Help when someone dies
When someone close to you dies, financial worries are the last thing you want to have to deal with, including how to pay for the funeral costs.
Here we answer some questions you may have.
For advice and information for your individual circumstances, please get in touch with us.
We recorded a webinar for Dying Matters Week 2021, offering practical information to help when someone dies, including funeral costs, financial support and more, with an online tour of the West Sussex Libraries bereavement resources.
You can watch it here on YouTube.
If you’d prefer to stay on our website and watch it, click here.
The West Sussex County Council Library Service has a resource page to help with all aspects of bereavement. It is easy to use and includes local organisations who can help you in West Sussex, as well as book recommendations.
Dying Matters has produced a leaflet to help you support someone who has been bereaved.
You can visit this leaflet here.
Money can be a problem when someone dies, especially if you are facing a sudden drop in income. We can help you to understand what support is available.
Support with funeral costs
How much will a funeral cost?
The costs can vary. Usually, burials are more expensive than cremations and either burial or cremations. On average a burial in the UK can cost around £4,300, and a cremation is around £3,300. However the cost can be lower. For example a ‘direct cremation’ can be around £1,500.*
Costs vary between local authorities for a number of reasons. The funeral director can give you an estimate based on what you want and where.
*Money Advice Service, 2021
How can I reduce the funeral cost?
There are lots of ways you can reduce the cost but still have a dignified funeral. There are lots of choices now which can give an affordable funeral, and which still gives you want you need.
Funeral director fees can often be an expensive part of the cost. You may want to ask someone to check fees with different directors.
Other ways costs can be reduced include:
- the type of coffin used
- the time of the ceremony
- use of vehicles or flowers.
What is a Public Health funeral?
Public Health funerals are provided by local authorities. These types of funerals are intended for people who have died with no family or friends who are able or willing to make the necessary arrangements for a funeral.
The service is in the morning, usually around 9.00 or 9.30am.
Tip Visit this page for more information: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/public-health-funerals-good-practice-guidance/public-health-funerals-good-practice-guidance
I have heard about a DIY funeral, but what is it?
You do not need to use a funeral director. If you want to, you could conduct the funeral arrangements yourself. There are support agencies that can offer advice and guidance to help you dothis.
Visit these pages for information: http://www.naturaldeath.org.uk/index.php?page=keeping-funeral-costs-down
I can’t afford the funeral costs. Can I get help?
It depends on your circumstances. Here are some ways that can help towards funeral costs:
- A government grant, if you are receiving certain benefits
- A grant if the funeral is for a child under 18, or a still birth after 24 weeks
- The bank account of the person who has died
- The person’s insurance policies or pension sum
- Pre-paid funeral plans
- The estate of the person who has died, although this may not be available at first
- Some charities may be able to help, but this can be limited.
Tip: if you have difficulty affording the funeral you may be able to make cheaper funeral arrangements.
Are there any benefits I can get to help with funeral costs?
Yes. If you receive certain benefits because you are on a low income you may be able to get a Funeral Expenses Payment. This used to be called the Social Fund Funeral Grant.
It doesn’t usually cover all the costs, and there are conditions you have to meet.
If you are the partner of the person who died you may also qualify for a bereavement payment.
Tip: Visit this page for more information about the Funeral Expenses Payment: https://www.gov.uk/funeral-payments
How much financial help will I get from the Funeral Expenses Payment?
There is no fixed amount for a Funeral Expenses Payment but they are capped.
Each case is looked at individually, but can include the costs of:
- a burial or cremation
- up to £1,000 towards other costs such as the coffin, directors’ fees, flowers etc.
If the person who died had savings or other assets in their estate – like insurance or property – this may be used to pay back part of the grant.
Tip: Visit this page for more information https://www.gov.uk/funeral-payments
How do I qualify for the Funeral Expenses Payment?
To qualify for this help, you need to meet certain conditions:
- You get certain low income benefits or Tax Credits
- You meet the rules on your relationship with the person who has died. You will usually need to be the partner or a close relative or friend, and no one else can take responsibility.
If the funeral will take place outside of the UK you will need specialist advice. Please speak with the Department for Work and Pensions team.
Visit this page for more information: https://www.gov.uk/funeral-payments/eligibility
Who can I claim for with the Funeral Expenses Payment?
There are two funds:
- One is for for adults who have died
- One is for children under 18, not in full-time advanced education.
If you are applying for a close relative or friend, you may need to show that there isn’t anyone else who could be treated as paying for the funeral and they are not receiving benefits.
Tip Rules on applications for children that have died are explained separately. Visit this page: https://www.gov.uk/child-funeral-costs
The Children’s Funeral Fund is not means tested and can help pay some of the funeral cost for:
- A young person under 18 or
- A baby stillborn after the 24th week of pregnancy.
If you need funeral support for a child, the funeral director will complete the paperwork for the funeral expenses payment on your behalf. This service should be free of charge.
See link here https://www.gov.uk/funeral-payments/eligibility
If I receive a Funeral Expenses Payment, will I have to pay the money back?
Sometimes. If the person who died has left money and/or assets as part of their estate, the Funeral Expenses Payment team may require that funds from the estate are used to repay the Funeral Expenses Payment.
These things are not taken into account:
- Any arrears of benefit or any lump sum bereavement payment.
- Any contributions from charities, friends or relatives
- A home lived in by the partner of the person who has died
- Personal possessions left to relatives.
A full list can be provided by the Funeral Expenses Payment team. Visit this page: https://www.turn2us.org.uk/Benefit-guides/Funeral-Payment/What-is-a-Funeral-Payment#:~:text=You%20do%20not%20have%20to,paid%20back%20out%20of%20that.
How quickly will I receive the Funeral Expenses Payment?
It can take up to 6 weeks* from the date that the application is received.
Sometimes this is longer or quicker, but it depends on your circumstances and the information that is available.
*This may change.
Tip If you need a payment more urgently, this can be considered if you are being supported by a professional agency like Citizens Advice.
Payment is made direct into your bank, building society or Credit Union account, or direct to the funeral directors.
How do I apply for a Funeral Expenses Payment?
The easiest way is by phoning the Bereavement Service Helpline. They can give you guidance and help you complete the paperwork. If you need an interpreter, tell the operator.
You can also get a form from a JobcentrePlus office or online*, and post it to them. Some funeral directors or advice services can help to complete the forms.
Tip: see here for other ways to make an application: https://www.gov.uk/funeral-payments/how-to-claim
Bereavement Service Helpline: Call 0800 731 0469 and choose option 2.
Lines are open from 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday, except public holidays
You can also apply by post.
*Download the claim form here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/funeral-payment-claim-form
Post it to:
Freepost DWP Funeral Payments
How long do I have to claim the Funeral Expenses Payment?
You need to apply within 6 months of the funeral, however you should apply as soon as possible.
Tip You should submit an application at the earliest opportunity after the person has died.
You should do this even if you are waiting for another benefit decision, as you can ask them to look at your claim again after you get the decision.
Visit this page: https://www.gov.uk/funeral-payments/eligibility
Will I need any paperwork to claim the Funeral Expenses Payment?
Yes, and it is best to have as much of the paperwork ready if you can.
What documents do I need?
- the funeral director’s final bill or the signed contract. Estimated bills will not be accepted.
- prepaid funeral plan documents
- bills or receipts for any documents you have had to pay for to release the money of the person who has died,
- other bills or receipts you may have, for example for the funeral flowers.
- details of any probate or letters of administration
The full list of documents are included on the application form. The Funeral Expenses Payment team can talk through this with you.
You will need full information about the person who has died, such as:
- date of birth
- National Insurance number
- date of death
- date of funeral
- details of any savings
- surviving partner or children.
I only know the estimated cost for the funeral. Can I still apply for the Funeral Expenses Payment?
Yes you can, but you will not be paid until you have the final bill.
What can the funeral director do if I do not have the money to pay for the deposit or the full cost of the funeral?
If you have told the funeral director that you want to seek financial help from the Funeral Expenses Payment team, and they are helping you with your application, the funeral director can:
- Email the Funeral Expenses Payment team with a full and final bill
- Confirm that they are unwilling to commit to a date for the funeral and/or make any arrangements without verification of payment
- If they still refuse and you cannot pay, for example because you don’t qualify for the payment, you should seek advice and can explore other options. This can include via the Local Authority.
Tip The full and final bill is required because the Funeral Expenses Payment team do not pay deposits. They only make one payment direct to the funeral director.
Can I delay the funeral because I don’t have the money right now?
Yes, in some cases you can.
You can delay the funeral by arranging an unattended cremation immediately after the death of the person who has died. When the ashes of the person who died have been returned to you, you can hold a memorial service.
My child died, can I still get help?
Yes, it may be possible. There are two different payments depending on whether your child is an adult or under 18 and in full time non advanced education.
Only the adult payment is means-tested.
Tip Support for a child funeral costs:
The Children’s Funeral Fund can help to pay some of the funeral cost for the following:
- A child under 18 or
- A baby stillborn after the 24th week of pregnancy.
If you require funeral support for a child the funeral director will complete the paperwork for the Funeral Expenses Payment on your behalf. This service should be free of charge. Visit these pages for information:
My wife died while visiting family abroad. Can I still get help?
You may be able to get help in certain circumstances. You would need to discuss these with the Funeral Expenses Payment team and seek specialist independent advice.
Other financial support
What other help can I get?
It is really important that you check financial entitlements after someone dies, especially if you lost your partner. There may be insurance, pensions, savings or property and other assets that you are entitled to and would need to access.
If your income has changed as a result of losing someone, you should do a benefits check and find out if you are entitled to extra or different help. If you were a carer and received carers allowance or a premium you will usually continue to get this for a short while so you have some time to get advice.
You may be able to get other benefits. There are also bereavement agencies that can support you and your family.
Contact Citizens Advice in West Sussex (North, South, East) for help: click here.
If you live in Crawley and are from a BAME background, the Crawley Communities Money Advice Service can help.
Contact our Caseworker:
Phone: 01293 699797
My husband died. I've already paid for the funeral. Can I still get help?
Yes, it may be possible if:
- you are on a low income
- you are making an application within 6 months of the funeral
- the person who died left no money or any assets.
You may qualify for Bereavement Support Payment depending on your age, the age of your partner and their National Insurance record. Some people use this payment towards a funeral.
Tip There are other criteria too. Visit this page for more information: https://www.gov.uk/bereavement-support-payment
Bereavement Support Payments
This is a separate payment that you may be entitled to if you have lost your partner. This is in addition to the Funeral Expenses Payment.
It will depend on a number of factors like your age, your partners age when they passed away, their national insurance contributions.
Visit this page for further information: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/benefits/claiming-bereavement-support-payment/#h-claiming-bereavement-support-payment
Insurance and pensions
My partner has died. Can I get any help from their state pension?
It depends. If your partner’s pension was in payment, it will stop. Your own entitlement to state pension may be increased – but only when you are at state retirement age.
If your partner had deferred a state pension before April 2016, a spouse or civil partner can inherit part of this but not before your state pension age.
For more information visit https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/deferring-your-state-pension
My partner has died. Can I get help from their Personal or Occupational pension?
It depends on the type of scheme your partner had, whether it is in payment already and if your partner was contributing or not when they died. It is important to advise the scheme or insurance company promptly after your partner has died, so any overpayment can be avoided, and to start a claim.
Most pensions will have a value and this can provide a lump sum or a pension to any dependants, depending on the scheme rules. It can often be quick to access this, as benefits are commonly held in trust. If this is the case, payments can be often be made to beneficiaries before probate and generally do not form part of the estate.
For more information visit https://www.pensionsadvisoryservice.org.uk/about-pensions/when-things-change/bereavement-what-to-do
The pension my partner paid into no longer exists. What can I do?
Pensions are very tightly regulated in the UK, and there are strict rules to protect pension funds if companies merge or go out of business.
You may be able to trace who has taken over the pension fund.
Use this service to help trace “lost” pensions https://www.gov.uk/find-pension-contact-details
Or you can get in touch with us for help.
My partner has died. How can I claim their life assurance?
It is important to contact the insurance company promptly to make a claim. The rules on this can be complex; claims should be made by either the owner of the policy (sometimes called the proposer or policy holder), or by the estate (if your partner was also the owner of the policy).
The insurance provider should help you to make the claim.
My partner’s insurance company no longer exists. What can I do?
Companies in the financial services industry often merge or change their name. However people’s assets are generally protected.
You can trace the new company here https://www.abi.org.uk/data-and-resources/tools-and-resources/register-of-consolidations/
My relative died recently. How can I find out if they were insured?
Insurance and other financial products do not pay if there is no claim made. It is sometimes possible to trace these through the unclaimed assets register, but there is a fee for this service. You can find further information here https://www.abi.org.uk/data-and-resources/tools-and-resources/general-faqs/my-relative-recently-died-and-i-am-trying-to-find/
When someone dies without a Will
What should I do?
Usually you will get most of any money or assets they have left behind, but this can take time to be sorted out. We suggest that you talk with a qualified professional about this.
When someone dies without a will, their estate is divided up according to Intestacy law.
Intestacy law rules split the estate of the person who has died to members of the family in a strict order. Usually a spouse or civil partner will inherit the bulk of the estate. It’s important to consider having a Will especially if you have children under 18, or you are separated but still married. Some law firms can help for free or there are DIY wills you can purchase, but they can be difficult to get right on your own.
Tip As with probate, and Letters of Administration, Intestacy law is a specialist area and cannot be dealt with in this document. Please speak to a special advisor or visit this page: https://www.gov.uk/inherits-someone-dies-without-will
What is probate?
Probate is the process of dealing with the estate of someone who has died.
What are Letters of Administration?
Letters of Administration is a document issued by the probate registry, which allows someone to act as administrator of the estate for the person who has died.