Your Guide to Funeral Arrangements

When a loved-one passes away, it's never easy to come to terms with, especially if you are tasked with managing their funeral and estate. Grief and the practical steps of arranging funerals and other death-related processes rarely go hand in hand when emotions are running high, which is why we have created this guide.
Here we aim to lighten the load by giving you a bitesize guide to help you through this difficult time. Here we'll give you practical tips to help you organise a perfect send off for your loved-one, from choosing a funeral director, dealing with funeral expenses and even managing your deceased loved-one's estate.

Registering the death

In the UK, the law states that you are obliged to register the death of a deceased person within five days (which includes weekends or bank holidays) or you may face potential fines. This can be done online through the official UK government website here. Once this process is completed a death certificate will be created for your loved-one and their death will be officially registered.

Informing the government of the death

Using the Tell Us Once service allows you to report a death to most government departments. After you have officially registered the death, you will be contacted by a registrar who will either help you complete the Tell Us Once service or provide you with a reference number that will allow you to complete the process by yourself.

You can find more detailed information about the Tell Us Once service on the UK government website here.

Inspect the Will

You should then locate and consult your loved-one's will, if they made one. Their will will specify who they name as their executor, or the person/people they would like to arrange their funeral and manage their estate.

Wills often contain useful information about a deceased person's wishes for their funeral, such as whether they would like to be buried or cremated, what type of funeral service they would like (for instance, a religious service or a humanist one) or it may give details of a pre-paid funeral plan or life insurance cover that they have in place that could help fund the service. It is worth noting that funeral plans may mean you are required to use a specific funeral director specified in the plan to access the benefit.

The will may also note specific wishes the deceased has regarding details on the day, such as suggesting specific music to be played during their funeral. These specific wishes are very helpful as they help you bring personal colour to the funeral, guided by your departed loved-one's words.

If your loved-one hasn't made a will, or one cannot be found, it usually falls to the deceased person's nearest relative (or next of kin) to make funeral arrangements.

Arranging the Funeral

Once the death of your loved one has been registered, it is now time to make preparations for a funeral or memorial service to honour their memory.

If your loved-one did not make specific arrangements through a funeral plan, then you have a choice to make: either you can pay a funeral director to arrange the funeral or choose to arrange it yourself.

Funeral Directors

When choosing a funeral director is recommended that you choose a firm that belongs to one of these two organisations to ensure they are reputable:

In any case, the funeral director will give a quote which will include all the details included in the cost of the funeral so this should help you to budget the funeral expenses.

Arranging the funeral by yourself

If you would like to arrange your loved one's funeral yourself, a good first step would be to contact the cemetery and Crematorium department of your local council. They will be able to advise you of suitable local venues and talk you though the specific process of arranging a funeral in your area and provide details on costs including burial fees.

What are the costs typically involved in a funeral?

Funeral expenses usually involve the following:

Fees charged by the funeral director (if applicable)

Disbursements or third-party costs

These include costs such as crematorium or cemetery fees or obituary notices in local newspapers.

If you are using a funeral director to arrange your loved one's memorial service, they will usually give a full breakdown of these costs within their initial quote for their services.

Who pays for the funeral?

The answer to this question depends on the specific circumstances of your loved one; if they had a pre-paid funeral plan in place or an insurance policy, this could be used to pay for all or the majority of the funeral expenses involved.

Funeral costs can also be recouped from the assets left behind by the deceased (their ‘estate'); however, sometimes a person dies without leaving enough money to pay for the funeral. If this is the case, then relatives would normally be expected to meet the costs.

It's worth knowing that when a bank is notified of a customer's death it may temporarily freeze their bank account. However, many banks are prepared to release funds to help pay for a funeral.

Check your entitlement for bereavement benefit

If you and the deceased's family members are all on low incomes and can't afford to pay the cost of a funeral, then you may be entitled to claim a Funeral Expenses Payment to help ease the cost of the funeral bill.

You may be eligible for government support if you or your partner receive certain benefits, including:

  • Income Support
  • Universal Credit
  • Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
  • Pension Credit
  • Housing Benefit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Working Tax Credit

Learn more about eligibility for this bereavement benefit here.

Value the estate and check the inheritance tax

An inheritance tax is a tax on the estate of a person who has passed away. To work out whether you need to pay inheritance tax, you will need to work out the value of the estate, which is the estimated monetary total of your loved one's possessions and property.

You will also need to look into whether your loved one held any bank accounts or financial products such as savings, investments, loans and mortgages which could affect this valuation. It is possible to conduct a Financial Asset Search to uncover any unknown accounts.

Once you have reached a valuation you must report this to the government, it is recommended you hire a professional solicitor to help you with the valuation of the estate, to ensure your valuation is accurate.

Apply for probate

If you are named as the executor of your deceased loved-one's estate you may need to apply to probate to manage their estate or before selling their former home. Being granted probate gives you the authority to make arrangements for your loved-one's estate in its entirety.

You may not need to apply for probate in all cases, including if your departed loved-one only held money in savings accounts, owned money or shares jointly with others, or owned property or other assets jointly with others. In the case of shared ownership, these assets automatically pass to their remaining surviving owners.

To learn more and apply for probate online contact qualified probate solicitor to help you through this process.

Make arrangements for your loved one's estate.

Once you have probate (if required) you can then make necessary arrangements for your loved-one's estate, this may include paying any outstanding debts that may be owed or sell property or assets that make up the estate.

We hope our guide here gives you some practical tips and guidance to help you through a difficult time. If you are looking for expert legal assistance in any area of wills and probate, please get in touch with our network of solicitors.


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