In this article:

What to do if you can’t afford a funeral

If you can’t afford to pay for a funeral, there are ways you can get help. While a council-funded funeral is one option, there are other ways you can get support too. Here are some of the most common options.

Ask about a council-funded funeral

If someone dies with no family, or if their family can’t afford to pay for a funeral, the local council can organise one. This is known as a public health funeral and is a respectful but simple service.

What you need to know about a public health funeral:

  • The funeral is usually a cremation, with a memorial service held at the crematorium.
  • You’ll be able to go to the funeral, but you won’t be able to choose the venue or the date.
  • It won’t include flowers or cars to take the family to the service.
  • Each council has its own approach, so you may find that what’s included varies slightly, depending on which council is organising it.

Before the council will organise the funeral, you’ll need to prove that you can’t pay for the funeral in any other way.

Learn more about public health funerals.

Alternatives to a public health funeral

If you haven’t checked already, consider the options below before committing to a public health funeral.

Find out if you can claim a grant

You might be able to get a grant to cover part or all of the funeral costs.

  • Government funeral expenses payment: if you get certain benefits from the government in the UK, you might be eligible for a government grant towards funeral costs. The amount you can claim will depend on your circumstances. Learn more about the government funeral expenses payment.
  • Support from charities: some charities provide financial help with funeral costs. For example, if you or the person who died were in the armed forces, you may be able to claim a grant. Some other industries provide support to current/previous employees too. Learn more about charities that help with funeral costs.

Check if the person who died left money to cover the costs

The person who died may have left money or a plan to cover the costs. Things to check for:

  • Ask their bank about paying for the funeral from their account. In some cases, you may be able to pay for the funeral from the person’s bank account. You’ll need to speak with their bank to find out if they’ll let you to do this, and what documents they need you to provide.
  • Check for insurance policies or plans. If the person had a life insurance policy, a funeral plan, or a death in service policy through their employer, you could use this to pay for the funeral. You’ll need to make a claim to get the money.
  • Find out if you can claim against their estate. If the person had any savings, owned a house, a car or other valuable items, these are all known as their ‘estate’. Once any debts they owed have been paid, you may be able to claim back the cost of the funeral from any money that’s left over. However, you’ll need to pay for the funeral first and then claim the money later. So if you don’t have the money yourself, this might not be an option.

Ask about paying in instalments

If you don’t have all the money to pay for the funeral right now, but know that you will in the future, it’s worth asking the funeral director if you can pay in instalments. Make sure you ask early in the funeral planning process, as not all funeral directors offer this option. However, if they do, it can help you spread the cost. Only choose this option if you’re confident you’ll be able to make all the payments.

Getting more help

If you’re struggling to understand your options and need more help you can contact one of these organisations:

  • Speak to someone at Citizen’s Advice: for advice on your specific situation and help applying for financial support.
  • Contact Age UK’s advice line: their advisors help older people with a range of issues, including understanding what financial support you can claim.

Photo by Mayron Oliveira on Unsplash.