Do you have to have a funeral by law?

No, in the UK you’re not required to have a funeral by law.

When someone passes away, their body must be cremated or buried, but there doesn’t have to be a funeral service before this.

There are also no rules as to how, where or when you choose to commemorate a life. It can be as simple, personal or unique as you wish.

If you’re thinking ‘I don’t want a funeral when I die’ or you’re honouring the wishes of a loved one who didn’t want a funeral, then you could opt for a simple direct cremation without ceremony. Or perhaps you’re thinking ‘I don’t want a traditional funeral’.

If so, there are plenty of alternative funeral options that may be more appropriate.

Instead of a funeral, you may wish to leave a little extra financial security for your loved ones, in the form of an inheritance. In this scenario, you may want to consider over 50s life insurance.

Reassured can help you secure an over 50s life insurance policy if you’re a UK resident between the ages of 50 - 85.

Acceptance is guaranteed and, depending on your personal circumstances and budget, you could secure cover up to £20,000.

All quotes from Reassured are personalised, no-obligation and completely fee-free. We also offer a free trust writing service for the majority of policies, to help minimise/avoid inheritance tax for your loved ones.

If you’re not sure how much cover you need, you can check our handy life insurance calculator, or contact our friendly team.

Quotes start from as little as 20p-a-day + . Simply contact us today.

For more information, continue reading our helpful guide as we answer the question: Do you have to have a funeral?

What is a funeral and what is it for?

A funeral is a formal gathering of family and friends who wish to say a final goodbye to someone who’s passed away.

In the UK, most funerals have a traditional structure, and include an officiant or celebrant-led ceremony at a crematorium chapel or place of worship.

The ceremony is then followed by a cremation or burial. For a burial, mourners may also attend a burial service at the graveside before the coffin is lowered into the ground.

Usually, a funeral director is appointed by the bereaved family to help arrange and conduct a funeral.

So, what is a funeral for? A funeral has various purposes, some including:

  • To acknowledge the loss and start processing grief
  • To celebrate, commemorate and honour the life of the person who’s passed
  • To honour the final wishes of the person who’s passed
  • To bring family and friends together to support each other during a difficult time

Is it okay not to have a funeral?

Yes, generally it would be okay not to have a funeral if:

  • Family members mutually agree it’s not necessary
  • The person who’s died had requested not to have a funeral

The circumstances surrounding the death may also influence how you feel about holding a formal send-off that may cost thousands of pounds.

These may include:

  • The age of the person who died
  • How close you were to them
  • Whether you feel it’s necessary that the body is present for the funeral
  • The expectations and needs of the people who knew the person who died[1]

Who chooses not to have a funeral?

There are many reasons why someone may choose not to have a funeral. Some of these include:

  • A funeral is too expensive (average cost £3,953[2] in the UK)
  • The person who’s passed away wanted to be laid to rest without a fuss
  • There aren’t many family, friends or acquaintances to attend the funeral, or it would be difficult getting everyone together for the occasion
  • A traditional or religious funeral service wouldn’t be appropriate
  • Family members would prefer to hold a less formal memorial service or celebratory event at a later date, instead of a funeral service

According to the Co-op Funeral Trends report published in 2019:

  • 77% of their funeral directors have noticed that requests for funerals to take place in other less formal settings has increased in the last five years
  • 51% of consumers believe more funerals will take place outside of traditional religious settings
  • 36% said they’d prefer their loved ones to have a get-together to celebrate their life, as opposed to a funeral service
  • 21% of consumers believe that the wake will actually become more important than the funeral service[2]

Funeral alternatives

Attitudes to funerals in the UK are changing, as more and more people are opting for simpler and cheaper funeral alternatives.

Funeral directors have had to evolve their services to keep up with the changing demands of their customers.

Funerals are now more likely to focus on remembrance and celebrating the life of the deceased, rather than traditional or religious values.

Whether you don’t want a funeral or you want something different from a conventional funeral, you’ll be able to find something that caters for your unique needs.

Here are some traditional funeral alternatives you may consider…

Traditional funeral alternativesWhat is it?Other important notes
Direct cremation
(AKA cremation without ceremony, no funeral just cremation, direct disposal)
A straightforward cremation, without a funeral service or ceremony beforehand, and no mourners present.You’ll be cremated in a basic coffin at a date and time decided by the crematorium.
Direct burialSimilar to a direct cremation, except with a burial.You’re interred (buried) in a basic coffin. Venue is chosen by your loved ones, but they don’t attend.
Cremation with family-led serviceA cremation which has a private ceremony beforehand held by loved ones.Avoids the expense of full traditional funerals, while giving your loved ones a chance to say goodbye.
Do It Yourself (DIY) funeralA funeral where your loved ones make all the arrangements.Saves money, but could be a challenge for loved ones to carry out during a difficult time. Includes:
  • Completing the necessary paperwork
  • Caring for the deceased at home until the cremation or burial
  • Booking the crematorium or cemetery
  • Arranging appropriate transport
  • Planning and leading the ceremony
Humanist/Celebration of life funeralNon-religious funeral.Allows for more focus to be placed on the deceased rather than any religious aspect.
Woodland funeral (natural burial)A more eco-friendly alternative.The coffin or shroud is made from biodegradable materials. No headstone or embalming is permitted in order to protect the environment.

The SunLife Cost of Dying report in 2023 revealed:

  • In 2022, 18% of funerals in the UK were described as direct cremation
  • 81% of funeral directors have seen a rise in the number or celebration of life funerals
  • In 2022, 49% of all funeral services were described as celebration of life and 41% were described as remembrance
  • 18% of people who had arranged a funeral had encouraged something ‘different or unusual’ for the service, such as a colourful dress code or light-hearted speeches

Regardless of the type of funeral you choose, it’s important that enough money has been saved up to respect your wishes.

If you’re worried about your family struggling to afford the cost of your funeral, why not contact Reassured about an over 50s life insurance plan?

This is a type of policy that guarantees a cash pay out to your family when you pass away, providing them with some funds to help towards your funeral.

Depending on your personal circumstances and budget, you could secure up to £20,000 of cover. Quotes start from just 20p-a-day.

How much over 50 life insurance do you need?

Enter your financial commitments below to understand the level of over 50 life insurance you require.


According to Uswitch, it’s estimated that 23,000 people in the UK will still be paying off their mortgage by age 75.

Although an over 50s plan can’t cover the full cost of a mortgage (as cover is capped at £20,000), it could help to contribute some funds towards keeping your family in their home.


Research by Saga shows that nearly 6 million over 50s owe money on credit cards and loans, with average debt amongst this age group totalling £12,000.

Depending on your personal circumstances, an over 50s plan may not be able to cover all debts (as cover is capped at £20,000) but it could allow you to cover some debts in your name.


SunLife’s Cost of Dying 2023 report found that the average cost of a basic funeral is £3,953, with the overall cost of dying totalling £9,200.

A pay out from life insurance can help to cover all or some of these costs.


Age UK have found that many over 50s and 60s will be reliant on their pension to get by.

Life insurance can provide your partner with a helping hand on top of their pension.


An inheritance can provide your loved ones with a cash gift to spend as they wish.

Alternatively, you could leave a portion of your pay out to a charity that’s close to your heart.


If you already have a life insurance (or other financial protection) policy in place, and/or you have your own savings, factoring these into your sum assured could reduce the level of cover you require - helping you to save money.

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Do you have to use a funeral director?

No, you don’t have to use the services of a funeral director or use a funeral home when someone dies, even if you want to have a funeral.

A funeral director provides most of the professional services required for a funeral and can ease a lot of the stress that families face during an already difficult time.

One of the most important roles that a funeral director has is being able to collect and then care for the deceased in a temperature-controlled mortuary up until the funeral.

They also have suitable vehicles to transport the body to where the funeral service is being held and then to the crematorium or cemetery.

Nonetheless, it’s possible for loved ones to make all or some of the necessary arrangements themselves.

This is called a DIY funeral (as mentioned above).

Loved ones would have to consider the following arrangements that need to be made:

  • Registering of the death within 5 days
  • Acquiring the right documentation for a cremation or burial
  • Keeping of the body in a suitable place
  • Booking a crematorium or cemetery
  • Find and purchase a burial plot (if applicable)
  • Suitable transport for the body
  • Choosing a coffin

Do you have to wear black to a funeral?

There’s no obligation for people to wear black to a funeral, however, when making your choice it’s important to consider the wishes of the person who’s died and their family.

Black tends to be the most suitable colour for the occasion, however, other dark colours would be acceptable.

Sometimes, people request that mourners to their funeral wear colourful clothing or clothes of their favourite colour.

According to the Co-op survey, 84% of funeral directors have reported an increasing shift in families asking mourners to wear brighter colours at services and 87% had conducted a funeral in the last 12 months where mourners wore bright colours.

Do you have to have a wake after a funeral?

No, you don’t have to have a wake after a funeral.

Traditionally, a wake is held straight after the service and may take place at a local church hall, hotel or another nearby venue.

It’s usually a more casual event with food, drinks, music and further tributes to the deceased.

If you don’t want to have a wake, then you may consider having a ‘living funeral’.

This is when all your family and friends get together for one final celebration before you pass away.

Instead of being a sad event, it can include drinking and eating, sharing happy memories and dancing to your favourite music.

The money received from an over 50s life insurance plan could contribute towards a happier event in your honour.

Quotes start from as little as 20p-a-day. Simply contact us if you would like more information.

Other ways you can pay tribute

If you’ve chosen not to have a funeral for yourself or for a loved one, then there are alternative ways that family and friends can pay tribute.

These include:

  • Scattering the ashes at a location special to the person who’s died
  • Have a small gathering for close friends and family
  • Have a memorial placed at a permanent location that can be visited by loved ones
  • Ask for charity donations for a charity that was important to the person who’s died
  • Create an online memorial where people can post tributes and share memories

If you donate your body to science do you have a funeral?

Medical schools accept body donations for research or for training healthcare professionals.

Donating a body doesn’t cost the family anything and there doesn’t need to be a funeral beforehand.

For more information visit: Human Tissue Authority.

Do you have to pay for a funeral upfront?

Unless the person who’s has died has a prepaid funeral plan (or life insurance that’s written into trust) in place, then some aspects of the funeral may need to be paid upfront by the person arranging the funeral.

Most of the time a funeral director or funeral services provider will allow you to spread the cost of their services by instalments.

Third-party costs, such as minister or celebrant fees, doctors’ fees and cremation or burial fees may need to be paid upfront.

If there are funds remaining from the deceased’s estate, then the amount spent on a funeral can be claimed back following probate.

Help cover your alternative funeral costs with over 50s life insurance

If you’re unsure whether a traditional funeral is for you, why not consider an over 50s plan to help cover your alternative funeral choice, as well as the essential cremation or burial fees?

With over 50s life insurance, cover lasts for the rest of your life and guarantees your loved ones a pay out.

This can allow your loved ones to help cover the cost of your funeral or any other celebration of life that’s more your style when the time comes.

It can also potentially leave some additional funds for your loved ones to spend as they wish.

Some of the main reasons to secure over 50s life insurance with Reassured include:

  • No medical information required - If you have poor health, you could still obtain an over 50s life insurance policy (providing you’re a UK resident aged 50 - 85
  • A maximum of up to £20,000 cover - This is dependent on your age, budget for premiums and your smoking status
  • Fast application process - Can be completed over the phone with our award-winning UK call centres
  • Pay out can be used by your loved ones as they wish - Whether to help towards funeral costs, as an inheritance or helping with the day-to-day cost of living when you’re gone
  • Can be purchased through Reassured from as little as 20p-a-day +




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