Social fund funeral payments

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. Social Fund Budgeting Loans 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.

Burial and cremation fees for children

The Children’s Funeral Fund for England (CFF) provides funding for the burial or cremation fees, and some associated expenses, including up to £300 towards a coffin, shroud or casket, for a child’s funeral taking place on or after 23 July 2019. Further information is available in another Commons Library briefing paper, Children's Funeral Fund for England.

Both the Welsh Government and the Scottish Government have also established schemes, under devolved powers, to make financial support available to providers of burial and cremation for children.

Investigation of funerals market

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

Topics: Burial and cremation, Death, Funerals

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