Google and the local press can occasionally throw up a link that demands a second look. For me it was a story in the Torquay Herald Express about a crowd-funding site set up after a young woman was killed in a stabbing. Her friends and work colleagues are trying to raise money to pay for the funeral costs.
This dramatic and rare situation helps to illustrate the potential financial needs a death may create. This demand is clear with over 50’s as funeral plans continue to do good business. But for the younger ages insurance is usually sold alongside mortgages and to protect family, meaning there is a potential gap for the single renters.
Costs of a funeral
The basic funeral requirement is know as a “disposal arrangement”. In practice this means a funeral with an average cost of £4,100 or a cremation costing about £3,300. The person who engages the undertaker is responsible for paying the bill. In many circumstances the costs will be recovered from the estate but this is not always possible.
It is not always clear who is responsible for making arrangements. Where there is a will the executor will be appointed. Otherwise the Good Funeral Guide2 suggest that common law from 1840 says “It would seem that the individual under whose roof a poor person dies is bound to carry the body decently covered to the place of burial.”
Landlords may be relieved to know that to date there have not been any challenges to force them to take responsibility for a corpse. Hospital or local authority nursing homes are regarded as residences so they will make suitable arrangements if necessary.
If no-one can be found to make the funeral arrangements the local authority must take over. Historically this has been called a pauper’s funeral but it now more likely to be a cremation. There will be no memorial such as a headstone. According to BBC research this process now costs councils over £1.7 million a year, up by 30% in 4 years. The councils are likely to try to recover costs from the estate, or the executor or by sale of the deceased’s property or personal effects.
There is the potential for financial support from the government, via the Social Fund. This 'funeral payment' could meet a proportion of the costs, limited to:
- Burial or cremation fees
- Up to £700 of the funeral costs
- Travel to get to the funeral
- Moving the body for the part of the journey which is over 50 miles
To qualify the claimant must be the partner, parent or a close relative or friend of the deceased and on income related benefits. Importantly if there is anyone in these categories who is not on one of the qualifying benefits then a funeral payment may not be granted. The claim must be submitted within three months and the decision on whether someone qualifies is decided by the DWP. Having sorted out the disposal there may be other money worries for family and friends. Dependents are obviously at risk, but others could be affected. An example would be people sharing rented accommodation who may face bigger bills in the short term or other family members pressured to cover outstanding loans.