Combating funeral poverty: The importance of planning for the future

1 February 2024

According to SunLife’s 2023 Cost of Dying Report, the cost of dying rose to £9,200 in 2022. Those costs may include funeral costs, administration and professional fees, and the costs of your ‘send off’, such as a wake or a reception.

But what if those sorts of costs are out of reach? “Funeral poverty” describes the circumstances where someone can’t afford to pay the costs of a funeral, or where paying such costs will send them into considerable debt.

How does funeral poverty come about, and how can you avoid it?

• How might someone find themselves in funeral poverty?

A funeral and its associated costs following the death of someone close can lead some people into a cycle of debt and financial hardship, especially where the deceased person has not made financial provision or where a death is unexpected.
Whether it’s due to piling costs onto a credit card, having to sell possessions or dip into savings, funeral costs can be overwhelming and carry a long-term financial impact for some.

• How do people plan for their own funeral costs?

SunLife reported that 69% of people planned and made provision for their own funeral costs before they died, but that only 59% of those planned sufficiently to cover the full costs.

Funeral costs were provided for in a number of ways, including savings, investments, life-insurance plans – particularly those for the over-50s – and pre-paid funeral plans.

• How do those left behind make up funeral costs after the death of someone close?

The SunLife Cost of Dying Report reveals that, on average, relatives or others close to someone who has died paid an additional £1870 in funeral costs.

Those additional costs came from savings or investments, credit cards, borrowing money from others – including bank or other loans – selling possessions, making payment arrangements with a funeral director, or through a benefit or other subsidy.

• What happens if no funds for a funeral can be found?

If the deceased person doesn’t leave enough money for a funeral, if no funds can be found by those left behind, or if there are no relatives or friends to arrange a funeral, the local authority can arrange a Public Health Funeral.

These funerals are usually a cremation with a short service, which mourners are able to attend. Public Health Funerals don’t include flowers, cars or other ‘extras’.

• How can I plan for my funeral costs?
Planning in good time may help to prevent those you leave behind from experiencing funeral poverty.

It’s worth speaking to people close to you and to any preferred funeral director to plan what you’d like for your funeral. Consider as many aspects as you can, from whether you’d like a cremation or burial to the contents of your service, your chosen coffin and any wake, reception or other celebration.

Once you know what sort of ‘send off’ you’d like, you’ll be able to identify the costs you need to set aside, whether that’s in savings, through insurance or in a pre-paid funeral plan.

Funeral plans are available from many funeral directors, allowing you to pay into a fund upfront or monthly and to fix the costs of your funeral to protect against rising prices.

Find out more about funeral plans, how they work and how your money is protected in our article.

• What benefits might be available?

A range of benefits and other support may be available to you if you’re bereaved and worried about how to pay for the costs of a funeral.

A Funeral Expenses Payment can help to pay for some funeral costs, such as burial fees, cremation fees, death certificate and other documents. You may be eligible for a Funeral Expenses Payment if you receive certain benefits or tax credits, and if you have an eligible relationship with the deceased (for example, you may be their partner or parent of a child.

Bereavement Support Payment may be available to you if your partner has died. This payment is not means-tested. To be eligible you must be under State Pension age, and either married to your partner, in a civil partnership with them or living with them as if you were married. There are further eligibility requirements, such as your partner’s working status, to check when you make a claim.

The Bereavement Support Payment you receive will vary depending on your circumstances.

This article has been prepared by Adroit Legal Services and is not intended to constitute legal or financial advice.

Need more help in planning ahead for funeral costs? Access practical bereavement support from the National Bereavement Service

The National Bereavement Service supports anyone who has experienced a bereavement, including sudden or traumatic bereavement, with practical and emotional information and advice from professional bereavement advisors with lived experience.

We help you to comply with legal requirements, signpost you to providers such as funeral directors and solicitors, and provide a listening ear that helps you through a very difficult time.
Our expert advisers also help anyone to plan ahead for their own death, from Wills and Lasting Powers of Attorney to considering funeral costs.

For personal, confidential, and practical help following a bereavement, or for advice when planning your future, call the NBS on 0800 0246 121 or visit

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