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Are you responsible for dealing with the estate of a loved one who’s passed away? Or are you paying for their funeral? Or both?

When it comes to organising the affairs of a family member who’s died there’s a lot to think about. To help you recover funeral expenses we explain how to pay for a funeral from an estate.

Can you pay for a funeral from the estate?

Yes, you may be able to. This will depend on a couple of things:

  • Is there enough money in the estate to cover funeral costs? Funeral expenses can quickly add up to thousands of pounds. So it’s understandable that not everyone will leave enough money to cover the cost of their funeral. If you’re responsible for dealing with the finances of the person who passed away it’s sensible to get a clear idea of how much they’ve left. That way, you can decide how funeral expenses will be covered.
  • Are there debts that need to be paid off before the funeral expenses? Although funeral expenses are high up on the list of what should be paid from a person’s estate there are other debts that may need to come out of the estate first. Figuring this out before arranging the funeral is a good idea if possible. It will help you understand what your budget for the funeral will look like.

How to pay for a funeral from the estate

Claiming funeral expenses from an estate can take a long time. Sometimes the process can take months, maybe even a year. This means you and/or other family members may need to cover the cost of the funeral upfront.

Why does it take so long?

It’s because of the legal process that needs to take place before the estate of the person can be handled. If the person left a will this is called a grant of probate. And if they didn’t leave a will you’ll need a grant of letters of administration instead.

These legal documents give someone permission to deal with the affairs of the person who passed away. Only then can the person responsible (also known as the executor or administrator of the estate) deal with any debts or funeral expenses that need to be shared out to the right people.

Claiming back funeral costs

If you paid for the funeral and you’re the executor or administrator, claiming funeral expenses from the estate will be straightforward. You’ll basically be responsible for making sure you get that money for yourself. You’ll also have an idea of what amount you’ll be able to get back.

But if you’ve paid for the funeral and you’re not the executor of the estate you may want to get in touch with them to see what costs will be covered. That way, you know whether or not you’ll be able to claim funeral expenses and how much you’ll be able to get back.

Is there another way to pay for the funeral?

Before you use the estate of the person who died to pay for the funeral make sure you check all your options.

Is there enough money in the person’s bank account to cover the funeral costs?

There’s no need for grant of probate or letters of administration for funds to be released from the person’s bank account. As long as the account only belonged to the person who passed away and was not a joint account it’s possible to use this money to pay for the funeral. But in most cases the bank will need to see the death certificate and an invoice from the funeral directors. Or they’ll pay the funeral director directly instead of releasing the money to you.

Is it possible the person who passed away organised a pre-paid funeral plan?

If you’ve already looked for receipts and documents related to a funeral plan check with other close family members. They may have talked to the person about it or helped them organise a funeral plan. If you still can’t find details of a funeral plan use a funeral plan tracing service to see if you can track it down.

Did they have life insurance that could help cover costs?

A life insurance policy could cover the cost of their funeral and help you with other costs too. If you’re responsible for handling the person’s finances the quickest way to find out if they had a life insurance policy is to find their policy documents. But if you haven’t found anything check their bank statements for regular payments to an insurance provider. This could be monthly or yearly payments. This will help you find the right insurance provider and get in touch with them to figure out next steps. Don’t forget to contact their workplace too. Some employers offer death in service payments that could help you cover the funeral costs.

Are you entitled to benefits or grants to help you pay for the funeral?

Read our guidance on how to get help with funeral costs. You may be eligible for financial help from the government or even get some help from charities depending on your circumstances.

Struggling to manage the finances and handle the estate? You may want to get some help from a specialist solicitor. They’ll help you break everything down so that you know what to pay and when you’ll need to pay it. They’ll also handle a lot of the leg work for you so that you can spend more time remembering and celebrating the life of your loved one.

Photo by Nick Pampoukidis on Unsplash.