9. Paying for the funeral
Funerals can be expensive. Check where the money for the funeral will come from before finalising arrangements. If there is not enough money available, you may have to bear the cost yourself. The cost can be met from the following:
The money and possessions left by the dead person
Reasonable funeral expenses take priority over other debts on the person's estate. The bank account may be frozen unless it is a joint account. You should ask the branch manager of the bank in which the account was held. The manager will be able to explain this further to you.
There are organisations which may release the money to you on the evidence of the death certificate if the overall value of the dead person's estate is small and there are no complications. Ask the organisation about this.
If the person had been living in hospital or a residential home, the body and possessions - up to a certain figure fixed by the relevant local authority - will be handed over to the nearest relative in exchange for a receipt or to a person with written authority from whoever is dealing with the will. Any belongings worth more than the figure cannot be released until confirmation has been obtained.
Funeral Payments from the Social Fund
You may be able to get help if you or your partner are receiving one of the following benefits:
- Income Support
- Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
- Income related Employment & Support Allowance
- Pension Credit
- Child Tax Credit which includes an amount higher than the family element
- Working Tax Credit where a disability or severe disability element is included in the award
- Housing Benefit
It must also be reasonable for you to have taken responsibility for the funeral expenses. This will usually mean that you were the partner of the person who died, or if they had no partner, you were a close relative or friend of the person.
You may be asked about the financial circumstances of any parent, son or daughter of the person. You may also be asked about the financial circumstances of the person's other close relatives.
The person who died must have been ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom at the date of death, and the funeral must normally take place in the United Kingdom. (You may be able to get a Funeral Payment if the funeral takes place elsewhere in the European Union ( EU), but you should check with your local Jobcentre Plus, as this will depend on the circumstances.)
A funeral payment covers the costs of a simple respectful low cost funeral. The amount allowable includes the cost of certain specified items, including necessary burial or cremation fees, and up to £700 for all other funeral expenses.
The amount payable may be affected by any other means of paying for the funeral. Where items and services have been provided under a pre-paid funeral plan or similar arrangement, the amount is up to £120. If you get a Funeral Payment, it will have to be paid back from any estate of the person who died.
To claim, complete form SF200 "Funeral Payment from the Social Fund", available from your local Jobcentre Plus. You must claim within three months of the date of the funeral. For more information, see leaflet SB16 "A Guide to the Social Fund" which you can find on the DWP website www.dwp.gov.uk.
War pensioners' funeral expenses
If the person was a war pensioner the Veterans Agency will pay for a basic funeral if the war pensioner died from a disablement for which he or she was entitled to a pension, or was receiving in-patient treatment for this disablement, or if the war pensioner was entitled to Constant Attendance Allowance.
A cash sum or pension
These may be paid by the dead person's employer or trade union, professional body or other association.
Insurance policies of the dead person
Tell the insurance company as soon as possible. They will tell you exactly what documents they need before they can meet a claim for insurance. You should make certain that a receipt is obtained when rendering insurance policies. You should also check carefully the amount due to be paid before signing for any money. It is also advisable to make sure that all policies are still in force and what their true values are before committing yourself to funeral costs.
A tax refund
A refund may be payable if the person was paying tax. Contact HM Revenue and Customs to find out if a refund is due.