Before planning a funeral, consider what you can afford.
People are often overwhelmed in the first few days of bereavement, so take your time and think about your options.
Help with funeral costs can come from a variety of sources. Use the options below to help you calculate the money available to you.
Money from the deceased person’s estate
When somebody dies, the money and assets they leave behind are called their estate. Their accounts may be frozen but during this time the bank, building society, or Post Office can still issue a payment to contribute to the funeral bill. You should pay the funeral bill before other debts and bills such as rent, electricity or council tax are paid.
As well as checking if the person who died had any money in bank accounts, savings or property, check if they had any of the following:
- Pre-paid funeral plan
- Insurance policy
- Occupational pension scheme
- Burial or cremation club
- Death in service benefit (if they were employed at the time of death)
Government help with funeral costs - Funeral Expenses Payment (England, Wales and Northern Ireland)
There is some statutory financial support available to help with funeral costs. The average funeral payment covers about 41% of the average cost of a simple funeral.
To be eligible you must first of all be responsible for the funeral costs and in receipt of qualifying benefits.
The DWP look at two things in deciding whether to issue a funeral payment:
The applicant’s benefits and very possibly the benefits of some of the deceased’s family
- Whether they consider the applicant to have had the closest contact with the deceased
What benefits are required?
You or your partner need to be in receipt of one of the following income-related benefits:
- Universal Credit
- Income Support
- Income based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income related Employment and Support Allowance
- Pension Credit
- Housing Benefit
- Working Tax Credit which includes a disability or severe disability element
- Child Tax Credit
If your financial circumstances were connected to the person who has died, your benefits may have been affected and you may need to make a new application first - call the DWP Bereavement Service on 0800 731 0469, or your council if it is an application for housing benefit. If you are not currently in receipt of benefits, you may now be eligible – you can check by completing a benefits calculation online. Also, take a look at our guide to finances after a bereavement.
Closeness of contact
If the deceased was living with a spouse or civil-partner, or with a partner as if they were, the DWP will only consider an application from that person, except in exceptional circumstances.
After this, they will expect the person who had the closest contact with the deceased to apply. They categorise family members in the following way:
- Immediate family members (i.e. parent or adult child)
- Close relatives (e.g. brothers and sisters, including half and step)
- Other family (e.g. grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins), partners/spouses who weren’t living together and friends
What it covers, amounts and deductions
The main costs the Funeral Expenses Payment contributes towards are as follows:
- Reasonable burial or cremation fees
- Doctors’ fees
- Up to £1,000 toward other funeral expenses (generally those covered under funeral director’s fees, or if you are going DIY, costs such as the coffin)
- Death certificates to release money belonging to the person who died
- One return journey to arrange or attend the funeral, not including the cost of a funeral car
- In some circumstances, transport costs if you need to move the person who died over 50 miles
If the deceased had some money in their estate, e.g. in a bank account or insurance policy, this will be deducted from any award paid out.
How to claim
In England and Wales, you can download an SF200 form to apply or complete an application by phoning the DWP Bereavement Service Helpline on 0800 731 0469.
In Northern Ireland you can download one at nidirect gov.uk/publications/funeral-expenses-payment-application-forms or contact the Bereavement Service on 0800 085 2463.
The DWP aim to process Funeral Expenses Payments within 13 working days, though in practice it can take longer.
Funeral Support Payment (Scotland)
Learn about applying for the Funeral Support Payment in Scotland on our factsheet.
Down to Earth funeral costs helpline
Our funeral costs helpline is staffed by an expert team who can offer you free and confidential advice about help with funeral costs anywhere in the UK.
Our experienced advisors have supported thousands of people across the UK to plan, reduce costs, identify ways to raise money, and get the right government support.
Funerals during the coronavirus pandemic
We have put together a practical guide for organising a funeral during the pandemic, including ideas to help mark the cremation or burial of a loved one when people are unable to attend.
Bereavement support payment
If you were married or in a civil partnership with the person who has died you may be eligible for the Bereavement Support Payment.
You need to be below state pension age and the deceased must have paid National Insurance contributions for at least 25 weeks in one tax year, or have died due to an accident at work or a disease caused by work.
If you were not married or in a civil partnership with the person who died, but were living together as if you were and you have dependent children, then you will hopefully be able to make a backdated claim for this payment in the future. We recommend you get advice from a welfare benefits service.
- Bereavement Support Payment (England, Wales and Scotland)
- Bereavement Support Payment (Northern Ireland)
Some charities, particularly those linked to trades and professions can offer help with funeral costs for people facing financial difficulty. They rarely pay for everything and many prefer to make an award after any government support has been received.
You can ask someone like a support worker, social worker or Citizen’s Advice adviser for guidance on charities to approach and for help making an application, or you can complete the Turn2Us online grants search.
Under the ‘Search for a grant’ section, you can enter details about your past work and employment. You’ll then get a list of charities to which you may be able to apply for help. Have a look at each one and check the eligibility criteria.
If you struggle with the search you can call their helpline: 0808 802 2000.
Crowdfunding towards funeral costs
Online donations from family, friends and even strangers who just want to help can reduce funeral debt. Crowdfunding is used to raise money for all kinds of reasons, including funeral costs. It involves creating an online page where people can donate to a particular cause. You would need to choose a website – there are lots out there, but some popular examples are:
Check if the website will still pay you the donations even if you don’t reach your target and if the website charges any fees e.g. a % of each donation. State the amount you still need to raise and write something explaining the difficulties you are facing and something about the person who has died. You will need to tell people about the page – using social media can be a good way to spread the word to lots of people quickly.
Reducing funeral costs
There are various ways you can keep funeral costs down. We've put together some essential guidance for anyone planning a funeral now or in the near future.
Public health funerals and hospital funerals
If are unable to make the funeral arrangements due to lack of funds, or you are unwilling to do so, the council where the person died has a legal duty to carry out a burial or cremation.
If someone died in hospital, they will sometimes do this instead of the council, using the NHS budget, but they have no obligation to, so this differs around the country.
Councils have limited budgets so they are likely to check that there is nobody who can pay and ask if you have tried other sources first. However, even if you are able to get a government funeral payment, if you are unable to pay the shortfall from that then the council should still consider a public health funeral. If no one is making arrangements they are legally required to do so.
Each council or hospital will have their own policy on what they deem to be an appropriate funeral. Many will carry out a cremation and most will provide a short service, often early in the day. However, it does vary across the UK. Bear in mind that some councils and hospitals unfortunately prevent the family from attending or receiving ashes back.
In England, Northern Ireland and Wales councils must not cremate someone where there is "reason to believe that cremation would be contrary to the wishes of the deceased". In Scotland, they must "have regard to any wishes that the person expressed" regarding whether they wanted to be buried or cremated.
You can find out more details of how a public health or hospital funeral is carried out in your area by contacting the coroner, if they have been involved, or calling your council or hospital direct.