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Paying for a funeral from an estate

Dealing with the death of a loved one is always an emotional and upsetting time. One of the things you might find yourself dealing with is funeral arrangements.

While many people worry about how they will cover the cost of a loved one’s funeral, it’s often much more straightforward than assumed. If there is money in the deceased person’s estate, these can usually cover funeral costs. In fact, if there is money in the deceased person’s bank account, the law states that the funeral must be paid for out of this first before any cash is distributed to beneficiaries.

However, you may, but not always, need to wait for the completion of the probate process before this can happen.

Still, that’s not to say you’re going to end up paying thousands of pounds out of your money to cover a loved one’s funeral costs. Here are three things you might be able to do, depending on the deceased’s circumstances.

Paying for a funeral with a pre-paid funeral plan

If the deceased had a pre-paid funeral plan, this is probably the most straightforward scenario as you’ll need to do very little.

Here’s what you need to do to find out if a funeral plan exists and how you can use it.

1.      Find out who the estate’s executor is

If you’re not the executor yourself and don’t know who is, then asking around your family is the easiest way to find out.

  • If the deceased person had a will, then the executor has responsibility for finalising their affairs. If the will listed funeral wishes or mentioned a funeral plan, the executor is responsible for ensuring these directions are carried out. While it is common for the executor to take charge of the funeral arrangements, it isn’t legally necessary for them to do so. For example, if a parent dies, you could have been named the executor while a sibling or another relative could take care of the funeral arrangements.
  • If the deceased person died intestate (without a will), it is typical for any next-of-kin to take care of the funeral arrangements. However, funeral wishes or information about pre-paid funeral plans aren’t always written into a will. So, just because someone dies without a will, you shouldn’t assume there isn’t a funeral plan.

2.      Find out if there is a funeral plan

Pre-paid funeral plans are growing in popularity. According to the Funeral Planning Authority, which is handing over oversight of the funeral plans market to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) on 29th July 2022, over 150,000 new funeral plans have been sold every year since 2015.

If there is a funeral plan in place, it will generally either be:

  • A fully pre-paid funeral plan, with the will or a copy of the plans with a funeral director outlining the deceased person’s wishes for their funeral.
  • A pay monthly funeral plan. There will be documents as in the above case, but you will need to check whether you need to do or pay anything if there are any outstanding payments. Many funeral plan providers commit to covering the total cost of the funeral even if the person dies before their plan is fully paid for, but this isn’t always the case.
  • A “funeral insurance” plan is typically a life insurance plan like an over 50’s life insurance package that pays out a relatively small sum, often up to £10,000, to cover funeral costs and any small debts left by the deceased.

If there isn’t a funeral plan, you can skip the next section and move straight onto where we talk about paying for a funeral from the deceased’s bank account.

Are you reading this because you’re concerned about how loved ones will pay for your funeral? If so, LawPlus can help you find a funeral plan to suit your circumstances and final wishes. Contact us here to get started finding a funeral plan or with any other aspects of estate planning.

3.      If there is a funeral plan, check the paperwork

The estate’s executor or next of kin will often know if there is a funeral plan. However, if no one knows definitively, it is worth going through the deceased’s documents or emails, if possible, to find out for sure.

Admittedly, it can feel a little morbid and intrusive going through the documents of a loved one shortly after their death, but it’s a necessary step.

If you already know who the funeral plan was with and which funeral director the deceased wanted to deal with their funeral, you’ll be able to contact those companies to get started with the funeral arrangements. They will have copies of any plans the deceased had put in place about their funeral. Some people may have just paid for their funeral without making any specific plans, which will mean you still need to do some planning, but without worrying about the costs.

While funeral plans are protected from inflation, that doesn’t mean you won’t have anything to pay. Check the funeral plan paperwork to discover:

  • Who the funeral plan is with if you don’t already know.
  • What is and isn’t covered in the plan. For example, things like flowers and catering arrangements for the wake are generally not included in funeral plans as standard. However, depending on the type of funeral plan, you may still need to make a payment towards the funeral. For example, if the deceased wished to be buried, the cost of a burial plot is typically not included in the funeral plan.
  • If everything included in the plan is still available. If the deceased took out a funeral plan 10 – 15 years ago, there might be different elements of the plan available now or things that the funeral director doesn’t or can’t provide anymore. Speaking to the funeral director will help you discover this. Where specific elements aren’t available, they’ll generally be able to suggest alternative options.

If the person had moved away from the area they were living in when they took out the funeral plan, you might need to contact the plan provider or funeral director to arrange to transfer the plan. The money in the plan is protected, so while there may be a fee to conduct the transfer – which the deceased would have been notified of when taking out the plan – the plan itself is still in place and paid for.

Paying for a funeral from the deceased’s bank account

Many people are unaware that any cash in a deceased person’s bank account must be put towards funeral expenses before being distributed as part of the estate. As such, if a loved one dies without a funeral plan or a will but has savings or cash in a current account, you’ll have an avenue for paying for the funeral.

Here’s what you’ll need to do in this situation. We’ve assumed you’ve already gone through the steps of finding out who the executor or administrator of the estate is and finding out if there is a funeral plan.

1.      Contact the funeral director

Even if the deceased didn’t have a funeral plan in place, they might still have expressed their wishes for the funeral director they wanted to take care of their final journey. Many families who have lived in the same area for generations often find themselves using the same funeral director out of tradition. Even today, there are still many towns and villages that have only one funeral director that deals with all local bereavements.

If you’re not sure which funeral director to use, a quick Google search will point you in the direction of those closest to where you live or where the deceased person lived. You’ll also be able to read reviews from families that have used them before so you can make an informed decision about who you wish to deal with.

Once you’ve chosen a funeral director, contact them online or give them a call. Depending on how they work and your circumstances, they may arrange a telephone appointment or come to your or the deceased’s home to discuss funeral arrangements. If you’re not the executor of the deceased’s estate, it’s a good idea to include them in discussions with the funeral director, so they know what funeral expenses need paying from the estate.

2.      Confirm costs

Find out how much the funeral will cost, as well as if you need to pay anything upfront.

As funeral directors know the law around receiving disbursement from an estate before it is distributed, most of them won’t have a problem waiting to receive payment from the estate. Try to keep open lines of communication with your funeral director, just so they know what’s happening concerning their costs.

3.      Get the deceased’s bank to pay the bill

Here in the UK, some banks only require a death certificate rather than a grant of probate to give executors access to the deceased’s funds. If you want to sort things quickly, get an invoice from the funeral director for the total amount as soon as you can. Once you receive the death certificate, you can simply take the funeral director’s invoice to the deceased’s bank and ask them to pay the invoice from their account.

Want to avoid your loved ones having to deal with the bank when you’re gone? LawPlus can help you find a funeral plan so everything is taken care of when the time comes. Contact us now to get started finding a funeral plan or for help with any other aspect of estate planning.

Paying for a funeral yourself, then reclaiming the cash from the estate

In circumstances where the deceased had little money in the bank but had assets that may take some time to deal with, such as property, it may be necessary to pay for the funeral and reclaim the cost from the deceased’s estate later.

Even if the deceased was a loved one like a parent or a partner, this is a fairly regular occurrence, so you shouldn’t feel like you need to pay for the funeral yourself or feel guilt for claiming back the costs.

Here’s what you need to do in this situation.

1.      If you’re not the executor, find out who they are and speak to them

If you’re not the executor of the deceased’s estate yourself, it’s a good idea to speak to them before you finalise funeral plans and incur expenses. While it can be easy to finalise simple estates consisting of just a property and cash assets, complex estates may take months to administer. Either way, you don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you’ve paid for a funeral that the estate lacks the means to cover.

You should also bear in mind that if an executor doesn’t already know about an estate’s liabilities, you may not necessarily get all of your money back. If you’re in this situation, you should speak to the deceased’s loved ones about other options for covering funeral costs. You may also be eligible for a Funeral Expenses Payment, depending on your circumstances.

If you find yourself in charge of planning a funeral that you’ll initially need to pay for yourself, you should:

  • If you’re not the executor, speak to the person who is and find out if the deceased had any specific wishes regarding their funeral.
  • If the deceased didn’t leave any specific wishes, speak to their loved ones to try and plan a suitable service.
  • Be mindful of the expenses you incur. It is best to avoid any potential conflict caused by beneficiaries being unhappy at their inheritance being reduced because you spent more than necessary on the funeral.

2.      Submit the funeral director invoice to the estate’s executor

Once you have arranged and paid for the funeral, submit both the funeral director’s invoice and your payment receipt to the estate’s executor. They will then add your expenses to the estate’s debts and make your payment in due course, assuming the estate can afford it.

Try not to be pushy about getting your money back. Dealing with an estate can be stressful, especially if the executor is the deceased’s partner or child. Bear in mind that the average time to deal with an estate in the UK is between nine and twelve months. Instead, aim to maintain polite communication throughout the process and offer your support where necessary.

Paying for a funeral from an estate

Dealing with the death of a loved one is always a difficult time.

While many families often worry about how they’ll manage to cover funeral costs, in many circumstances, there will be enough money in the estate to meet these. Where there isn’t enough money in the estate to cover funeral costs, or you don’t have the means to pay before reclaiming from the estate, you may be eligible for a Funeral Expenses Payment. These payments usually won’t cover funeral costs in full, but they can certainly make paying what you need to pay more affordable. In addition, if a loved one dies with a funeral plan in place, you may still be able to get a Funeral Expenses Payment to help pay for things not covered under their plan.

If you want to help your family avoid further stress and anxiety when you’re gone, having a funeral plan is an excellent step to take. Contact LawPlus here to get started with finding a suitable funeral plan for your needs and circumstances or to discuss any other elements of estate planning.


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