Who pays for a funeral if there is no money?

Rising funeral costs in the UK

The price of a funeral is one of the fastest rising costs in the UK. The cost of cremating or burying a deceased loved one has increased by 112% within the last fifteen years and shows no sign of slowing.

In 2017 the price of a simple burial or cremation was calculated at £4,078, compared with £1,920 in 2004. With the cost of a even a simple ceremony rising each year funeral prices could rise to £13,000 within two decades if the current rate of increase continues.

The expenses of a simple funeral ceremony include:

funeral director discussing funeral costs with an elderly woman
funeral director discussing funeral costs with an elderly woman
  1. The services of a funeral director
  2. The cost of cremation or burial
  3. Doctor’s fees
  4. The services of a minister or celebrant

Funeral expenses are also taking up a bigger percentage of the total cost of dying, with almost 70% of the total expenditure on funeral arrangements as opposed to 55% in 2008.  

An estimated one in nine families experience financial difficulty while trying to pay for a funeral. Of these, one in five fail to meet the costs without assistance or a loan.

Who pays for a funeral if the deceased has no money UK?

At present, you cannot be forced to cover the costs of a funeral even if you have enough money to do so.  Provided you refuse all responsibility for the deceased, you are not obliged to pay for the disposal of their body.

The only exception to this is if the deceased is your child; then you have an obligation to pay for a direct burial or cremation under common law. This does not mean that you must hold a funeral for them, however.

Should you decide not to pay for a funeral for your next-of-kin, make sure that you do not accept responsibility for any service related to their body. State this clearly and if submit it formally in writing.

If you sign a contract (with the funeral director, for instance) and the services you signed for are rendered, you will have to pay for them. If you accept responsibility and do not pay, expect your details to be given to a collection agency.

What is a pauper’s funeral UK?

Under the 1984 Public Health (Control of Disease) Act, the council are responsible for disposing of any people found dead within their boundary if there is no one else to take care of the matter.

If the deceased’s relatives cannot afford the cost of a funeral, either by their own means or through funding, or refuses to pay, the body is given what used to be called a pauper’s funeral. Now it is referred to as a public health funeral. Every year thousands of public health funerals are held in the UK.

In the past, a pauper’s funeral involved a simple burial in an unmarked, shared grave. This does still happen but it is much more common for bodies to be cremated and their ashes hygienically disposed of unless the deceased specified otherwise in their will.

It is possible to attend a public health funeral and the council will advise any relatives of the date and time. Specific times and dates cannot be requested, however.

The average public health funeral costs the council £950. Local authorities are entitled to recover the cost of the funeral from the deceased’s estate if this is possible.

What is a funeral payment UK?

If you want to pay for the funeral of a loved one but are worried that you cannot meet the costs, you may be entitled to a funeral payment to help you financially.

You can use a funeral payment to cover:

  1. Death certificates
  2. Doctor’s certificates for cremation
  3. Burial fees, including interment fees and exclusive rights of burial
  4. Travel costs
  5. The cost of moving the body more than 50 miles within the UK
  6. Up to £700 for other funeral expenses, including funeral director’s fees

You are entitled to a funeral payment if you receive any of the following benefits:

  1. Income Support
  2. income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  3. income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  4. Pension Credit
  5. Universal Credit
  6. Housing Benefit
  7. Working Tax Credit which includes a disability or severe disability element
  8. Child Tax Credit

Donate body to science: free cremation?

Many people concerned about the costs of their funerals are choosing to donate their bodies to science. In this situation your remains will be taken care of by the medical establishment that becomes responsible for them and cremated afterwards cost-free.

However, this is hardly a guaranteed way of saving yourself and/or your family the expense of a funeral. Medical institutions are choosy about which bodies they accept and your remains may be rejected if:

  1. You have undergone a post-mortem
  2. You have had an organ transplant
  3. The cause of death was cancer or an infectious disease
  4. The cause of death was something traumatic, such as a car accident
  5. You are obese

Bodies are also rejected simply because there is currently no space for them, so those who plan to leave their bodies to science should have plans – financial and otherwise – to fall back on in case this proves impossible to arrange.

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