Prepaid Funeral Plans

What are prepaid funeral plans? Are they worth it?

prepaid funeral plans

The death of a loved one is always difficult. Add to this rising funeral costs which now average £4,300 for the essentials and the aftershocks can be considerable. Increasing numbers of people are now taking out funeral plans so they know most of the cost of their funeral has been covered before they die, to ensure their family isn't left to foot a hefty bill. We help you work out if a plan is right for you and if so, what sort.

Warning: The Treasury has announced a crackdown on misleading, high-pressure selling of pre-paid funeral plans. Anyone caught using dodgy sales techniques could face criminal charges and pre-paid plans are to come under regulation from the Financial Conduct Authority. It's likely to be months before these rules come into force. Until then, if you decide a plan is your best choice, ensure the provider is registered with the Funeral Plan Association.

This is the latest incarnation of this guide.  Please give us your feedback, suggest improvements and share your tips in the Prepaid Funeral Plans Guide forum post.

Funeral Plans: The 10 need-to-knows

A fifth of all UK funerals are now paid for in advance via a funeral plan, which leaves your family with less financial and/or organisational responsibility when you die. Plans allow anyone over the age of 50 (18+ with some plans) to pay for and set out the arrangements of the major components of your funeral now – eg, hearse and ceremony – so you can guard against rising costs. However, they do have their pitfalls, so here's all you need to know.

  1. Beware of dodgy companies mis-selling plans

    There have been reports of widespread mis-selling in this industry, with vulnerable people being cold-called and pressured into buying over-priced plans not right for them, with unscrupulous companies taking a hefty chunk of anything paid into a plan as commission. There have also been nasty shocks for grieving families who find out there is still so much to shell out for as a loved one's plan doesn't cover everything.

    The industry is not officially regulated, but there is a voluntary organisation set up by the industry to regulate providers called the Funeral Planning Authority (FPA), which companies can choose to sign up to. It says 95% of funeral plans are offered by its registered providers, which must abide by a set of rules and a code of practice. So always ensure a provider is signed up to the FPA – as those mentioned in our Best Buys section below are.

    It's important to do your own research to ensure the plan is right for you – and if you even need a plan at all. Don't fall for companies trying to lure you in with promised discounts making you rush into a decision.

  2. What is usually covered in a funeral plan?

    You buy the plan from a funeral plan provider (see best buys below), choosing from the different types of packages – a basic package can cost £3,000 and a top package with much more included around £4,000. When the time comes, your family should let the plan provider or funeral director know you've passed away so arrangements can be made. 

    Many providers will let you choose a cremation or burial funeral plan. The initial costs are similar, but watch out for costs that won't be covered.

    What's usually included:

    • Transport of the body to the funeral director's location
    • Care of the body
    • Visiting the body in a chapel of rest
    • A coffin, hearse and funeral director personnel

    What's sometimes included, depending on the plan:

    • Doctors' fees (totalling £164 and needed for cremations outside Scotland)
    • Minister's or celebrant's fees
    • Limousines for mourners
    • Complete fees for the crematorium

    What's generally not included in a funeral plan:

    • Funeral notices
    • Order sheets
    • Embalming
    • Buying a burial plot (this can cost £1,000s) and some burial fees
    • Flowers, catering and other costs for a wake
    • A head stone/memorial

    Always check exactly what is and isn't included in the plan before you buy, as every plan has its differences.

    • A basic funeral plan can cost around £3,000, though what this covers will be fairly limited and just include the essentials, such as a simple coffin, possibly a procession, restricted times for visiting the body in a chapel of rest and little choice on funeral time or day. 

      The most expensive set funeral plan can cost over £4,000 and is a lot more flexible. For example, you'll get a coffin made with more luxurious materials, two or more limousines for your family, flexible visits to the chapel and a choice of funeral day.

      For further information, see our comparison tables

      Can I plan every detail of the funeral?

      Depending on how much you're willing to pay, when buying the plan you can also tell the provider exactly what you want included in your funeral – such as the type of coffin or specific music played. Some of these extras won't necessarily be paid for within the plan, it's just written down so your family are aware when the time comes – so you'll need to let your family know they might need to pay extra for this.

      Can you choose your own funeral director?

      Some funeral plan providers let you pick your own funeral director, who will arrange the funeral – though they usually have a list to choose from. Others will pick one for you. If it's important to you that your funeral is organised by a particular funeral director, then check with the plan provider and/or the funeral director that you can do this before you buy it.

  3. Plans can guard against inflation and rising prices

    Plans are heavily promoted on protecting you against a predicted soaring rate of inflation in the funeral industry. While it's true total bills have gone up well beyond inflation for over a decade, the Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA) and the Treasury are now bearing down on funerals. This may mean prices stabilise and the savings of taking out a plan now won't be as big as the fear-mongering makes out.

    It's really important to recognise that no plan is a guarantee that all costs are covered. Apart from items outside the plan being unexpectedly needed when the time comes, not all plans guarantee to cover all costs. Even those that do can have important and expensive exclusions such as the grave plot.

    Third party costs - those charged by anyone who is not the funeral director - can account for half or more of the cost of the funeral and in many plans, these are dealt with by an allowance which may not go up enough to keep pace with such things as shortages of crematoria and high fees required by local authorities. 

    That said, plans do go a long way towards taking care of a large part of the essential costs. All plans guarantee to cover funeral director services as specified in the plan, eg, looking after the body, coffin and hearse, even if those prices increase in the future. Some also guarantee to pay for all non-funeral director costs, such as the cremation and minister's or celebrant's fee, while others only give an allowance, so if prices have gone up by the time of the funeral, it may not cover it all and the family or estate would have to pay the difference.

    Obviously it is a financial gamble, as we don't know what the prices of funerals will be like in the future. But a big boon of paying for your funeral now is that if prices do rise in the future, the funeral director services, at least, are protected against inflation.

  4. Is a funeral plan worth it?

    If you have the money to pay for a funeral plan now and you're the sort of person who likes to be in control of things, while at the same time taking the pressure off your family when the time comes, both financially and emotionally, then a funeral plan is an option to consider.

    The average price paid for a funeral covering the core elements was £4,300 in 2018 – £3,750 for cremations and £4,800 for burials – while extras such as flowers and catering for the wake could add an additional £2,000. So with funeral plans from large nationwide providers ranging from £3,000 to £4,000, you can expect them to cover a large amount of the essential costs but there could still be considerable sums to pay for discretionary items.

    There are lots of things to be aware of before buying a plan, so we've highlighted the key pros and cons below.

    What are the pros of funeral plans?

    • Buying a plan in advance of need when there's time to shop around and when the purchase can be made in what's presumably a calmer, more rational state of mind will take the pressure off your family financially and emotionally.

    • A plan will enable you to be in control of key elements of your funeral and save your family the organisational responsibility. Just make sure you choose a plan that gives you as much cover as you're going to need, so your loved ones aren't faced with surprise bills for excluded items or services.

    • Some funeral plans, particularly for cremations, allow you to pay a price that's been flattened out to work across the UK, even though you're in a more pricey location, so you could make a saving buying a plan from a big national company rather than a local firm in an expensive area.

      If moving elsewhere is a real possibility, you should check any plan before you buy to see if you'll be a winner or a loser. Check to see if it will still apply and what charge, if any, will be incurred if you do end up wanting the funeral in a different place.

      You're not likely to get the same potential advantage with burials, as plots aren't included in funeral plans and their cost can have a big impact, varying by £100s or even £1,000s. Plot pricing is all down to location, both within the UK and within the burial ground itself. London is by far the most expensive place to be buried but within a cemetery anywhere, some spots are more sought after and therefore pricier. Green burial costs also vary for the same reasons but tend to be a lot less than conventional burial.

    • If your estate is liable for inheritance tax, you can pare down assets by paying for a plan. Money towards a funeral plan is exempt from inheritance tax liability.

      Another bonus of buying a plan rather than putting the money aside in a bank or building  society account is your council might not count it if you're assessed for help towards care costs. However, if you're making this move to bring your money down below a trigger threshold, it's really important to check what limits your council sets. 

    • Currently five-year fixed savings rates beat inflation but shorter, easy-access savings  don't. We can't tell what will happen with inflation and you will need to take a view on when the funeral might be needed. Once you've done your sums, you may be able to work out whether protecting against possible funeral inflation is more important to you than earning interest by saving instead.

      If you decide to set aside money for a funeral into a savings account, let your family know what you want the money to be used for. But your family would still have to make all the arrangements themselves and could find there is not enough to cover the price of a funeral at the time. 

    What are the cons of funeral plans?

    • If the Competition and Markets Authority's investigation into prices in the funeral industry means prices come down for funerals bought at the time of need, it could mean that you end up overpaying by getting a funeral plan. It could also mean that prepaid plans go down. It's a gamble.

      There are, of course, other reasons beyond just the price for paying in advance (and we've listed these above in the pros of plans). It's important you work out what's right for you and your family.

    • You don't have to use a funeral director at all, so you could save a significant amount if you're willing to organise the separate elements of a funeral yourself.

      This involves registering the death, handling the paperwork and doctors' certificates and cremation application.

      It may also mean looking after the body and with waits of two weeks or more before cremation being fairly standard, issues of storage and care will have to be addressed. If this is not for you, a funeral director could provide refrigeration or embalming and prepare a body for viewing.

      Depending on location, time slots and how much is done by others, it's possible to have a funeral for under £1,000 with a cheap cremation. A so-called direct cremation means there will be no mourners, no service and no ceremony. Importantly, you may not get to view the body before hand.

      A less basic, but still simple, cremation funeral involving having the deceased collected, an ordinary coffin, cremation and the ashes being handed over is about £1,700, with an average of £1,000 more for burials.

      The table gives average prices (except where we've been more specific) for key elements in both cremation and burial funerals. Some costs may be covered already, such as holding the body in a hospital mortuary.

      Collecting body  No cost if you collect the body yourself from hospital mortuary. For a funeral director, it can cost £150-£300 depending on the time of day or up to around £500 if collecting from a care home, own house or out of hours.
      Cremation £360-£1,070 depending on whether crematorium is privately or council owned and on time slot. £600 on average.
      Doctors' certificates £164 (two needed for cremations, but none required for burials)
      Minister or celebrant (not compulsory) £225
      Coffin suitable for cremation £200
      Cardboard coffin for burial £200
      Burial plot £300 to £8,000 depending on location and if local council tax was paid, natural burial sites around £600
      Grave diggers £200-£450 (but others can dig it)

      Some figures supplied by The Natural Death Centre Charity, which has 70 UK sites, though none in Northern Ireland.

    • One of the key sales points on funeral plans has been price rise protection, but if you're going to need a funeral shortly, there's little gain from inflation proofing.

      It's possible to find a funeral that costs less than a similar plan so if you think you or your family will be cool headed enough to compare prices and not succumb to up-selling after a loved one has passed away, you may not need to buy a plan.

      But a word of warning. It's almost impossible to make an exact like-for-like comparison between prepaid and at need packages and you'll have to take a view on which features matter to you. For example, the Co-op's Simple at need funeral could cost on average £315 less - depending on location - than its broadly similar Simple plan but the £3,295 plan does offer slightly more - some flexibility on timing and help with arranging a service.

      Similarly, comparison site localfuneraldirector.co.uk offers even lower prices for very broadly similar 'at need' cremations starting with Direct at £1,209 once doctors' fees are added in, a package that may suit some but offers less than the Co-op's plan.

    • Burial and cremation costs behave in a similar way to property: they're all about location, location and location. If the funeral is going to take place in a less expensive area, you may find small providers giving cheaper prices for funerals bought at the time of need than larger, more well-known companies, which have national pricing strategies with their plans.

    • Some plans may not cover you for costs if the body has to be brought back over a certain distance, eg. 25 with Golden Charter or 50 miles with Age Co or Co-op, and some will only allow funerals in the area you bought it, so if you are planning on moving, a plan might not be right for you.

    • A plan may limit the choice of time and date of funeral more than you might expect. Cheaper plans are usually more restrictive on when the funeral can take place, often offering less popular times which could prove difficult for attendees. 

    • Some plans may restrict the choice of funeral director meaning there could delays before the event can take place. At MSE we've heard this has held up funerals for several weeks - even at quiet times of the year.

      It's a good idea to look at how many directors work with a particular plan provider in the area where you expect the funeral to take place when considering that plan.

  5. Your money isn't protected like a savings account

    The key thing to understand about this market is it is not regulated. This means your money isn't protected like in a savings account – where the first £85,000 is protected in the event of the bank or building society going bust – although discussions are ongoing to see whether this is an option.

    However, there is a voluntary organisation set up by the industry to regulate providers called the Funeral Planning Authority (FPA), which companies can choose to sign up to. It says 95% of funeral plans are currently offered by its registered providers, which must abide by a set of rules and code of practice.

    Every funeral plan provider, whether FPA-registered or not, must legally invest the money to pay for the funeral separately from the provider in either an insurance policy with a regulated insurer, or in a trust fund with independent trustees. This should mean if anything happens to the provider the money is ring-fenced and protected, so you won't lose it.

    If you buy a plan from an FPA-registered provider, then as part of its checks, the FPA will ensure the provider has invested your money properly. It'll also help with any complaints you have. In the best buys below, we only feature providers signed up to the FPA.

    Quick questions:

    • Your money being ring-fenced doesn't necessarily mean your funeral will still be covered if the funeral plan provider went bust, though if the provider is registered with it, the FPA will endeavour to make sure your funeral is delivered by another of its registered providers across the UK. Depending on the contract the provider had with the funeral director, if the provider went bust it might just mean all your money is returned to you, and you no longer get the funeral you wanted.

    • It's not a legal requirement for providers to be registered with the FPA, but most funeral plan providers – including the big ones such as the Co-op, Dignity and Golden Charter (which covers many small independents) – are signed up and consequently are subject to external scrutiny. You can find out if your provider is registered on the FPA website.

      What if I have a complaint?

      If you have a complaint about your plan provider, you can take it to the FPA to resolve if you have no luck with the provider first. They can engage an arbitrator to settle your dispute, and the resolution is then legally binding. Even if it doesn't reach arbitration, most funeral directors will follow the decision of the FPA.

  6. Cash paid into a funeral plan is sheltered from the taxman and care home fee evaluations

    One bonus of a funeral plan is that, once paid for, it isn't counted towards your estate, so it's excluded from inheritance tax charges when you die. If instead you'd chosen to keep money aside in a savings account to pay for your funeral, this does form part of your estate and is included in the total value of your estate for inheritance tax purposes.

    Another key bonus of a plan is the money isn't usually counted as part of your estate if you're being assessed for help with care fees by your council, though you should check with your local authority.

  7. There are four ways to pay for your funeral plan

    Most funeral plan providers have various payment methods. If you don't have the lump sum to pay straight away, you can pay in instalments. There are four different options:

    • A good option and the most popular if you have the lump sum. It means you won't have to worry about ongoing monthly payments which could cost extra, or any of your family having to make repayments if you die before you've finished paying it off.

    • This is best option if you don't have the full lump sum but can clear the full amount within 12 months as you're not usually charged extra, so in effect you're getting to pay off your plan interest-free for a year.

      But the downside is that if you die within the 12 months and haven't finished paying off the plan, your family will be asked for the remaining balance. If they don't pay, your plan could be cancelled and any money you've paid returned to your estate, minus a cancellation charge which could be as much as £800.

    • If you don't have the money now or can't pay in under a year and you really want a funeral plan, you can spread your payments for up to 30 years. But the cost will be typically 10% more (though could be higher depending how long you want to spread the payments for, cancelling out any saving on the funeral plan).

      If you die before repaying the full balance, your family will be asked to pay the remainder. If they don't, your plan may be cancelled for a hefty charge and any money you've already paid returned to your estate.

      There may be some exceptions. Some plans, such as the Co-op's, pay out even if you haven't paid all the premiums if certain conditions are met. With the Co-op, if you've been paying off a two- to 25-year plan for over 12 months but pass away before it's paid up, the Co-op will carry out the funeral and not charge your family the remaining instalments.

    • Not many of these are sold any more, but here you pay a fixed amount each month (it varies depending on your age) until you die or until your 90th birthday, whichever is sooner.

      Generally your fixed monthly payments would be lower than paying by option C above, but because you could potentially be paying over a much longer time period, overall you'll likely be paying in more – unless you die earlier than expected.

      WARNING! There is a real danger you could end up paying in more than the funeral will actually cost if you pay monthly until you die.  

  8. Tell your loved ones you have a funeral plan

    When you die, whoever is looking after your estate will need to notify the funeral plan provider or your nominated funeral director who will arrange and pay for the funeral, so it's important you tell people you have a plan.

    If you don't document it, but your family think you had a plan and just don't know who you bought it from and what the details are, the FPA has a trace a funeral plan facility on its website.

    The funeral plan provider will keep a copy of everything you have requested as part of your plan, so as long as your family know who the funeral plan provider is, they don't have to track down any specific documents. But it's always a good idea to have your own copy and ensure everyone who needs to know knows where it is when the time comes.

    If you've set up a plan to avoid your loved ones having any nasty surprises or hassle, it's important to tell them exactly what's included as plans don't cover everything.

  9. Don't confuse funeral plans with over-50s life insurance plans

    We're not a fan of over-50s life insurance plans, where for most people you end up paying in far more than you would get out. There has also been much consumer confusion following misleading promotion of them over how much they could deliver, especially regarding funeral costs.

    Funeral plans are different. That's because you can pay in one go up front, or a set amount each month for a set period of time (typically for up to five years or less) – so there doesn't have to be any ongoing payments for life. Also, once bought, certain basic services you want in your funeral are guaranteed to be provided. The rest, depending on the contract, may be partially paid.

  10. Consider whether you need the money to live on now

    If you need the money more desperately now, then you'll need to consider whether a funeral plan is the right option for you. Also, bluntly, your funeral will then be down to your family to arrange, so won't be your problem. If there's enough money left in your estate when you die, the funeral can be paid for from that.

    Most banks will pay an undertaker's bill straight away (provided there are sufficient funds), even though other money won't be released from an estate because of probate, provided an authentic funeral company's invoice and a death certificate are presented. Banks won't pay for other associated bills such as for the wake or flowers. 

Best buys from biggest nationwide plan providers

We've laid out to view our top pick of pre-paid funeral plans below. We started with providers with the widest spread of funeral directors in the UK and, because we're about money saving, we have chosen three on price.

Each of these providers offer very similar services at four different prices levels; what we're describing as basic, standard, higher and top level. We've focused on their four mainstream packages but there are even more stripped down packages on offer plus more bespoke funeral plans.

What do you get for your money?

When we compared the ordinary plans, our key findings were: 

  • Age Co, which uses Dignity undertakers, has the lowest price tag at each of the four service levels, followed by Golden Charter and then the Co-op.
  • The Co-op asks £300+ more for directly comparable packages compared to Age Co but the Co-op offers more than both Age Co and Golden Charter as standard.
  • The Co-op is likely to cover the most in the future as Age Co and Golden Charter rely on allowances to pay towards all the other funeral expenses beyond those of the undertaker. There are no guarantees that these allowances will match long term price rises even though financial watchdogs are now scrutinising the whole funeral industry. 
  • If you think you might relocate, check out a plan before you buy it to see if you can transfer it to the new area and what that would cost. The Co-op and Age Co are set up to accommodate relocating.
  • Cost is not the only consideration. Although the services are very similar, the personal touch may vary and having a wide choice of undertaker can matter. These three providers have a large number of undertakers that carry out their plans nationwide but Golden Charter offers by far the widest choice. 
  • These three can be beaten on price by smaller providers. Use our comparison tables below on these three biggies as a benchmark to service and price and then go to the sections further down on how to find smaller providers and assess whether they're right for you. 

All three funeral plan providers below are registered with the Funeral Planning Authority (FPA), meaning they've signed up to independent scrutiny. Until the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) takes over industry regulation - no date yet - FPA registration is your best security.

What are the similarities and differences between the funeral plans?

Regardless of the package level, at their core, all these plans in the tables below offer the same fundamental services from the funeral director. The plans all include the funeral director collecting the body (times and distances vary), caring for it, providing viewing of the body at a chapel of rest, arranging the funeral, a hearse for the body, and funeral personnel. The more you pay, the more ceremony you'll get from the funeral director.

The way the plans differ is that vital items and services that have to be provided by others beyond the funeral director are either covered for certain or the costs will be contributed to via an allowance - meaning there could be more to pay.

Often, it's not the funeral director that costs the most. It's all the fees for other services, particularly those driven by the local authority, that take the lion's share of the total expense. So to avoid being caught out, ensure these costs are provided for as far as possible.

BASIC PACKAGE (1) 
Plan provider Age Co  Golden Charter  Co-op
Plan name Basic Value Simple
No of funeral directors 800 (Dignity directors) 2,000+ 1,000+
Cheapest price - if paid in full £2,870 £2,895 £3,295
Cremation costs covered yes up to £800  yes
Burial costs covered (2)  up to £1,220  up to £800 yes but not plot
Choice of funeral time & week day  limited limited limited
Coffin type basic basic, wood effect basic
Mourners' limo (3) no no no
Minister's/celebrant's fee incl for cremation; for burials, can come out of £1,220 allowance  possibly (4) yes
Doctors' fees  no possibly (4) yes
Footnotes: (1) even more basic packages are available; (2) plots can cost £1,000s; (3) procession just to cremation/burial for Age Co and Co-op but no procession with Golden Charter (4) can come out of allowance if there's sufficient money
STANDARD PLANS      
Plan provider Age Co Golden Charter Co-op
Plan name Ivy Standard Bronze
No. of funeral directors 1,300  2,000+ 1,000+
Cheapest price if paid in full £3,270 £3,495 £3,595
Cremation costs covered yes up to £1,100 yes
Burial costs covered (1)  up to £1,220 and can be used on minister fees up to £1,100 yes but not plot
Choice of funeral time & weekday  office hours office hours office hours
Coffin type wood effect simple, wood effect wood effect incl. maple
Mourners' limo (2) no no no
Minister's/celebrant's fees incl for cremation; possibly for burials (3) possibly (4) yes
Doctors' fees  no possibly (4) yes
Footnotes: (1) plots can cost £1,000s; (2) procession only to crematorium/burial; (3) can come out of £1,220 burial allowance: (4) can come out of £1,100 cremation/burial allowance if there's enough money
HIGHER LEVEL PLANS
Plan provider Age Co Golden Charter Co-op
Plan name Holly Select Silver
Cheapest price if paid in full £3,625 £3,850 £3,950
No. of funeral directors 1,300 2,000+ 1,000+
Cremation costs covered included up to £1,100 included
Burial costs covered (1) up to £1,220 up to £1,100 yes but not plot
Choice of funeral time & week day yes yes yes
Coffin type 'quality' wood effect 'quality' wood effect wood effect incl rosewood
Mourners' limo (2) one one one
Minister's/celebrant's fee yes for cremation; possibly for burial (3) possibly (4)  yes
Doctors' fees  no
possibly (4) yes
Footnotes: (1) plots can cost £1,000s; (2) procession to service and on to crematorium/burial with Age Co but only to crematorium/burial with Golden Charter and Co-op; (3) can come out of £1,220 burial allowance; (4) can come out of £1,100 cremation/burial allowance
TOP LEVEL PLANS      
Plan provider Age Co Golden Charter Co-op
Top level plan name Rowan Premier Gold
Cheapest price (if paid in full) £3,870 £4,099 £4,199
Cremation costs covered yes up to £1,100 yes
Burial costs covered (1) up to £1,220 up to £1,100 yes but not plot
Choice of funeral time & week day yes yes yes
Coffin type wood veneer 'superior', wood effect wood veneer incl oak
Mourners' limos (2) two two two
Minister's/celebrant's fee yes for cremation; possibly for burial (3) possibly (4) yes
Doctors' fees  no
possibly (4) yes
Footnotes: (1) burial plots can cost £1,000s; (2) procession  goes to service location and to burial/cremation with Age Co but only to cremation/burial with Golden Charter and Co-op; (3) can come out of £1,220 allowance; (4) can come out of £1,100 cremation/burial allowance

 

Quick questions

  • Not necessarily. Protection against inflation is one of the key selling points of funeral plans and yet where there are allowances for the services provided by other people, not the undertaker, these allowances are not guaranteed to cover future price rises.

    Age Co's £1,220 allowance for third party costs will go up with the RPI rate of inflation but funerals have seen price hikes in excess of this, driven by crematoria and local authority charges, although these may be dampened down as the whole funeral industry comes under scrutiny from the Financial Conduct Authority and the Competition and Markets Authority.

    Golden Charter says its allowance of £1,100 (£800 for its basic Value package) will grow but it doesn't guarantee that this will be sufficient in the future.

  • There may be extra costs to the funeral that fall outside the plan. These can include:

    • The burial plot which can run to £1,000s although where the funeral plan allocates a burial allowance towards the various burial costs, there might be some money available towards a plot. 
    • Embalming, removing pace makers or artificial limbs prior to cremation, an order of service, flowers, masonry work, catering. 
    • Local authority fees. Burial fees for non-residents can be £1,000s - significantly higher than for residents.
    • If you don't use a local crematorium, graveyard or cemetery.
    • Yes but not in every case and obviously it will end up only being for one person. You don't get two for the price of one! Usually, it won't cost you extra to put two names down.
    • With Age Co, you can put two names down but only use the plan once.
    • With Golden Charter, the plan is transferable if you've paid for it in one go or with a deposit and then monthly installments. It's not transferable if you're paying fixed monthly payments to a life assurance company. 
    • With the Co-op, the plan pays out on the first person's passing.
  • Not with Age Co or the Co-op but you may face extra costs with Golden Charter. 

    Both Age Co and the Co-op use directors who will collect bodies up to 50 miles away but Golden Charter, whose plans are carried out by significantly more undertakers than either of the other two, only expects its directors to take in bodies from up to 25 miles, before extra charges may be incurred.

    If you could move far afield, look at how what level of choice of undertakers you'd have for each plan in the new location.

Smaller funeral plan providers can be cheaper

Smaller providers can be cheaper, but much depends on regional and local costs. If you live in a more expensive area, a provider offering nationwide pricing could be cheaper. 

If you move out of the area, a local provider in your original area may not cover you. Check what their limits are or you or your family could end up with unexpected costs – exactly what you'd been trying to avoid.

To find a provider, it's by far the safest to start with the Funeral Planning Authority's list of registered providers. You should scrutinise whether likely future areas are covered or if the plan provides flexibility over location.

For FPA registered ones with varying degrees of national coverage, consider EcclesiasticalGolden LeavesAvalonFuneral PartnersOpen Prepaid Funeral Plans and Pure Cremation

Eleven regional Co-ops are FPA registered but differ in size, the largest being Central EnglandMidcounties and East of England.

 

Comparison web sites focus on price rather than individual undertaker

Comparison web sites for plans can help you to scan across the market. They have been sprouting up across the wider funeral industry but the focus is on price and service details rather than the individual undertaker. They may appear impersonal but some, such as www.funeralplanmarket.com, offer help over the phone with the choice of package.

At this one, you can compare over 80 plans from FPA registered companies. The prices are the same as going direct to the provider and you can find prices lower than the three  nationwide biggies. For example, compared with AgeCo’s ‘Basic’ funeral/cremation plan for £2,870, MSE found an exclusive cremation plan from Memoria at £75 less and a Golden Leaves ‘Zinc’ burial plan that's £11 cheaper. You don't have to leave your contact details to get prices but if you want, you can buy through the site.

Always check the prices on web sites are up to date and the details accurate. Word of mouth can still serve you well. 

What if my preferred undertaker doesn't offer the plan I want?

A funeral plan isn’t just about price. If service and who delivers it matter and you want a particular funeral director, you should ask the undertaker if they'd accept a plan from your choice of provider even if they don't already deal with them.

Whichever plan you pick, check first it’s covered by the Funeral Planning Authority.

Which usually works out cheaper - cremation or burial?

Despite recent hikes in crematoria fees, cremations usually work out cheaper than burials because of the extra costs of buying a plot and then maintaining the site.

How can you cut burial costs by £100s or £1,000s?

You may be able to cut £1,000s in burial costs:

  • If you don't need to buy a plot because you've already got one or are prepared to buy one to share. There will then only be £100s to pay for opening a grave. In some circumstances, total costs could work out less than cremations.
  • A natural burial or woodland site will be much cheaper than a municipal site but you'll need to ensure materials used are bio-degradable. 
  • A standard coffin sourced via an undertaker can cost around £350 but you may be able to source a bio-degradable one for around £200.

Where to go for further help and free guidance

If you need further help on funerals and their costs, you can get free and impartial guidance from the Government's Money Advice Service

You can also turn to the newly launched, no nonsense FuneralAdvice.org - a consumer orientated web site set up in June by the National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors in response to the Competition and Markets Authority's criticism of the difficulties faced by the public in choosing funeral options. 

Funeral Plans Q&A

  • First complain to the provider itself, it should be able to resolve your issue. If you aren't happy with the resolution, you can take the complaint to the FPA if the provider is registered with it. If the complaint is for something that happens once the plan is put into action, a relative can complain, although it would normally be restricted to an executor or the relative named on the plan.

    If you bought a plan with a provider that isn't registered with the FPA, then you can take your complaint further to Trading Standards or Citizens Advice.

    If your complaint is about the funeral director, not the plan provider, then you can contact one of the two funeral director trade bodies, National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD) or The National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF).

  • When you buy a funeral plan, you'll need to tell the provider which funeral director you want it to arrange your funeral with. So if you later move house, you'll need to see if you can change funeral directors.

    Many of the plan providers will allow you to chose another funeral director should you need to, but some may charge a fee to do it, or even say you can only move within 15-20 miles from the funeral director. Check the terms of your funeral plan carefully before buying.

  • Some funeral plans allow you to alter your plan at any time without any administration cost. But if you want additional features added, there may be a cost for the service itself which you will need to pay. Check the T&Cs with your plan provider before buying a plan, as many of the cheapest plan options don't allow amendments once bought.

    Also if you are adding extra services, it's worth checking if the amount you have paid will increase in line with inflation. If it doesn't, there's a risk your family will have to pay extra later on.

  • Yes, but it just might not be the funeral you want. When you die, the executors of your estate will have access to your money to arrange your funeral. If there's not enough money in your estate to pay for the funeral and if the person organising your funeral is on a low income, they may in some circumstances qualify to get a funeral payment from the Government to pay for it.

    How much they get will vary depending on their circumstances, but the payments will usually cover the burial/cremation fee, cost of documents prepared, transport to the funeral, and up to £700 for other funeral director costs, such as the coffin and hearse. The funeral payment will need to be repaid, and it's usually taken from your estate before any debts or bills are repaid.

    Alternatively, if there's no money in your estate or there's nobody to arrange one for you, your local council can arrange a 'public health funeral'. This will be a very basic funeral on a set day, though how the service will run varies from council to council.

  • If something is written in the deceased's will which is different to the funeral plan, even if the will was written before the funeral plan, what has been covered and paid for in the funeral plan will be executed unless the executors decide they want to go with the wishes in the will. Then it will be down to them to make the necessary changes and pay for any costs this may incur.

  • It depends on the provider and what payment plan you've chosen. If you're paying by monthly instalments between 1-30 years, then generally you'll be given 30-60 days to make the missed payment. If you miss that, your plan will be cancelled and you'll get all your money back, minus the cancellation charge.

    If you're paying by ongoing fixed monthly payments (option D in need-to-know section 7, which we warn against doing), your plan could be cancelled and you'll receive nothing back.

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