No, at the time of writing this article (04/06/20) there's no legal obligation for anyone to pay for their parent’s funeral.

This is the case whether you’re either unable to meet the cost of a funeral, or whether you simply don’t want to.

However, it’s very common for the children of the deceased to help fund and arrange the funeral service of a lost parent.

If you do decide to cover funeral costs you have the legal right in the UK to claim that money back from their estate at a later date.

If your parent had written a will, then the executor of their estate will be responsible for arranging the funeral service.

If no will is present, the family are normally responsible for carrying out this task.

There are 2 ways in which you can recoup/fund the cost of the funeral:

  1. From the deceased estate, after it has been settled and probate is granted.
    Funeral costs are usually one the executor’s first priorities; however, it usually takes around 6-9 months for estates to pay out, (assuming there are no complications, like someone contesting the will)
  2. Pay for the funeral using funds from your parents’ bank account.
    Most banks will agree to release up to £5,000 to cover funeral costs when provided with an invoice from a funeral director. In order to receive these funds a bank will normally request a certified copy of the death certificate before releasing funds

Can you be forced to pay for your parent’s funeral?

No, as a child of the deceased, legally you have no obligation to hold a funeral and there’s no law that states you have to pay for a ceremony.

So, who legally has to pay for a funeral?

In most circumstances’ costs are covered by the deceased estate. If the estate is not substantial enough to meet these costs, it usually falls to family and/or friends. However, as mentioned there isn’t actually a legal obligation to do so.

If family and friends either can’t or aren't willing to pay for the funeral, it falls to the relevant local authority to bury the deceased, in what is called a public health funeral, (see below).

This only changes if you have personally engaged with and employed the services of a funeral director and/or a third-party, like a caterer.

Estranged from your family?

In the majority of cases, a family wants to give their mother or father a fitting send-off and are happy to contribute financially if required.

However, unfortunately, there are occasions when people may have become estranged from their parent/s and/or wider family and don’t want to be involved either in the preparation or payment of the funeral.

Whilst in the ideal world a family would come together at this time, there's no legal obligation for them to do so.

Who pays for a funeral if there is no money?

If there are no funds available to pay for the significant cost of a funeral you still have options available.

Funeral Expenses Payment

If there are not the necessary funds available and you’re in receipt of certain state benefits, you can apply for a funeral expenses payment.

In Scotland, this benefit is referred to as the funeral support payment.

If the deceased passed away on or after the 8th April 2020 this funeral expenses payment equates to £1,000.

Given the average cost of a UK funeral is currently £4,417 it’s clear to see this payment is unlikely to cover all costs.


Public health funeral, (or Pauper’s funeral)

The local authority of the deceased are obligated by law to arrange a public health funeral when no other arrangements have been made.

These funeral services are sometimes referred to as a pauper’s funeral and are typically very basic.

Family and friends are allowed to attend the service, but no flowers or transport is provided and the graves are often shared and unmarked.

It was estimated that there were 3,800 public health funerals in the UK in 2017-18, costing nearly £5.4m to local authorities[1].

With the cost of dying continually rising, it’s likely the UK will become even more dependent on local government funding in the future.


Funeral finance

It’s possible to apply for funeral finance if you have some funds available.

Here the funeral provider will pay for the service and the associated costs, however, you’ll then make regular repayments to pay them back, with interest added.


Crowdfunding

In the digital age, it’s possible (all be it rare) to try and raise the necessary funeral funds by crowdfunding online.

If the deceased was an active and popular member of the local community this is even more likely to be a good way of raising funds.


Bereavement Support Payment

The Bereavement Support Payment is unfortunately not available to help with the cost of a funeral if you’ve lost a parent.

This benefit is specifically for those who have lost either a husband, wife or civil partner within the last 21 months and who are unable to meet the costs.

Caught out by rising funeral costs?

The average cost of a UK funeral (£4,417) and the overall cost of dying (£9,493), including all associated costs, have risen at an astonishing rate[2].

130% in 16 years to be exact. And this trend is forecast to continue.

The full cost of dying includes:

  • Average funeral costs £4,417
  • Average cost of professional fees £2,771
  • Average third-party costs £2,306

On average, a cremation (£3,858) is significantly cheaper than a burial (£4,975), although for many either expense would be unachievable.

This means if the deceased had not made the necessary provisions it’s very possible the children of the deceased could feel largely responsible for this significant cost.

This is especially true when the death is very unexpected and provisions had not been put in place or arrangements discussed.

Cost of funerals infographic UK

Did your parent have a funeral plan?

A prepaid funeral plan enables the policyholder to pay for their funeral in advance.

The main benefit of a funeral plan is that it enables the policyholder to lock in the current rate, avoiding spiralling future costs.

It also enables the policyholder to ensure that they are able to plan the type of funeral, flowers, music that they want.

As a result, it’s important to check to see if your parent had made this selfless investment. If a will is present normally the details of the plan would be included.

If a will is not present you can use the Funeral Planning Authority (FPA) to trace a plan.

At Reassured we can arrange guaranteed prepaid funeral plans from £20.38* a month.

Did your parent have life insurance?

The proceeds from a life insurance policy can be used to help pay for the cost of the funeral.

Whether your parents had life insurance or not should be detailed in their will, (if they have one).

If no will is present and you need to establish if a parent had life cover, see our how to find out if someone has life insurance article.

One downside of a life insurance policy is that by default the proceeds form part of the deceased’s estate and therefore has to go through probate. This can take 6 – 9 months.

As a result, the funds won’t be available until after the funeral has been held.

Whilst, a life insurance pay out can be used to meet funeral expenses, the proceeds are not immune to inflation as with a funeral plan.

Therefore, as funeral costs continue to increase, the percentage of a life insurance pay out used to fund the funeral will also increase.

One way of ensuring a faster pay out from a life insurance policy is to write it in trust.

This means that the proceeds avoid forming part of the estate and thus it doesn't have to go through probate (faster pay out). It also means it's not subject to 40% inheritance tax.

It’s possible to secure comprehensive life insurance protection from just 20p-a-day.

Saving on funeral costs

If finding the necessary funds to pay for your parents’ funeral is proving difficult, you may need to look at ways of making savings.

Whilst the average cost of a funeral is £4,471, it’s possible to reduce this figure significantly.

An increasingly popular option is to take out a direct cremation, from a provider such as pure cremation.

A direct cremation is approximately half the price of a traditional cremation. However, it doesn’t provide a ceremony, there are no mourners and no procession.

Often a family will instead arrange a more cost-effective, informal get together thereafter. Perhaps at their local pub.

Third-party fees on average equate to £2,306 and can really add up. Could you afford these costs?

Lastly, it’s important to remember to source a range of quotes to compare funeral directors and 3rd party services, as prices vary.

Coronavirus and funerals

At the time of writing this article we’re in the mites of the Coronavirus outbreak, COVID-19.

This pandemic has obviously had a significant impact of the ability to hold a traditional funeral service and there are limitations on the number of mourners allowed, who is allowed to attend, and social distancing must be adhered.

These rules are changing all the time as the lockdown is lifted, please check the government website for more details.

In summary

Families can be complicated and funerals are expensive, which can lead to conflict and financial concerns.

The best way to provision for your passing is to make sure you either have the necessary funds in place or to have a funeral plan/life insurance you can rely on.

If you’re worried about how you would be able to pay for your parents funeral, have the conversation with them.

Although, it’s a very difficult subject to broach it could stop future problems materialising.

If you're interested in arranging a funeral plan or life insurance for yourself or on behalf of your parents, using our award-winning FCA regulated brokerage can help you secure the best available deal.

We can discuss your needs and compare quotes to arrange the right solution for your unique situation.

Simply get in touch today for your free quotes.

Sources:

[1] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-46796036

[2] SunLife (2020), Cost of Dying Report, sunlife.co.uk/costofdying2020

https://www.co-operativefuneralcare.co.uk/pre-paid-funeral-plans/

*£20.38 per month includes a £75 discount only available to Co-op members, based on a 50-year-old purchasing a Simple Funeral Plan at £3,220 after discount with 25 years payment term (total amount payable £6,115.40)

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At Reassured, we will provide you with quotes from Co-op funeral care.

All of the funeral plans we provide are fully regulated by the Funeral Planning Authority (FPA) ensuring you and your money are protected.

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