Category Archives: General

Pros and Cons of Funeral Plans v Insurance v Savings

\Pros and Cons of Funeral PlansThe pros and cons of funeral plans revolve around two things: which is the best plan for you (and independent advice is needed to find out) and secondly, what are the alternatives, and are they better for you?

The main alternatives to prepaid funeral plans are:

  1. Saving up for a funeral in a savings account.

The problem with this one is two-fold: firstly, funeral cost inflation is FAR higher than even the best interest rates available over the last few years. Also, there is always the temptation to spend it if things go wrong and the car needs repairs or the central heating dies!

2. Nasty Non Profit whole of life.

We understand that not everyone can afford a normal funeral plan, but if folk read the small print on these (and half a million people a year buy them) they would not go ahead.  A typical plan has no inflation protection and will pay the same out on death after 2 years or 40 years when it will be next to useless.  Worse, there is no cash value if the policy is canceled at any time – and in most cases, missing a couple of payments in old age is enough to lose the benefits.

The Pros and Cons of Funeral Plans

I know from personal experience of the pros and cons of prepaid funeral plans that they are not perfect. Such a plan will cover precisely what it says it does, in the way it says it does, and no more or less.  That is why it is important to read the brochures and terms and conditions, or you could end up with a plan which just doesn’t fit in with your wishes.

A “standard” prepaid funeral plan guarantees the funeral directors fees for services set out in the plan and makes an allowance towards specific third-party costs such as the crematorium and a service at the crematorium (not a church – they will normally be more).  All sorts of other things which your family might want are probably NOT covered, though you can add extra funds to most plans or go for the next plan up.

The next level plan typically adds a posher coffin and a limousine for the family.  Up a level again, and you get two limousines, a posher coffin and maybe a sprig of flowers.

It really is important to get professional advice in sorting out the pros and cons of the hundreds of variations of funeral plans on the market.  Lots of people end up buying products which never had the intention of paying for the funeral at all.  They just provide a fixed lump sum (generally not inflation-linked) which can be used to pay a part of the funeral provided payments have not been missed.

Over 300,000 people a year decide to invest in a funeral plan these days, and most of them don’t get professional advice – which remains free to the consumer.  Even more, people buy what we would consider unsuitable insurance products.

Whichever plan is right for you, whatever its pros and cons, with sensible advice, will go a long way towards easing the financial and emotional burden on others when you go.  So why not use the links at the top of the page to have a chat with one of the advisers who care enough to subscribe to our Independent Research?   If there isn’t one yet, but give the Research Team a call, they will be pleased to help.

I bought an over 50s life policy thinking it was a funeral plan

I bought an over 50s life policy thinking it was a funeral plan. What should I do?

An “Over 50s life policy” is a perfectly valid form of insurance.   The only trouble is that the “non profit whole of life policy” which forms the basis for most of them is totally unsuited for the role many people buy it for. It will, in most cases, NOT pay for your funeral for the reasons below..

That comes as a shock to many, who have not though about the subtle nature of much of the advertising, nor have they read the health warnings.

Some of the disadvantages:

  • 1) Miss more than a couple of payments (say when you are ill in hospital) and your policy will normally be cancelled and you will get NOTHING back.
  • 2) As funeral costs increase (49% or so over the last 5 years) the value of your policy shrinks. Maybe if you take out a really large on or die just after the non payout period it will.
  • 3) In most cases you will have to continue paying until you are at least 85, and you could end up paying in more than you get out.
  • 4) Worse still, the family may not have access to the life insurance until probate has been granted, which may be many months later.

So should I cancel my Over 50s policy?

We think the Regulators should be ashamed of themselves for trashing the decent policies which used to be available. We don’t think non profit whole of life policies should be allowed, for the simple reason that the public just do not understand what they are as they read what they want to read not what the adverts say.

That said, you will get nothing back if you cancel a non profit whole of life policy. That is probably fine if you have only just taken it out, but not so good if you have been paying into it for years and perhaps are poorly.

So what our members might well suggest is a “part” funeral plan which pays for the funeral directors services, but does not allow for the third party costs such as cremation, doctors fee or clergy. You would be surprised how many people (again) don’t read the small print and buy these as a proper funeral plan not a part plan!

Use the navigation bar at the top to find one of our members in your local area and they will be happy to discuss how to bee up your over 50s life policy.

What is the Cheapest Funeral Plan?

Which is the Cheapest Funeral Plan?

That is a question we often get asked.  Here at Best Funeral Plans, our research has show that the cheapest possible funeral plans are generally divided into two classes:

1) The Not Really A Funeral Plan Plan Part 1.

Paying part of the cost

Paying part of the cost

Many companies offer a cut down plan which covers ONLY the funeral directors costs, leaving the family to pay anywhere between one third and one half of the costs at the time of the funeral.

They are far better than nothing, but the problem is that many firms do not make it very clear that that is what you are buying.   Even our Research Department sometimes has to ring up and ask specific questions to find out what is included.   Paying the cremation costs, the doctors and ministers fees can easily eat up £1100 or more even at todays’ costs.

The Not Really a Funeral Plan Plan has its’ uses, as long as you and those around you understand what you have bought. If you don’t, then you could be unintentionally storing up a big problem when the demand for payment before the funeral comes in. That is one reason why our Members independent guidance can be so useful.

The Not Really A Funeral Plan Plan Part 2.

Life insurance plans are often bought to pay for funerals.  Most of them make no allowance for inflation, so you start off with enough cover, but in 5 years there is a one third shortfall and in ten years you might only cover half the cost. In many cases you can pay in more than the cost of the funeral!

Much better to buy a proper funeral plan in installments – at least you won’t lose everything if a few years down the line your miss an installment or two whilst away or in hospital due to a bank error.   You can buy a proper funeral plan in installments over as long as 10 years, or interest free over up to 2 years, and the more you can put down as a deposit, the lower the installments,

2) Direct Cremation – the cheapest funeral plan.  But not for everyone.

Direct cremation is an option in which the body removed and cremated in the days immediately after the death, without a funeral service. It is the cheapest option, but it offers no possibility of the family being involved or saying a proper goodbye. And people often forget that friends may be even more upset than some family members if they are deprived of the chance to say a traditional farewell.

Costs are lower because once the deceased is taken by the undertaker, the family have no more involvement unless they are able to get the ashes back.   The funeral director will book an out of hours time at the cheapest crematorium within reach.  No one other than the undertaker will be allowed attend.

That is it.

This is the cheapest funeral plan for sure, but very few people have no one that cares for them at all, so it is not an option we would generally recommend.  But as ever, it is horses for courses! The most common reason for choosing this type of plan is that the family live overseas and it would not be realistic to fly back.  But that still leaves friends out.

To find out which is the cheapest funeral plan for you (or the most suitable) just contact one of our members above.

Small Charity Fund Raising

SMALL CHARITIES LOSING OUT TO BIG NAMES AS POLL REVEALS DROP IN DONATIONS

We don’t want to say that we at Best Funeral Plans can solve this problem overnight, but if you are responsible for your charities fund raising, a brief chat might make a very big difference! We’re on 01323 740847. And our ideas extend beyond funeral plans! But here is the Nationwide Press Release:

Nationwide urges smaller organisations to capitalise on their cash as research shows fall in giving

Small charities are being urged to save wisely, with research from Nationwide Business Savings revealing that more than a quarter of people (26%) admit they have reduced donations to charity since the recession.

While overall giving to major causes, such as Children in Need and Comic Relief, has continued to grow, almost one in four (39%) of those surveyed opted to support the larger charitable names, compared with a nearly a quarter (24%) preferring to donate to smaller, more local charities. Of those choosing to give to the big charities, the Nationwide poll revealed that one in four (24%) of people are reluctant to give to smaller charities because they are perceived to be less effective. Conversely, more than half (54%) of people would rather donate to a larger cause, as they are seen to be able to make a more significant collective difference through people power.

According to the Nationwide research, there are also significant regional differences in attitudes towards giving. Londoners appear to have felt the pinch more, with more than a third (34%) saying they had reined in donations since 2007, compared with just one in five (19%) of those in the North East.

Charitable organisations finding themselves frozen out by larger names could make their money go further by investing into a business savings account that pays interest, rather than leave it to gather dust in zero or low interest paying current accounts or savings accounts. Nationwide Business Savings offers a range of accounts to suit the different needs of businesses, including charities, and pays rates of up to ten times higher than those on offer from its high street competitors (see below table for comparison).

Simon Reed, Nationwide’s Head of Business Savings, said: “Charities naturally rely on the good will of people in order to raise the money needed to help good causes. However, if household budgets come under pressure, people often look to cut expenditure, meaning donations to charities could be amongst the first things to go.

“As with any business, it’s important to make the most of the money that you do have. Often, an organisation will choose to open a business savings account with the same provider they bank with. But in doing so they could be losing out on valuable interest.

“At Nationwide, we offer rates up to ten times higher than the other high street banks, while providing business and charities with the security of keeping their money with a household brand they know and trust.”

The most popular way to support a charity is through gifting items to charity shops, with 56% indicating this was their chosen means of giving, although almost as many (55%) said they opted for ad hoc donations. The Northern Irish are the most generous with donations of items to charity shops, with two thirds (68%) of those surveyed saying they contribute in this way.  Northern Ireland is also the most likely to have a Direct Debit set up to donate to charity, with a third (37%) donating in this manner, compared to just 18% of those in Wales. (see regional breakdown below).

Stephen Uden, Nationwide’s Head of Corporate Citizenship, said: “In 2007, Nationwide members voted to donate 1% of pre-tax profits to good causes.  As well as supporting major charities such as Macmillan Cancer Support and Shelter, Nationwide supports over 1,000 small local charities each year through its Community Match scheme.”

Further details on Nationwide’s Business Savings accounts can be found at www.nationwidecommercial.co.uk

Comparison of business savings offered on the high street*

:

Provider Instant Access Notice Six-Month Fixed One-Year Fixed
Nationwide 1.00% 1.05% 1.10% 1.40%
HSBC 0.05% – 0.07% (Depending on withdrawals) 0.06% Negotiated Negotiated
Royal Bank of Scotland 0.05% 0.25% N/A N/A
Lloyds Bank 0.05% – 0.10% 0.70% 0.80% 1.15%
NatWest 0.05% 0.25% N/A N/A
Barclays 0.05% – 0.50% N/A N/A N/A
Santander 0.05% – 0.75% N/A N/A N/A
Figures based on a balance of £50,000. Correct as at 15.9.15

 

Regional Breakdown

 

Region Percentage of people who have decreased donation to charity since the recession (2008) Percentage who don’t think smaller charities are as effective Percentage who would rather make a bigger difference collectively Percentage who donate to charity shops Percentage who donate by Direct Debit
East Anglia 26.1% 20.6% 55.6% 51.6% 27.5%
East Midlands 28.2% 25.6% 58.1% 56.4% 26.4%
London 34.3% 27.1% 52.3% 49.6% 31.4%
North East 19.1% 25.9% 48.2% 58.4% 30.3%
North West 25.8% 19.8% 59.4% 57.5% 23.6%
Northern Ireland 23.7% 26.1% 56.5% 67.8% 37.3%
Scotland 26.2% 20.8% 59.7% 61.1% 26.7%
South-East 23.3% 23.2% 47.3% 59.0% 28.9%
South-West 26.9% 22.6% 41.5% 52.1% 25.7%
Wales 25.7% 22.2% 50.0% 52.3% 18.4%
West Midlands 24.9% 26.5% 60.3% 55.3% 34.5%
Yorkshire & Humber 23.9% 31.2% 52.0% 54.4% 25.0%

 

Local Cremation Costs

How much are local cremation costs?

The BBC obtained information on local cremation costs made by Local Authorities and the rapid rate at which they are rising. Costs vary from a modest £360 to a substantial £1080 – and it may well be that some crematoria who did not reply charge even more! Remember that these are only part of the cost of a funeral (our local advisers will be happy to go into more detail for those interested in investing in a prepaid funeral plan.)  If you look down the table they produced, you will see some incredibly large increases, all many, many times the general rate of inflation. There was just one honourable exception where the cremation cost was actually reduced.

Interestingly, the variation between the cheapest and most expensive is a multiple of THREE – so you could cremate three people in one area for the cost of cremating one in the most expensive (whose neighbours are cheaper!)  Bear in mind that these are all Local Authority operations, and you have to question the extreme variations in cost.

Cremation Costs v Burial Costs

Burial costs are normally far more, and although reasonable cremation or burial costs are usually covered by a proper prepaid funeral plan, purchase of the burial plot is not. Having said that, the overwhelming majority of funeral plans we arrange for people are – at their choice – for local cremations.  Anyone wishing to be cremated in the more expensive locations would be well advised to make extra provision (ask our folk.)

So why are cremation costs going up so much?

  1. Pressure on Local Authorities to balance budgets is clearly a major cause.

  2. Environmental Law has added very substantial costs to the running of crematoria. One Local Authority quoted an investment of £1.8 million, a lot of money. If the filters are not fitted, the crematorium is “fined” £53 for every cremation.

One way of dramatically reducing costs would be to have 24 hour 7 day operation of this expensive equipment, but that, we suspect, would be deeply unpopular and would force a reduction in the number of crematoria and increase travelling times to attend a funeral.

That said, there are an increasing number of privately run cremation facilities and some interesting alternatives which have yet to impact the UK funeral market.

Local Cremation Cost Table

Note: not all authorities had set 2015-16 charges when the figures were obtained so the previous years figure has been used which will make them appear cheaper than they really are. These are indicated by an *.

Local cremation fees are not that straightforward: some times of day may be more expensive than others, there may be extras with some which are included with others, and other variables.

For reference purposes, inflation alone would have added about 10.5% to cremation fees.

Council

2010-11

2015-16

Increase

Aberdeen

535

653

22%

Adur

517

695

35%

Angus

700

830*

19%

Argyll & Bute

447

523

17%

Ashfield

344

584

70%

Aylesbury

450

535

19%

Barnet

540

650

20%

Barnsley

454

673

48%

Barrow

359

721

101%

Bath & NE Somerset

550

645

17%

Bedford

490

647

32%

Belfast

198

360

82%

Birmingham West Midlands

519

685

32%

Blackburn & Darwen

480

633

32%

Blackpool

455

625

37%

Bolton

495

635

24%

Boston

430

650

51%

Bournemouth

459

610

25%

Bracknell

588

739

26%

Bradford

527

650

23%

Bridgend

425

615

45%

Brighton & Hove

365

600

64%

Bristol

510

682

34%

Bromsgrove & Redditch

450

540

20%

Broxtowe

436

586

34%

Burnley

464

610

31%

Calderdale

499

655

31%

Cambridge

527

674

28%

Cardiff City

432

515

19%

Carlisle, Cumbria

521

750

44%

Chelmsford

504

612

21%

Cheltenham

555

629

13%

Cheshire East

379

495

31%

Cheshire West & Chester

410

650

59%

Chesterfield

454

625

38%

Chiltern

450

535

19%

City of London

515

720

40%

Colchester

485

702

45%

Conwy

430

552

28%

Copeland Cumbria

526

700

33%

Cornwall (Penmount)

386

602

56%

Coventry

504

630

25%

Craven District

490

615

26%

Croydon

576

740

28%

Darlington

571

697

22%

Derby

460

617

34%

Doncaster

516

700

36%

Dudley

503

696

38%

Durham

470

630

34%

Ealing

370

575

55%

Eastbourne

510

620

22%

Edinburgh

551

680

23%

Falkirk

363

579

60%

Fareham

457

550

20%

Fife

485

626

29%

Filling

440

600

36%

Gateshead

490

682

39%

Glasgow City

521

568

9%

Gloucester

618

756

22%

Gosport

457

550

20%

Great Yarmouth

474

660

39%

Greenwich

530

623

18%

Guildford

459

755

64%

Gwynedd

382.30

523

37%

Hackney

705

1080

53%

Halton

450

625

39%

Hammersmith & Fulham

370

575

55%

Harrogate

649

764

18%

Hartlepool

509

670

32%

Hastings

479

615

28%

Havant

457

550

20%

Hertfordshire

447

603

35%

Highland

353

534

51%

Hillingdon

495

575

16%

Hounslow

370

575

55%

Hull

433

620

43%

Huntingdonshire

480

520

8%

Hyndburn Borough

368

565

54%

Inverclyde

386

512

33%

Ipswich

566

630

11%

Isle of Wight

547

613

12%

Islington

470

560

19%

Kettering

531

806

52%

King’s Lynn & West Norfolk

470

624

33%

Kingston

455

550

21%

Kirklees

556

587

6%

Lambeth

340

543

60%

Leeds

528

729

38%

Leicester

480

750

56%

Lewisham

 667

Lichfield

542

495

-9%

Lincoln

510

620

22%

Liverpool   Merseyside

493

745

51%

London Redbridge

500

745

49%

Luton

625

815

30%

Maidstone

500

638

28%

Manchester Centre

585

735

22%

Manchester East/West

495

790

16%

Mansfield

344

584

70%

Medway

470

575

22%

Middlesbrough

524

624*

19%

Milton Keynes

450

592

32%

Neath / Port Talbot

385

585

52%

Newark and Sherwood

344

584

70%

Newcastle City

435

664

53%

Newcastle-under-Lyme

485

651

34%

North Devon

530

620

17%

North East Lincolnshire

438

627

43%

North Lincolnshire

670

North Somerset

560

815

46%

North Tyneside

410

693

69%

Northumberland

407

695

71%

Nottingham City

388

501

29%

Oldham

396

589

49%

Pembrokeshire

439

564

28%

Perth and Kinross

480

749

56%

Peterborough

505

745

48%

Plymouth

510

825

62%

Poole

535

740

38%

Portsmouth

457

550

20%

Preston

410

583

42%

Reading

500

715

43%

Redditch

450

525

17%

Rhondda Cynon Taff

420

626

49%

Richmond (London)

370

575

55%

Rochdale Greater Manchester

440

599

36%

Rugby

N/A

750*

N/A

Rushmoor

590

797

35%

Salford City

664

Sandwell West Midlands

514

631

23%

Scarborough

540

611

13%

Sefton Merseyside

470

815

73%

Sheffield

490

650

33%

Shropshire

465

685

47%

Slough

545

735

35%

Solihull

475

660

39%

South Ayrshire

420

635

51%

South Essex / Havering

504

660

31%

South Lanarkshire

392

599

53%

South Somerset

480

560

17%

South Tyneside

478

706

48%

Southampton

399

515

29%

Southend

505

710

41%

Southwark

446

649

46%

St Helens

417

566

36%

Stafford

442

625

41%

Stockport

525

662

26%

Stoke

455

545

20%

Sunderland Tyne & Wear

456

604

32%

Swansea

435

580

33%

Swindon

450

535

19%

Tameside Greater Manchester

415

580

40%

Tendring

484

745

54%

Thanet

495

690

39%

Three Rivers

470

520

11%

Trafford Greater Manchester

423.50

639

51%

Tunbridge Wells

478

600

26%

Wakefield

 £ 759

Walsall

532

657

23%

Wandsworth

460

587

28%

Warrington

411

578

41%

Warwick

508

607

19%

Wellingborough

464

796

72%

West Dorset

515

722

40%

West Dunbartonshire

495

593

20%

Weymouth & Portland

515

722

40%

Wigan

420

545

30%

Wirral

531

585

10%

Woking

595

693

16%

Wolverhampton

492

684

39%

Worcester

481

750

56%

Worthing

517

695

35%

Wrexham

455

646

42%

York

618

815

32%

Local Cremation costs.

Paying for a Funeral

Paying for a funeral – alternatives.

Paying for a funeral is a really big issue with many families, and often tips them into the hands of the money lenders
with their crazy high interest rates. Ideally, everyone should have a prepaid funeral plan, with Independent Advice from our Members. But that is never going to happen, so what other ways are there to pay for a funeral.

Option 1: The family can pay.

Which is fine if they can afford it, at the time of your death. Sadly, many people die at financially inconvenient times, and funeral directors are increasingly concerned about bad debts, so more want to be paid in advance.

Option 2: Crowdfunding

Wayne Leighton of Hartlepool was diagnosed with terminal cancer at just 42, and was expected to die within the year. He had no savings, and didn’t want to be a burden on his family. There was no way he could pay for the funeral himself, so he hit on the idea of crowdfunding. Making a public appeal for help from strangers isn’t going to work for everyone though!
You can read the full story here:
http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/hartlepool-man-raising-cash-diy-9951633

Option 3: Government Funeral Help – if you can get through the hoops.

You could get a Funeral Payment if you’re on a low income and need help to pay for a funeral you’re arranging.

How much you get depends on your circumstances and if you qualify.

You’ll usually have to pay back any money you get from the deceased person’s estate (if they have one).

The Funeral Payment may help pay for:

  • burial fees and exclusive rights to burial in a particular plot.
  • Cremation fees, including the cost of the doctor’s certificate.
  • Up to £700 for funeral expenses, eg funeral director’s fees, flowers, coffin.
  • Travel to arrange or go to the funeral.
  • The costs for moving the body within the UK – but only for the part of the journey that’s over 50 miles.

If their was a funeral plan, you’ll only get help for items not covered by the plan.

Full details are in claim form SF200 (link correct at time of writing).

But will you get any help?

  • you must be responsible for the funeral and:
  • claim in time
  • get certain benefits or tax credits
  • meet the rules on your relationship with the deceased.

The rules are different if the person died outside the UK.

Who can claim?

  • The partner of the deceased when they died.
  • A close relative or close friend of the deceased.
  • The parent of a baby stillborn after 24 weeks of pregnancy.
  • The parent of the deceased child, if they were under 16 (or under 20 and not in full-time education.)
  • If the parent is ‘absent’, you must be responsible for the child and the absent parent must get a qualifying benefit.

You (or your partner) must get one of:
(BUT if a close relative of the deceased who isn’t getting one of the qualifying benefits you may not be able to claim Funeral Payment so be very careful to check.)

  • Income Support
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance.
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Pension Credit
  • Housing Benefit.
  • The disability or severe disability element of Working Tax Credit.
  • One of the extra elements of Child Tax Credit.
  • Universal Credit

How much you get also depends on any other money available, eg from an insurance policy or the deceased’s estate.

Option 4: The deceased can pay.

It is possible that there is enough money in their bank account to pay for the funeral. Banks and other savings institutions MAY release funds to pay for the funeral, but only with advance agreement, and they certainly won’t allow the deceased to run up an overdraft. Of course, the ideal way is for person to have spoken to one of our members, who are all Independent Funeral Plan Advisers, and have arranged the best possible prepaid funeral plan themselves, taking much of the strain off those left behind.

How will your funeral be paid for?

2 million+ people over 60 don’t know how their funeral will be paid for.

Have you family always got the odd few thousand pounds spare?

Perhaps not, but almost two thirds of us are willing to leave it to chance rather than take the bull by the horns and take charge of the situation by getting advice on proper prepaid funeral plans.

So many families have to get into debt to pay for a funeral (which leads to further problems often.)

We are all going to go at some time, so surely it make sense to freeze the costs as far as possible and avoid financial problems for those left behind?

Where and how we are finally laid to rest is one aspect of a dignified end of life. It has to be best to leave things so that saying goodbye is the issue, not scrabbling around trying to find thousands of pounds which often be required before the funeral can take place.

Of course, it’s a sensitive issue, but sorting it all out in advance helps to prevent heated disputes where family members all “know” exactly what you would have wanted, but all see your wishes differently. Many family feuds start over funeral arrangements. Even if you can’t afford a funeral plan, writing out your wishes can be helpful for all concerned. But funeral plans are primarily about taking the financial and getting your basic wishes set out well in advance with the practical arrangements for a funeral and how it should be paid taken care of. That alone saves a lot of worry and difficulty at a deeply upsetting time.

Putting it off can be expensive – five years or so the cost of funeral and funeral plans was half what it is today and the cost of funerals is rising each year. That is a trend that is set to continue. It is predicted that even a basic funeral will cost over £5,000 by 2020. Starting today will save money in the long run.

Start planning – funeral plans allow you to begin thinking about the service, if you wish to. You might like to be laid to rest, music and other details can be tailored to your individual wishes.

If you do decide to take out a pre-paid funeral plan, it’s also important to make your family aware of it – perhaps they will want to set one up too.

We can shop around for you – there are many plans available so it’s important that you take independent advice to find one that suits you and your needs. Not all plans are the same so make sure you understand what is and is not included. Some of the adverts for funeral plans are (in our opinion) downright misleading. For example, some plans pay only the funeral directors costs – and not the actual cost of the funeral which also includes other costs which can easily run to a couple of thousand pounds!

You can read the small print of dozens of different plans – or you can leave it to us.

So why not contact one of our members today? They will look after you.

Mortality

Mortality and Estate Planning

Few of us really want to face up to the fact that we won’t live forever.  Though some try to put off the inevitable by having themselves put in the deep freeze (well, a very expensive and technical version of a deep freeze!)

So let’s face up to reality and look at some of the things we should consider to protect ourselves and our families:

Financial Advice (some of our members may offer this).

1) If you have financial dependents, mortgages or debts, then you should consider life and critical illness insurance.

2) How long would you be paid if you were ill?  It is worth asking, and the answer may shock you.  Perhaps income protection insurance would keep things secure?

3) Will your retirement income be adequate to support your family when you retire?

Legal Advice (some of our members may offer this).

Everyone over 18 should have:

  1. A valid and regularly reviewed Last Will and Testament – after all, things change regularly. Tax, the Law and family circumstances all need to be carefully considered when drafting a Will.  We never know when our time is up.
  2. Lasting Powers of Attorney – everyone thinks their family will be able to look after them if they have a bad accident or serious illness which means they are unable to make their own decisions. They are sadly mistaken!  If Social Services (or Doctors) decide you are mentally unfit, they can strip you of your rights in a minute.  Appeal is through the Court of Protection, it is costly and it can take a year. Most of us will be in this situation at some time in our lives: it is just pot luck when.

The End Comes.

(All of our members can help offer independent advice here.)

No one knows when our time will be over, so why not contact one of our members to see how a prepaid funeral plan can:

  • Save financial stress on those left behind. It could be financially the wrong moment!
  • Prevent family arguments (they are really common, sadly.)
  • Pay for all or most of your funeral at today’s prices. Funeral cost inflation has been running many times higher than the rate of return on a normal savings account, so why not transfer some of your savings now?
  • Did you know that you can buy a plan for family or friends – or even employees?

Government Funeral Payments

Government Funeral payments.

We have posted this information up to help people where the simple precaution of taking out a prepaid funeral plan was not taken by the person who has died.   We do understand that not everyone can afford one, even on a low-cost monthly basis, but we do hope that some folk will at least approach our members for help in protecting their families. Please do contact the relevant authorities to see if the funeral payment might be available.  The Government payment is a help, but it falls woefully short of providing a reasonable funeral.

The Government funeral payment may help those on a low incomes with the essential costs of a funeral. If you are eligible, you do not have to repay it, though it will be claimed back from the estate of the person who has died in many cases.

Who can claim the Government funeral payment.

You can claim a funeral payment if you or your partner is getting one of the following:

  • Income Support
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • housing benefit
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Pension Credit
  • Child Tax Credit, if your award is high enough
  • Working Tax Credit including an extra amount for disability
  • Universal Credit.

Your capital (for example, savings) doesn’t affect a funeral payment.

Responsibility for the funeral.

You will not get a funeral payment just because you are paying for a funeral. The Jobcentre Plus office, or Social Security Agency office in Northern Ireland, has to accept that it is right for you to take responsibility for the funeral costs and that no one else who should be paying for it. If you are claiming funeral costs for your child who has died or if you are the partner of the person who has died, you may be paid a funeral payment as long as you meet the benefit conditions. This applies to lesbian and gay partners as well as heterosexual partners. It also applies whether you were married, in a civil partnership or just living together.

If you are a close relative, family member or a friend of the person who has died, you may be able to get a funeral payment, but it will depend whether there are other relatives alive who are not on benefit. If there is someone closer or equally close to the person who has died who is not on benefit, you cannot usually get a funeral payment. In this situation, Jobcentre Plus will also consider whether it is reasonable for you to accept responsibility for the funeral expenses. They will look at how well you knew the dead person.

What costs can be met

A funeral payment will not cover all the costs of a funeral. It will not pay for expenses which are already covered under a pre-paid funeral plan.

Otherwise, a funeral payment can include:

  • the costs of a new burial plot or the costs of cremation
  • the cost of transporting the body for the return journey between the funeral home or place of rest and the place where the person died. But only if this journey is over 50 miles. Only the part of the journey over 50 miles will be paid for
  • the cost of transporting the coffin and one car of mourners to the funeral, but only if the return journey is over 50 miles. Only the part of the journey over 50 miles will be paid for
  • the cost of one return journey for you to attend or arrange the funeral
  • the cost of getting documents to release the assets of the person who has died.

A funeral payment (at the time of writing) can also include up to £700 for other expenses, including:

  • the funeral director’s fees
  • flowers
  • the cost of collecting and transporting a body 50 miles or less
  • extra religious requirements.

If there is a private funeral payment plan, there is a limit of £120 for any of these other expenses that are not already covered by the funeral plan.

A funeral payment will be reduced by any available assets of the person who has died. This means any resources they had which can be used to pay towards the funeral, but doesn’t include arrears of benefits owing to them when they died. It also includes:

  • lump sum insurance payments
  • pension scheme payments
  • contributions towards funeral expenses from charities or relatives
  • any money paid out under a pre-paid funeral plan.

If you get a funeral payment which does not cover all the costs, you may be able to get a budgeting loan as well.

When to claim a funeral payment

You can claim a funeral payment from the date of death up to three months after the date of the funeral, even if you have already paid the funeral bill.

How to claim a funeral payment

You can claim by:

  • phoning the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) Bereavement Service. They can take a claim for a funeral payment and bereavement benefits over the phone. They can also do a benefit check to see if the next of kin is entitled to any other benefits as a result of the death
  • contacting you local Jobcentre Plus office for a claim form SF200
  • downloading an SF200 claim form from the GOV.UK website at www.gov.uk.

For more information about the Bereavement Service, see ‘Telling government about the death’ inWhat to do after a death

If you have used a funeral director who has not yet been paid, the funeral payment will usually be sent direct to them. If the funeral director has already been paid, the payment will be made to you. You may not be able to claim back the full costs of the funeral.

Death Means Debt

Death means debt for an increasing number of families.

Families are being encouraged to discuss funeral costs and other expenses/  By 2020 these are ex[pected to increase by nearly £1billion.  Our members can at least help you to fix some of the costs at todays prices, with the cost of a pretty basic funeral expected to exceed £7,000.

The number of deaths will start to rise again as the baby boomer generation start to die off (yes, that is me too!)  After many, many years of falling deaths, 2015 marked the point where the trend starts to reverse.

This will have a big effect on funeral costs and makes it more urgent for families to look at funeral plans to both reduce and spread end of life expenses.

The findings form part of a new report undertaken by the International Longevity Centre – UK (ILC-UK).

The report reveals:

  • Funeral costs could reach or exceed £7,000 by 2020, with the cost of a simple funeral  projected to rise to £5,226 by 2020.
  • Aggregate spending on funerals in the UK could rise 50% to £3.7bn by 2020.
  • Funeral debt left for families to pick up is slated to reach a quarter of a billion in less than 20 years.
  • With deaths predicted to rise, extra pressure on funeral services will push prices ever higher.Funeral costs could reach or exceed £7,000 by 2020, with the cost of a simple funeral  projected to rise to £5,226 by 2020.
  • Funeral costs are already soaring and the cost of a simple funeral has grown by 80% from 2004 and 2014.

It’s OK, the kids will pay for my funeral….

The reports message is to plan ahead for funeral expenses. 109,000 people ended up in 2013 stuck with funeral debt at an average £1,305 per person.  It will be a great deal more in future with funeral cost inflation currently increasing more than 14 times faster than either inflation or the average deposit account. ILC-UK calculates that based on current trends,funeral debt could reach a quarter of a billion by the mid-2030s: an increase of 76%.

Debt will have an unpleasant impact on families under financial pressure. Currently 14.5 million families would not be unable to afford a funeral at short notice (and they usually are) there was a proper funeral plan in place.  Some life insurance may help, though often the detah benefit doesn’t keep up with inflation or pay out quickly enough.

Baroness Sally Greengross, Chief Executive of ILC-UK, said:

“More than half of UK households have less than £3,000 in savings (4) and many will struggle to cover funeral costs. We all need to talk more about dying and ensure we are prepared for the inevitable. State support for funerals is complex and inadequate and without reforms will contribute to more people falling victim to funeral debt.”

Simon Markey, CEO of mutual OneFamily, which helps around 1 in 12 of all UK families to support one another financially, said:

“Our own research shows us that families are coming together more and more to help one another financially.  Nearly half of UK adults (48%) (5) who have provided family members with assistance have done so to help them to cover day to day expenses. This report reveals a need for families to look to the future too.

“While the subject of end of life expenses can be a very delicate one to discuss, the findings highlight how starting this conversation could help avoid leaving loved ones with unexpected debts they may find difficult to manage,” he continued.

More than one in five of those who have organised a funeral in the past five years had no financial help from the deceased. Government Funeral Payments have not kept up with rises in funeral costs and in 2012 the average amount awarded represented just 37% of the costs of a simple funeral.

The report argues that borrowing costs are unaffordable for many and that there is an urgent need for more support and greater pre-planning.

Julie, of Best Funeral Plans, said “There is a complete lack of transparency in the funeral plan market with misleadingly worded claims so that its is not clear what is covered, or whether a website offers INDEPENDENT advice or just advice on one firms funeral plans.   No one prepaid funeral plan company offers the best plan for everyone, so real Independent advice is essential.  It is my job to provide research services to members of Best Funeral Plans and I am really proud of the job they do.”