How to plan your funeral

According to the Funeral Planning Authority, over 1.6 million Britons have a funeral plan.

Admittedly, thinking about our mortality isn’t always the most comfortable thing. Still, there are many reasons why you might decide you want to plan your funeral.

While the reasons will always be specific to yourself, these might include:

  • Being prompted to consider funeral costs when you start looking into estate planning or are writing or updating your will.
  • Seeing an advert for funeral plans and deciding you’d like to learn more.
  • Having to organise a funeral yourself and realising you don’t want your loved ones to go through the same process from scratch.
  • Wanting to give your family the comfort of being able to carry out your final wishes precisely as you say.
  • Having no close relatives but still having a desire to have a specific type of funeral.
  • Being diagnosed with a life-limiting illness.
  • Deciding you want to be an organ donor and wanting to ensure there’s a clear outline for what should happen when you die.

Regardless of your reasons for looking into funeral plans, this guide will answer all your questions and leave you ready to find a provider.

What do I need to consider when planning my funeral?

It depends on the type of funeral you want and your beliefs.

Don’t worry if you don’t know where to start! Most of us don’t unless we’ve had to arrange a funeral for a friend or family member.

Some of the things you might want to think about are:

  • How much funerals cost. As of April 2022, MoneyHelper put the average funeral cost with cremation at £3,290 and one with burial at £4,383. It’s worth noting that funeral plans are protected against inflation. So, if you take out a funeral plan at those prices today, your loved ones won’t have to top it up to whatever a funeral costs when you die.
  • The basic or essential costs of a funeral, what add-ons are available that will increase the price, and what add-ons, if any, you want to cover within your plan.
  • How much you want to spend, and whether you wish to pay for the plan 100% upfront or in monthly instalments.
  • If you want a funeral director to take care of your funeral arrangements when you die. And if so, if you have a wish for this to be a specific funeral director.
  • Whether you want to be buried or cremated, and where.
  • If you want a religious or non-religious service – or no service at all.
  • The environmental impact of your choice to be buried or cremated.
  • Anyone you would like to be notified when you die.
  • Any particular outfit you’d like to wear when you’re buried or cremated.

What are the different types of fees associated with funeral plans?

Assuming you choose a relatively traditional funeral arranged by a funeral director, you’ll need to consider three different types of fees. While your funeral plan payments will be a single figure covering all elements, it’s worth knowing what these are. Doing so will help you get the best deal possible if you’re working to a budget or want a specific type of funeral.

Funeral director’s fees

Funeral director’s fees typically cover:

  • Transporting you from where you died to their premises, or directly to the funeral venue, depending on your wishes.
  • Preparing your body for viewing in a chapel of rest, if wanted.
  • A simple coffin and use of a hearse.

Disbursements

Disbursements are the fees you need to pay towards your funeral that don’t go to the funeral director. However, the funeral director will often collect them and pay the relevant party on your behalf.

These fees include:

  • Burial or cremation fees.
  • Minister or celebrant fees if you have a funeral service.
  • Costs for cremation certificates.

Discretionary costs

Discretionary costs are anything else on top of those fees already mentioned. You might deem some of these mandatory, but it depends on the type of funeral you want.

Discretionary costs might include:

  • A more expensive coffin.
  • Alternative transport, like a horse-drawn carriage or motorbike sidecar.
  • Funeral limousines to take family members from your home to your funeral.
  • Flowers.
  • Chapel organist.
  • Producing an order of service.
  • Placing a funeral announcement or obituary in a local newspaper.
  • Catering for your wake.

You can generally cover most of these points within a funeral plan.

The things you typically won’t be able to cover with a funeral plan are:

  • The cost of a burial plot, if applicable.
  • The cost of a headstone or another memorial.
  • Flowers.
  • All costs associated with your wake.

However, you may decide to set aside a specific sum of money in your will for your loved ones to use for these purposes.

How do I decide whether to be buried or cremated?

This is very much a personal choice. You may have specific beliefs that lead you to choose one or the other. Or you might not have thought about it or care either way! According to the Cremation Society, nearly 80% of deaths in the British Isles in 2020 led to cremations.

As we saw from the average funeral costs, a cremation is typically around £1,000 cheaper than a burial, so this is likely a significant reason people choose this option.

So, do I have a straightforward choice between being buried or cremated?

Yes, and this will remain the case for the foreseeable future unless aquamation becomes available.

However, you do have options around how you’re buried or cremated.

Direct burial or cremation

Direct burial or cremation is a cheaper alternative to a traditional funeral because there isn’t a service.

Instead, a funeral director will arrange for your body to be buried or cremated with only their staff present. In the case of direct cremations, your family would collect the ashes afterwards. You may then have a wish for what you want your family to do with your ashes. For example, some people want to sit in an urn on the fireplace. In contrast, others want their ashes scattered in a favourite location. You can even have your ashes put into a firework or launched into space these days!

Direct burials and cremations are starting to gain popularity in the UK. This option allows you to choose to cover the basic costs of dealing with your body when you die. Their families can then organise a memorial or celebratory event instead of a funeral.

Burial at sea

While you can generally arrange for your ashes to be scattered at sea under any circumstances, there are several regulations to follow if you want to be buried at sea. While your family will have to arrange the burial itself when you die, you can pay for a suitable coffin and other elements within your funeral plan.

Natural burial grounds

If you want to be buried but have an eco-conscious outlook and want to avoid the sometimes hefty costs of a churchyard or cemetery burial, you might want to look into natural burials.

How can I reduce what my funeral costs?

There are many ways to reduce your funeral costs, including:

  • Opting for as simple a service as possible and reducing what you spend on the discretionary costs listed above
  • Choosing cremation over burial
  • Considering a direct cremation or burial
  • Taking out a funeral plan sooner rather than later to safeguard against inflation

If you search for a funeral plan with LawPlus, we’ll help you find the best plan for your needs and budget.

Do I even need to use a funeral director?

You don’t. But if you’re planning on organising your funeral before you die, that’ll mean having a conversation with loved ones about them doing the job a funeral director would do. How prepared would even your closest family members be to take care of your body? Would you want them taking care of the paperwork and other admin when they should be grieving?

Of course, you can use a funeral director for some elements and not others. For example, you could ask your family to source your coffin but arrange for a funeral director to care for your body. However, it’s worth remembering that a funeral plan allows you to take care of all this now rather than leaving things for your family to do when you’re gone.

What happens when you take out a funeral plan with LawPlus?

Taking out a funeral plan allows you to plan precisely the type of funeral you want and to pay for most of it at today’s prices. So, the earlier in your life that you buy a funeral plan, the better value you get from it in terms of cost savings.

If you choose to find a funeral plan with LawPlus, we’ll help you find the best funeral plan to suit your wishes and budget.

In addition to the things already covered above, you should keep the following in mind when reviewing your options:

  • What do the plans cost, what payment terms are on offer, and what happens if you want to cancel?
  • Will the funeral plan provider still cover your costs if you die before making all payments?
  • Is there a price difference in paying monthly versus paying upfront? If so, is it affordable for you to pay upfront?
  • What choices of funeral director does your plan provide?
  • Is your funeral plan transferable if you relocate to another region?
  • Does your plan restrict the days and times you can have your funeral? Are you happy to pay more to be able to have your funeral at a “premium” time?
  • What costs does your funeral plan include, and is there a specific list of exclusions?
  • If you have chosen a burial, what costs does your plan cover? Will you need to set aside money in your will for other expenses, like a burial plot or headstone?
  • How will your money be held?
  • How can your loved ones activate the plan when you die?

From 29th July 2022, all funeral plans will fall under Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) regulation.

How should I tell loved ones about my funeral plan?

You can refer to your funeral plan in your will, but you may also wish to create a separate document that you keep in your home or share with your loved ones online. This document can also include details of people you want your family to tell of your death. You can also include any details of your employer, utility providers and the other essential things the person or persons dealing with your estate will need to know.

Learn more about how LawPlus can help you find a funeral plan, or contact us here if you have further questions or to get the ball rolling.


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