Advanced Funeral Directive

The law does not impose a duty on anyone to have a funeral, though many consider it a final opportunity to say goodbye and an occasion for family and friends to come together to support one another which can be an important element of the grieving process.

You may consider a funeral to be a reflection of you when you die and it may be important that the funeral is meaningful.  This maybe better achieved through the completion of a funeral directive that has been considered in advance.

Funeral wishes drawn up in a Will are not legally binding after death. It is, therefore, sensible to identify who will give instructions for your funeral, so you feel confident that wishes will be followed. If you have a partner to whom you are not married and they are not appointed your executor, consider their needs carefully. It is not unusual for parents to take control when an unmarried person dies, and the partner’s wishes can then be ignored.

It is also helpful, and often therapeutic, if your partner, family and friends can follow your wishes after death. Meeting your wishes is part of the grieving process for them, and forms part of their separation from your life. This is especially important if your death should come sudden and unexpected. It is also a process in which you can consider their needs and perhaps integrate them into the funeral in some way. Having his or her names mentioned at the service might help, or perhaps someone might like to be a bearer or read a eulogy at the service. Once these opportunities have passed, they can never be recovered.

Making arrangements in advance affords the ability to price the various options. The costs will arise in two areas. The first is “disbursements” – the sums you will pay to doctors (for cremation), the cemetery or crematorium and a minister. The second area is the “funeral” arrangements. If you are using an undertaker, these include the cost of collecting and handling the body, a coffin if used, visiting the person who has died, the hearse and cars, and indeed all other services. It is advisable to obtain some quotes as soon as you have decided what you require. In general, the more you use an undertaker or the more complex the funeral, the more expensive it will become. Conversely, funerals arranged by the family and/or members of the community with no or little commercial outside help, tend be less expensive.

If you are considering purchasing a pre-paid funeral plan note that companies selling funeral plans can go into liquidation, and it could prove difficult to reclaim any monies paid into a scheme.

Some companies, such as “Open Prepaid Funeral Plans” charge a deposit. This company charges £195 and it’s my understanding that it’s non-refundable.  Plans such as this one do NOT cover “the costs of repatriation from outside the UK or “…the costs of the funeral on a weekend, public holiday or bank holiday”.  It “does not promise” to meet all “third party costs” which include:

  • burial services and fees related to a grave;
  • crematorium fees;
  • memorial headstones, flowers or “other similar additional costs”.

NOTE that some companies refer to fees related to the cost of “purchasing a burial plot” yet a burial plot CANNOT be purchased in a public place of burial. A local authority will sell what is termed as the “exclusive rights of burial”. This means that the buyer will own the rights to the grave for a specified number of years. Owning the burial rights, prevents anyone doing anything with the grave without your permission and the time specified, is set by the local authority. Law allows for 100 years, but most local authorities have reduced time granted in graves to as little as 30 years.  Whether hiring an undertaker or not, it is wise to consult the local authority for the district where the burial is to take place,

Should you already have or are considering purchasing a funeral plan and later wish to surrender it, most often administration fees will be charged. To my knowledge these can range between £95.00—£150.00. This depends on which company underwrites your policy. Do check terms and conditions of the policy.  It may prove useful to discuss funeral plans with the Funeral Planning Authority,  though according to the “Money Advice Service”, the “Financial Conduct Authority doesn’t regulate funeral plans covered by insurance or trust arrangements. It does however stipulate rules for each method of investment, so sums paid by the customer are safeguarded and available to pay for the funeral when needed”.

If making an advanced directive, it might be wise to keep these documents somewhere known to the person who you wish to arrange your funeral, as if kept with a Will the Will may not be read until after the funeral is over.