All, Funeral planning

Why is the price of a prepaid funeral plan sometimes cheaper than the funeral director’s standard price list – for the same service?

If you haven’t prepaid your funeral before you die, your family may discover, when they make the arrangements, that the purchase price of a funeral plan would work out cheaper than the funeral director's standard ‘at-need’ funeral price list – for exactly the same service. Alas, too late for all concerned.

We explain how that’s the case, and – knowing that – why you or your family can’t simply take advantage of the saving by purchasing your funeral plan in the days immediately before and at the funeral arrangement. Even so, once you understand how the system works, prepaid is still money saved.

Who is this guide for? 

  • Anyone curious about why the cost of a prepaid funeral plan is sometimes cheaper than the funeral director’s price list for the same service
  • Anyone wanting to know the average saving of a funeral plan vs an at-need funeral in 2020 
  • Anyone wanting to know why planning a funeral early is still the wisest move

Reading time:

 3.5 mins

Why can the purchase price of a prepaid funeral plan, around the time of the funeral, sometimes be cheaper than the at-need cost for the same standard of funeral? 

Before we answer that, here’s the source of our information, so you know it’s credible: 

Competition & Markets Authority (CMA): Funerals Market Investigation 2020. Appendix F: 5.153  

"[Prepaid funeral plans] are often sold at a lower price than at-need funerals."

Now, in order to solve this riddle, we need to look at some numbers.  Don’t worry, we’ll take it slowly! 

Here are the most common scenarios: 

  • Funeral costs vary hugely across the UK.  In 2020, London is still the most expensive place to die.  At an average cost of £5,693, a funeral held in England's capital costs 35% more than the average cost of a funeral elsewhere in the UK.  
  • What you need to understand is that the pricing of national funeral plans covers the average funeral expense – regardless of where you live.  If you reside in an area where funeral prices are high, and London is far from being the only pricing hotspot in the UK, you could be on to an immediate and long-term savings winner should you decide to prepay your funeral.   
  • Here’s how the average UK funeral cost compares with the average of a funeral plan (in 2020):
    A basic funeral = £4,417 (1)
    A comparable basic prepaid funeral plan = £3,961 (2)
    Cost saving = £456 (10%)
    Price includes the average funeral director's fees and necessary third-party fees for burial or cremation (including the two doctors’ cremation certification fees).
    (1) 'Basic' funeral as defined and referenced in the 2020 SunLife Cost of Dying Research report. 
    (2) The average price of a 'Traditional' type funeral plan (comparable with the SunLife 'Basic' definition), from a Funeral Planning Authority registered provider listed on Before You Go).
Some funeral plan providers own their network of funeral directors.  This may enable them to provide funeral plans at a lower price than at-need funerals because selling a prepaid funeral plan can secure future business for their funeral homes, and generate future customer loyalty. 
"Now that I know all this, why doesn't my family just buy a funeral plan at the time my funeral is needed instead of paying in advance?"
That is the big question, and the simple answer comes down to a single word: legislation. 

The Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (Regulated Activities) Order 2001 stipulates thatin regard to prepaid funeral plans:  

The person for whom the funeral is for, needs to be living at the date when the contract is entered into” and a funeral contract cannot be entered into if "at the time of entering the contract, the customer and the funeral plan provider intend or expect the funeral to occur within one month". 
There is one exception to the ‘intend’ or ‘expect’ rule, and that is if you died as a result of an accident.

So what does happen if I take out a funeral plan and then need my funeral within one month, but my death was not due to an accident? 

In that unhappy event, if your funeral plan was with a Funeral Planning Authority registered provider, the funeral plan money you have paid in will be refunded to your estate or your family could request that it is used to pay, or go towards, the nominated funeral director’s bill. Any balance due would need to be paid according to the funeral director’s standard price list.

Terms differ between providers. You should check these carefully when buying a plan, and especially if there are concerns that your life expectancy could invalidate the plan in the manner described above.

How you can help your family with the funeral arrangements and cost from beyond the grave?

There’s a well-known business acronym called the Five Ps: proper planning prevents poor performance. We have our own version that perfectly sums up our message to you: prepaid planning prevents posthumous poverty. pre-posthumous planning prevents payment poverty!

Let’s break that down a little to illustrate why prepaying and planning your funeral in advance is so important for those you leave behind.

  1. 1

    Your family won't feel pressured into paying more than they need to, when you die.  

    Arranging the funeral is often when the heart rules the head.  Typically, bereaved families "want the best" and then they worry about how they are going to pay for it afterwards.  If you've already paid for your funeral, you can still have the best and save your family unnecessary added expense.  
  2. 2
    Your family won't have to spend time shopping around for the best-value funeral.  
    Once your plan is in place, the funeral director or the funeral plan company itself has been nominated to carry out your funeral and is under contract to deliver it for the fixed amount agreed on the day the plan was purchased.  Your family won’t have the distress of hunting for a good deal at a time when they are already coping with their loss. 
  3. 3
    Your family will be saved from the expense of your funeral.
    The further in advance you plan, the more loved ones will save, as they will be avoiding the increases in funeral costs in the intervening years (see Rise in funeral costs). And, depending on your preferred payment plan, your funeral will all be covered by then. It’s something else they’ll remember you fondly for.
  4. 4
    Your family won't have the heartache frequently experienced when organising a funeral. 
    You will have sorted out the details, leaving them with fewer or possibly no decisions to make, which eliminates any worries about whether they've done right by you. 
  5. 5
    You will help your family avoid possible arguments and conflict. 
    Documenting what you want for your funeral gives loved ones clarity over the details.  Grief affects different people in different ways, but it always takes its toll.  Family members and close friends may have opposing views about who knew you best and how you’d want your funeral to go (and what should happen afterwards).  It is a no-win situation that can cause upset and division, which is the last thing you’d want as your legacy.   Documenting what you want, whether it’s in black and white, or on an audio / video recordingor giving named individuals your express permission to make those choices, removes any uncertainty. 
Whichever way you look at it, there’s no mystery about why a prepaid funeral plan is the answer! 
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All, Funeral planning

Does a funeral plan allow me to choose the funeral director?

When you buy a funeral plan, either the funeral plan provider will nominate the funeral director, or you will be offered a choice.

We outline the options and what you can do about switching to another funeral director.

Who is this guide for? 

  • Anyone who has a preferred funeral director that they would like to deliver their funeral 
  • Anyone who might want to change the funeral director if they aren't happy with the plan provider's choice
  • Anyone who wants to understand why going to a preferred funeral director to buy their funeral plan may not be the smartest move

Reading time:

 8.5 mins

Can I always choose which funeral director will deliver my funeral?

The option to choose your funeral director depends on the plan you buy and whether your preferred funeral director is included within the funeral plan provider's network. 

Here are the most common scenarios: 

  • The plan provider lets you choose from a shortlist of funeral directors.  
  • The plan provider leaves the choice of funeral director entirely up to you.
  • The plan provider will choose the funeral director.

Can I choose a funeral director who is outside the funeral plan provider's network?

If the funeral director you want is outside the funeral plan provider's network, the funeral plan provider will sometimes approach your preferred funeral director to see if they will take on the plan. Your preferred funeral director's willingness to accept the plan will depend on the terms of the funeral plan you want to buy and the following:
  • Supplementary cost  - The funeral director may require a top-up fee from you. This will be added to the funeral plan price.
  • Commercial restrictions  - The funeral director may have a contract with another plan provider that means they are unable to accept a different provider's plans.

Why might I want to choose the funeral director?

You may be comforted by the fact that you will be cared for by a funeral director you've used before or one who has been recommended by someone you trust.
If getting your preferred funeral director means that you have to sacrifice the funeral plan you want and select a different plan, be aware that by the time your funeral is needed the funeral director may have retired, the funeral home may have changed hands, or you may have moved some distance away so you wouldn't have the services of your preferred funeral director anyway. Rest assured, a funeral plan provider chooses the funeral directors in their network carefully. The plan provider's reputation depends upon it.

Can I change the funeral director that's been appointed by the plan provider? 

If you're not keen on the funeral director that has already been appointed or those funeral directors on the shortlist, it may be possible to choose another one.  Check the terms of your plan.  If you're still not happy with your options, you could cancel your plan.  Providing you do this in writing within the cancellation period (of up to 30 days), you will get a 100% refund.  

At face value, this seems like the obvious and easiest way to purchase your plan.  However, there are a couple of things you should bear in mind: 

  • Not every funeral director sells funeral plans.  
  • Some funeral directors only offer one plan provider's range of funeral plans.  (Funeral directors may be commercially restricted from selling other providers' plans.)  This limits your choices and could mean missing out on getting the best value plan for your needs. 
Some advice if you do decide to go directly to the funeral director 
  • Make sure that the plan the funeral director is selling is from a Funeral Planning Authority registered (FPA) provider. Registration is voluntary and gives you the reassurance that the plan provider is complying with the FPA's strict rules around the security of plan funds, beyond the exemption rules set by the Financial Conduct Authority. Being a registered member also demonstrates that the plan provider is operating above the basic required professional standards.
  • Ask the funeral director what would happen to your plan if you moved out of the area, or the funeral director retired, or the funeral director went out of business.
  • When buying your funeral plan, make sure your conversation with the funeral director is confirmed in writing or that your call is recorded and that you can receive a copy if requested.  Should you or your family have an issue with the funeral plan you have been sold, or you believe you haven't been treated fairly, you will have the documentation or a recording to support your case.  You can raise a complaint with the FPA - providing the plan you are buying is from an FPA registered member, of course.
  • For your added protection, make sure the funeral director is a member of a funeral trade association. There are two: The National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD) and the Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF). If your family should have a complaint about the funeral director's services, they can seek official redress through one of these organisations.
  • Before you buy from the funeral director, shop around to ensure you are getting the best plan at the right price. You can do that in person or by using an online portal such as ours.
Choosing a prepaid funeral plan gives you the final say over your final journey.  Finding the right funeral director is an important part of that process.  Selecting a funeral director included in the plan provider's network takes the worry and hassle away from finding the right one.  At Before You Go, we help you make informed decisions about every aspect of your funeral and help you find the funeral plan that's right for you.  Leave great memories, not loose ends. 
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All, Family matters, Funeral planning

Who do you want to lead your funeral ceremony?

If you plan on having a funeral ceremony, someone will need to lead the proceedings and, at the very least, say a few words. Do you have anybody specific in mind? 

We look at your choices of officiant to help you decide.

Who is this guide for? 

  • Anyone planning their own funeral that includes a ceremony
  • Anyone who wants help knowing what their options are

Reading time

 3.5 mins

Who gets the last word at your funeral? 

In the not too distant past, a religious minister would lead a funeral service as a matter of course. But that isn’t the case now. A traditional religious funeral is in decline.  For one thing, not everyone in the UK identifies as religious.  

What all this means for you is that you do have the final say about who and how your funeral service is conducted.  The question is who is your preferred choice of voice?

What are the different types of funeral officiants?

  • Religious minister 
    If you consider yourself a person of faith, then it's likely you will choose a religious minister and incorporate your faith into the funeral or memorial service. You’ll want someone who can talk meaningfully about the beliefs, traditions and practices that are important to you.  
  • Civil celebrant 
    Maybe you don’t practise your faith in a formal way, but you’d like some religious elements? A civil celebrant can conduct the funeral service and include religious elements, such as hymns, a bible reading and prayer. 
  • Humanist celebrant
    If you're looking for a religious-free zone, then a humanist celebrant is the way to go.   Or you could simply ask a family member or a close friend to lead the service. In that instance, it would be wise to discuss the matter now and agree clear guidelines about music and any eulogies. Ideally, you want someone who is comfortable in front of an audience and able to project their voice so the people at the back can hear.
  • Funeral director 
    Your family could ask the funeral director to take the service.  He or she may make a charge for this.

It’s a big decision.  It’s worth taking the time to reflect on your personal values and what sort of ceremony best represents you and the impact it will have on the people you care most about.

Remember that regardless of who takes your service, when you plan your own funeral you can leave wishes for what will be said and heard. 

Have you got your funeral wishes sorted?

Download our free Funeral Wishes Planner where you can leave clear instructions for your family about who you would like to lead your service, as well as all the other stuff - even down to your choice of music in the hearse on the way to the funeral!

What are the funeral officiant’s duties? 

If you are inviting a family member or friend to officiate at your funeral ceremony, then you might want to fill them in on their role for the day.

  • The eulogy 
    Writing and reading the eulogy they – or you – have prepared..
  • Event management
    Inviting others who knew you best to step forward and say a few words. 
  • Content management
    Ensuring the readings, poems or prayers and music you want are included. 
  • Time management 
    Making certain the service keeps to time.  
  • Public relations
    If the service is to be held at a separate location, giving instructions as to who is welcome to attend the committal and where it is.  

    And letting everyone know where any funeral reception is being held, along with helpful information such as dietary provisions and whether there’s a tab behind the bar.  It makes it clear where everyone needs to go and what’s awaiting them.  Better that than the awkwardness and disappointment they may feel paying for a drink at the bar when they needn’t have.   

Does a pre-paid funeral plan include the cost of the officiant?

Whether the funeral plan includes the third-party officiant’s fee depends on the type of funeral plan purchased.

There are three types of Plans. All guarantee to cover the funeral director’s fees. The difference in Plan types lies between the level of third-party cover.

  • Guaranteed funeral plan 
    This type of plan will cover the third-party costs for cremation or burial and the officiant fee in full or up to the equivalent amount charged by a Church of England minister at the time the funeral is needed. 
  • Contribution funeral plan
    This type of plan includes a contribution amount towards the cost of cremation or burial and the officiant fee. The contribution amount will grow until the funeral takes place, in line with either the Retail Price Index (RPI), the Consumer Price Index (CPI) or in some other way chosen by the funeral plan provider. Any shortfall will need to be paid by your representative or from your estate  to the funeral provider.  
  • No Contribution funeral plan 
    All third-party cremation or burial fees and officiant fee will need to be paid in full at the time of your funeral by your representative or from your estate to the funeral provider. 


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All, Funeral planning

Would you like people to pay their last respects?

After you die, and before your funeral, you may want to give family and friends the option to visit your body to pay their last respects.    

We consider the rationale for it and one or two things about this tradition that you probably weren’t aware of. Read this guide to weigh up the pros and cons and then decide if it’s right for you and for your loved ones.

Who is this guide for? 

  • Anyone planning their funeral, who hasn’t thought about whether they want to be visited after they die
  • Anyone unsure why people want to visit the body in the days before a funeral 
  • Anyone unclear about the benefits that can be experienced by people visiting a body before the funeral

Reading time:

 3 mins

Is visiting my body before the funeral a good idea?

Unless you are familiar with the custom of going to visit a body in the days leading up to a funeral, the idea may seem strange, scary or perhaps even a little ghoulish.  It was actually a commonplace occurrence in the early 20th century and had a sound purpose behind it. 

Visiting your body can be a valuable part of the grieving process as loved ones literally face death and have to come to terms with its finality.  It also affords visitors some private space to say their goodbyes, away from the shared, public gaze of a funeral.

Naturally, it can be very upsetting to look upon the face of a loved one after death – and that is as it should be.  Grief is love.  Some people prefer to pass up the option to view, and that's okay too.  But the people you care most about may appreciate having the choice.

What are the choice of locations for visiting my body?

Regardless of where you die, there are two primary options for a viewing location. 


Visiting your body in the funeral home

Every funeral director has a chapel of rest or service room, which is designed for this purpose.  

The coffin rests on a stand, and there is usually seating available.  Religious emblems can be placed in the room with you, according to your religious beliefs, or the room can be left unadorned.  You may also be able to have photographs or other personal items on display.  If that idea appeals to you, leave instructions for the funeral director in advance. 


Visiting your body at your home

The second option is for your body to be brought home for the viewing.  In this instance, you will need to consider who will be responsible for looking after you until the funeral and how they will cope with this.  

We recommend discussing this most sensitive of all your funeral preferences with your loved ones so that you understand how they feel about it, before you let them know why you feel the way you do about it and what you would ideally like to happen.

Can I stop someone from visiting my body before the funeral?

Conventionally, anyone can visit your body, but you are free to specify who can and cannot attend.  You may have valid personal reasons for excluding people from this privilege, which is your prerogative. 

If you intent to buy a prepaid funeral plan, leave your wishes in the notes section on the application form. It may be helpful to discuss the 'guest list' with your family too, so that everyone understands your wishes.

When would visiting the chapel of rest not be ideal?

If you were to die in a manner that caused trauma to parts of your body that would be clearly visible, the funeral director may suggest that a viewing is not recommended.  You could also leave instructions in this instance to inform any decision your loved ones may have to make.

What is the cost to visit my body before the funeral?

The option to visit your body in the chapel of rest is either included in the total cost of your prepaid funeral plan, or not included.  The more basic funeral plans tend not to include the option to visit, although your family may be able to pay for this service at the time of the funeral.

A funeral director's fee for this service today, is anywhere between £100 and £250.  The cost usually goes up if this service is required out of normal working hours.

The option to visiting your body is not included and cannot be added at a later date to the lowest cost Direct Cremation or a Direct Burial service (i.e. a cremation or burial service with no-one in attendance).

The pros and cons of giving loved ones the option to visit 

Weighing it all up, a viewing affords loved ones the opportunity to say their private goodbyes.  Some people say it helps them come to terms with their loss.  Others find the idea too distressing and prefer just to attend a funeral. 

If you consider a viewing to be a valuable element of the grieving process for loved ones, you can specify whether you'd like to be dressed in a funeral gown or in your own clothes.  Mourners often find it comforting to see the deceased in familiar clothing.  You can leave this sort of detail for your family  in our Funeral Wishes Planner which is free to download.

Prepaid funeral plans that include this option are more expensive than other funeral plans in a provider's range.  To keep the cost of a funeral plan down, you could consider a plan without this service and your family could pay for it at the time of the funeral.  You would need to check the terms and conditions of the funeral plan to see if this would be possible.


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All, Family matters, Funeral planning

Where do you want your body to be kept before the funeral?

An aspect of your funeral you may not have thought about is where your body will be kept in the days leading up to the funeral ceremony.

Although you may already have a preference, this guide looks at some of the practicalities involved to help you make an informed decision.

Who is this guide for? 

  • Anyone unsure about the options for where your body may be kept in the days before a funeral
  • Anyone who is curious about what measures are needed to keep their body at home 

Reading time:

 2 mins

Where will my body be kept before the funeral?

If you don’t state a preference, and unless your family request otherwise, you will be brought into the care of the funeral director until the funeral.

It’s important to bear in mind that some of the larger funeral companies often have central hubs where bodies will be stored on tiered racks.  If the idea of many bodies being stored in close proximity - and away from the funeral home - concerns you, the best option for you would be to choose a small, independent funeral director with their own on-site refrigeration facilities. (You are still likely to have company, but on a much smaller scale).

Can my body be looked after at home before the funeral?

Yes.  If you die at home, your body can stay there until the funeral.  If you die away from home, arrangements can be made for your body to be brought home.  

If you are taken into the care of a funeral director there is often the option to be transported to your home leading up to the funeral.  And vice versa, should the practicalities of looking after you at home become too much.  This will, of course, add to the cost of your funeral.

Your preference for where your body is kept after death and before your funeral may be based on your religious views or guided by practical considerations.

Whatever you decide, the most important thing you can do is to let your dearest and dearest know what you would like to happen.  Writing down your wishes in a document for your family to refer to when you've gone, can help minimise further stress arising from confusion about what to do.

Can I check a funeral home's mortuary facilities?

Yes.  If you have a particular funeral home in mind and are worried about where you will be kept, then there are a couple of things you can do.

  1. 1
    Ask the funeral director to show you ‘back of house’ (the mortuary facilities) or an inspection report by an independent body to give you some assurance that their facilities are respectful and up to scratch.  (The problem with this option is that it could be some time after you've visited before you need the funeral director's services and their standard of care could change).
  2. 2
    Ask a family member or friend if they could check the funeral director's back of house facilities at the time the funeral arrangements are being made.  If they aren't comfortable with that suggestion,  get them to ask the funeral director for a copy of their inspection report.  If they have any concerns, they should request you are moved to another funeral home.


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compare apples with apples
All, Funeral planning, Money

How to choose the right funeral director when planning in advance

The two most common factors for people choosing their funeral director are the overall expense and the quality of the goods and services provided.  

When funeral planning,  how do you choose the right funeral director in advance when these factor of cost and service are ever-changing and could be wildly different by the time your funeral is needed?

This guide includes information about the cost of a UK funeral today, what the cost might look like in the future, and some quality assurance considerations when choosing a funeral director in advance of the event.

Who is this guide for?

  • Anyone thinking about using a funeral director and how to make the right choice
  • Anyone who wants to understand the typical cost of a funeral today in the UK
  • Anyone looking to lessen the impact of rises in cost of a future funeral

Reading time:


Do I need to choose a funeral director when planning in advance?

When you're planning the details of your funeral, you may want to specify a particular funeral director.  Don't have anyone in mind? That's okay. You don't need to choose a funeral director. 

The important thing is that you don’t let your indecision stop you from cracking on with your plans.  Your thoughtful decision to plan ahead can help loved ones avoid the added emotional and financial strain often experienced by bereaved families when having to make the arrangements at the time the funeral is needed.

You don’t have to use a funeral director by the way. Your family can organise the funeral with or without the help of a funeral director or the help of a home funeral arranger.

If you do want to choose the funeral director and are unsure how to select the right one, we've got some key pointers to help you. 

2 things to bear in mind before choosing your funeral director when planning your funeral in advance

Life is unpredictable

Your choice of funeral director today may not have the same reputation, belong to the same independent company or group, or even be around when you finally need them.  

It’s also possible you might move to another part of the country in the future – in which case you will need to choose funeral director. 

Money matters

If the cost of your funeral is going to be a consideration for you or your family, you need to get a feel for the funeral director’s fees before you make your final choice - even though it could be some time before their service is needed.  Do your research.  Ask for a copy of their price lists or go online. 

What most people don't know about funeral costs

Local funeral director’s fees can vary 

by more than 50%,
for the same service,
for the same standard of service, 
even in the same high street.

Funeral costs have risen well in excess of general inflation and are set to continue in this way.  

The cost of a basic funeral today is £4,184.  The total cost of dying is £9,263 - which includes the extras such as flowers, funeral notices, the reception after the funeral and legal fees.   Funeral costs are expected to rise a further 20.6% to £5,044 by 2025.

What you can do to help your loved ones avoid the rise in funeral costs

To avoid needlessly wasting money - due to the continuing above-inflation rise in funeral costs - that's better left in your estate for your beneficiaries, you can set money aside.  

You could consider putting money into a savings account, buying a life insurance or Over 50s policy, or a prepaid funeral plan.  What makes a funeral plan different, is that it fixes the funeral cost at today’s prices and guarantees to pay for your funeral regardless of how much the cost may rise in the future. 

3 key pieces of advice to help you choose the right funeral director when planning in advance

Look for a mark of service quality

Anyone can set up as a funeral director.

Consider choosing a funeral director who belongs to a funeral trade association or certified in some other way for assured quality of service.  In the UK, there are two UK funeral trade associations. Registered members must abide by a strict Code of Practice. They are:

Society of Allied & Independent Funeral Directors Independent (SAIF)
Includes independent funeral director members only

National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD)
Includes independent and chain funeral director members

Both associations monitor their members’ compliance with a Code of Practice.  This includes a premises inspection and interviews with key personnel. 

Get a recommendation

Ask friends and family for their experience.  

Check online reviews

Back up word of mouth recommendation with ratings and comments on review sites.  To make sure the reviews are impartial,  honest and genuine, here are some things to look out for.

  • Ensure the review site is independent of the funeral industry
    One obvious telltale sign that the review site is tied to a funeral company or the funeral industry, is when the review site only reviews funeral directors and related services, such as Wills. 
  • Scan the rating scores
    If the review site predominantly shows 5-star reviews, ask the site to confirm how the reviews are collected.  Bear in mind that if the funeral director invites the reviewer, it’s all too easy for only happy clients to be asked to leave a comment.
  • Check the rating is for the funeral service only
    Another thing to watch out for on review sites is ‘merged’ reviews.  This is where a single rating is shown, but is for different services and products e.g.  funeral plans, wills, estate administration.  Get in touch with the review site if in doubt.

Can I choose my preferred funeral director when I buy a prepaid funeral plan?

Most plan providers will allow you to nominate your preferred funeral director, but it will depend on the type of funeral plan you buy.  It will also depend on whether your preferred funeral director agrees to take on the plan.

If the funeral director declines to take on your funeral plan, the plan provider will find a worthy replacement (the plan provider's reputation depends on it!) and put forward another funeral director for your consideration.   If you don't approve, keep asking your provider to find another funeral director until you are happy.


Funeral trade association
Members: Group and independent funeral directors
National Association of Funeral Directors

Funeral trade association
Members: Independents funeral directors only
Society of Allied & Independent Funeral Directors


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All, Funeral planning

What are the different types of funeral service?

One of the few things we all have in common is that one day we will no longer be here. But that doesn’t mean your funeral has to be commonplace. You may be surprised at the many ways you can personalise your final journey.

After you have decided whether you want to be cremated or buried, the next big question is: what kind of funeral service do you want? In this guide we explore your options for a funeral with and without a ceremony.

Who is this article for?

  • Anyone who isn’t sure about the different types of funeral service and ceremonies available
  • Anyone who wants to ensure their funeral service reflects their values and preferences

Reading time:

 5 mins

Three types of funerals

Broadly speaking, when planning the type of funeral you want you have three options:

  • a funeral with a ceremony
  • a committal-only service
  • a cremation or burial with no ceremony

What is a ‘funeral with a ceremony’?

A funeral with a ceremony typically lasts between 45 and 60 minutes (including the time it takes for people to enter and leave the venue). It can sometimes be extended by the same amount of time again and for an additional fee.

The ceremony is usually led by a minister or celebrant and may include readings, poetry, prayer, carefully chosen music or hymns, and eulogies from family and friends.

The funeral ceremony may be held at the graveside in the case of a burial, in the crematorium chapel, or at some other religious or non-religious venue, and away from the actual place of cremation or burial.

If your plan is to use the services of a funeral director

  • The number of family and friends who can attend will be unlimited
  • The funeral director and staff will be present for the duration of the ceremony

What is a ‘committal-only service?

A committal-only service generally lasts around 20 minutes. (The ‘committal’ is where the final words or a prayer is said before your body is committed for cremation or burial). The time allowed is just enough to include a reading, prayer, or simply a few words. Depending on the location, one or two pieces of music can be included too.

The committal-only service may be held at the graveside in the case of a burial, in the crematorium chapel, or at some other religious or non-religious venue, and away from the actual place of cremation or burial.

If your plan is to use the services of a funeral director

  • The number of family and friends who can attend will be limited to usually 12 people
  • The funeral staff may not be present during this service. In this instance, your coffin will be placed on the catafalque before family and friends arrive, leaving them to have their last moments with you in private.

Funeral directors often refer to this type of service as an ‘Intimate’ funeral. And because the service is pared down, so are the funeral director’s fees.

What is a ‘service without ceremony’?

A funeral without a ceremony is most commonly known as a ‘direct cremation’ or ‘direct burial’. The cremation or burial takes place with no family or friends present. In the case of cremation, your ashes will either be scattered or interred at the crematorium, or returned to your personal representative (e.g. your executor or next of kin).

Separating the ceremony from the cremation or burial gives those you leave behind the freedom to choose if, when and where they would like to hold a memorial service or private party - such as in a hotel, a community hall, a local pub or picnic on the beach.

Going direct is the least expensive of all the funeral types. If your plan is to use the services of a funeral director.
  • Family and friends will not be allowed to attend
  • The funeral staff will not be present for the cremation

With all due ceremony

Unless you want to follow a particular faith tradition, there are no rules regarding what can and cannot be included during a full or shortened funeral ceremony. It’s your send-off, your way – although we would strongly recommend you discuss and involve loved ones in your funeral planning.

Setting the tone of your funeral

After deciding whether you want to be cremated or buried, and if you want a funeral ceremony, a committal-only service or no service at all, the next big question is to consider whether you would prefer the tone of your funeral to be formal or informal.

The good news is that if you’ve been struggling with any of the decision-making up to now, once you’ve made your mind up on those three elements, deciding on the remaining detail for your funeral becomes much easier.
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All, Greener funerals

12 Ways to a greener funeral

For the more environmentally conscious, a greener approach can be incorporated into a funeral service with some forward planning. 

This guide considers the eco alternatives to some of the traditional elements in a funeral service.

Who is this guide for? 

  • Anyone wishing to help the environment when it comes to their funeral.
  • Anyone who wants help with some ideas for an eco-friendly funeral service

Reading time:

 4.5 mins

The basics

We do our bit for the environment in lots of ways throughout our lives. We may be keen recyclers, energy savers, allotment holders, carbon neutrals or eco investors. So why should we let a little thing like death stop us from doing our bit for the planet?

You have more green choices than you might think when it comes to pushing up the daisies!

1. Natural burial

You could choose one of the UK’s 270 natural woodland or meadow burial grounds for your final resting place. This not only preserves a piece of land from being developed, but it also secures habitat for local wildlife.

Burial sites that belong to the Association of Natural Burial Grounds abide by a code of conduct aimed at ensuring the highest professional and environmental standards. Any projects members undertake at their grounds must adhere to sound ecological and sustainable principles. This includes conserving existing wildlife and promoting biodiversity.

THREE UNEXPECTED FACTS about natural burial grounds

  • You don’t have to be buried in a coffin or casket. You could choose to be buried in a shroud, or some other alternative wrapping or container – as long as it’s biodegradable.
  • Some natural burial grounds allow families to dig their loved one’s grave. The burial ground may insist the family takes out an insurance policy, e.g. against injury.
  • Families returning to visit their loved one’s grave should brace themselves for a very different feel throughout the seasons.

Some wildflower meadow burial grounds may only be cut once a year. While the setting for the burial may be especially beautiful when the meadow is awash with colour in spring and summertime, the meadow can look very different the rest of the year.

2. A greener cremation

One of the ecological reasons why people choose cremation over a burial is because it doesn’t use up finite land resources. Other reasons can be more granular.

Some crematoria have installed abatement equipment to reduce harmful NOx emissions. Others have given consideration to the planting and maintenance of the grounds, and the installation of electric charging ports. Schemes include recycling large floral tributes rather than sending them to landfill. Redditch crematorium in Worcestershire diverts the heat it produces to a local swimming pool.

Choosing a crematorium that uses an all-electric, carbon-neutral cremator running off a green energy supply would be a good option. Unfortunately, there is only one electric cremator in the UK currently, and doesn’t run off a green tariff. It’s based in Dundee. The first all-electric, carbon neutral crematorium is due to open in Cambridgeshire towards the end of 2021.

If you would prefer to be cremated, get in touch with your local crematorium and ask what it has done to reduce its impact on the environment.

3. Eco-friendly coffin options

Ethically sourced, sustainable and 100% biodegradable coffins come in a variety of materials and colours. These include wood, cardboard, wool and wicker made from willow, seagrass, banana leaf, pandanus and bamboo, to name but a few. Linings and pillows are made from organic cotton or jute and can be ordered in different colours.

Each natural coffin has a minimal impact on the environment and will biodegrade much quicker than traditional coffins supplied by funeral directors.

While all the natural coffins are suitable for burial, care should be taken when choosing a coffin for a cremation funeral. Certain types of natural coffins are not as environmentally friendly as you might think as they require more heat to burn. e.g. some cardboard coffins and wicker coffins. A natural solid pine wood coffin is a good option for a green cremation.

4. Eco-friendly shroud options

The standard alternative to a coffin is a highly sustainable, 100% biodegradable shroud. Again, these come in a variety of materials such as felted wool, hemp, linen, unbleached organic cotton or fabric made from strips of bamboo (it’s soft and looks like cotton). A shroud comes with or without carrying handles and can be used in conjunction with a curved or flat wicker stretcher.

Another alternative is to make your own eco-coffin from scratch or from a flatpack. Decorate with biodegradable inks and paints.

5. Biodegradable urns

You could ask that your ashes are placed in a biodegradable urn or ashes casket. Your choice for a permanent above the ground or under the ground home includes wood, wicker, wool, fibre and urns made from paper. Or how about asking that your ashes are interred in a recycled wooden box, wine crate, wicker basket, or a robust eco-friendly Jiffy bag?

Another option is the BiosUrn - a biodegradable container with tree seed, sapling or flower planted on top, which is nourished by your ashes.

6. Natural or living memorials

Natural or living memorials are a requirement of green burial grounds. They preserve the environment and the natural appearance of the location. A flat stone, a wooden marker that biodegrades over time (it can be replaced) or a tree are wonderful alternatives to the traditional memorial headstone or metal plaque. Each burial ground has its own policy regarding what can and cannot be used.

The funeral service
If you are passionate about the environment, why not ensure your funeral service is more sustainable?  By carefully considering each stage of the funeral, you might be able to come up with small, positive changes that collectively make a big difference.

7. Travel arrangements

Instead of the traditional motor hearse, consider a horse-drawn or bicycle hearse instead. Ask people to share cars to and from the ceremony.

8. Order of service

How about insisting on recycled paper for the Order of Service, or no Order of Service at all. Leave instructions for the song or hymn books to be used at the crematorium or place of burial.

9. Flowers

You can reduce your funeral’s carbon footprint by requesting family and friends pick flowers from their own gardens, or that the flowers come from a local organic grower or a florist with a policy that avoids sourcing from heated greenhouses. They should ensure any packaging is biodegradable too.

10. Gifts of sympathy

To have a lasting and positive effect after you’re gone, consider requesting donations to charity instead of flowers. Alternatively, request that the flowers are all in pots so they can be taken home or donated to a local community garden or care home.

11. Mementoes

Leaving instructions for packets of seeds or ‘seed bombs’ for mourners to take home after the service is an excellent way of promoting green habits.

12. Funeral reception

If your funeral planning extends to the reception following the funeral, choose a crematorium or burial location with on-site facilities or a venue that is cl

Paying for a green funeral

Did you know that you can pay for a greener funeral in advance? If leaving a better world for future generations is something you want to prioritise right now, consider the benefits of a green prepaid funeral plan. You fix the cost of your funeral at today’s prices, help loved ones avoid the rise in funeral costs and help save the planet into the bargain.

You can learn more about green funeral plans and compare them here.


Eco-friendly coffins Country range from:

JC Atkinson 

Eco Coffin 

Colourful Coffins 

Flatpack coffin from Coffin In A Box

Biodegradable ‘Ashes into a tree’ urn

Directory of charities

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Cremation vs Burial
All, Family matters, Funeral planning

Cremation vs Burial? Which is best?

Currently in the UK, the two choices for disposal of a body after death are cremation and burial. 

This guide considers the cost and eco-credentials for each option, and the impact those considerations will have on the people you leave behind. This guide also looks into other factors that may influence your decision.

Who is this guide for?

  • Anyone planning a funeral, who hasn't decided whether to have cremation or burial.
  • Anyone looking for the greenest option when it comes to cremation or burial.
  • Anyone worried about the scarcity of burial space and what you can do about it.

Reading time:

 9 mins

In a manner of your choosing 

When planning your funeral, one of the most helpful decisions you can make for the people you leave behind is whether you want your body to be cremated or buried.

You may already be leaning towards one option because of personal preference, religious beliefs or your understanding of the environmental impact and cost. However, if you are currently undecided, here are some things you may like to consider before making your choice.

Burial vs Cremation

Which costs more – cremation or burial?

There's no getting around it: the expense of a funeral is a major consideration for most people. Funeral prices have risen each year beyond inflation since records began in 2004, and the gap between cremation and burial is getting wider. We’ll come on to why later. First, let’s look at the actual cost of a funeral.

Today, the average cost of a basic burial funeral is £4,975. The average cost of a basic cremation funeral is £3,858 - almost 30% less.

You can go cheaper with a no frills 'direct cremation'. This is a cremation service without a ceremony and with no family or friends present. A celebration of life memorial service is often organised at a later date with the ashes present, followed by a ceremonial scattering.

The average price for a direct cremation is £1,626 - less than half the cost of a basic cremation funeral.

Note: Funeral director and third-party cremation and burial fees vary hugely across the UK.

Non-resident fee

If cost is a consideration, then something else you need to be aware of regarding the third-party cremation and burial fees (especially if you intend to leave behind instructions for loved ones about where you want to be cremated, buried or scattered) is the 'Non-resident' fee.

If you choose a cemetery or crematorium outside your borough of residency, the associated fees (e.g. for the grave, cremation, interment) can be doubled, tripled, or even quadrupled! That could amount to a significant chunk of your estate.  It's important to do your research before you commit yourself (so to speak).

Royal Borough of Greenwich (2020)
The cost of a burial plot purchased in advance in a prime location, including the right to erect a memorial headstone and the fee for one body interment, plus 5-year grave maintenance (weeding and cutting) is £7,113 for a resident and £25,360 for a non-resident. Fees are doubled for a Saturday funeral. (Excludes the funeral director’s fees)

Donating your body to science

A less ‘popular’ option of disposal, but an option nonetheless - and indeed a strong choice for many - is donating your body to science.   Your family may have to pay for your body to be transported to the medical school. 

Body donation is separate from the organ and tissue donation system. If you want to donate your body, you do have to give written and witnessed consent before you die.   There is no guarantee that a bequest will be accepted.  Usually, a medical school will decline a body if organs or tissues have been removed for transplantation (cornea donation is acceptable). 

In the end, Medical schools will arrange and pay for donated bodies to be cremated individually or buried.  If you want to be buried in a grave with a headstone, your next of kin or estate will be responsible for these costs.  You can request your body is returned to your family for a private cremation or burial.  Some crematoria offer a significant reduction in fees (of around 90%) for the cremation of body parts.  

For more details and to find a licenced medical school near you, go to the Human Tissue Authority. For body donation in Scotland, click here.

How much does a grave cost?

While ashes can be scattered pretty much anywhere, in all sorts of ways and at no cost, the space race is on when it comes to burials - it's limited and, therefore, expensive.  See our guide on 21 amazing things to do with your ashes.   

Just as cremation and burial fees vary hugely across the UK, so does the cost of a grave for a burial or interment of ashes.

Here is a list of expenses that you could incur in advance and for those who take on the responsibility of the grave after you've gone. (Actual costs, of course, depend on the crematorium or burial ground you choose).

  • Appointment to select a grave
  • Exclusive Right of Burial (typically 50 - 99 years)
  • Surcharge for advance purchase of an Exclusive Right of Burial
  • Surcharge for a prime location
  • Interment fee (single depth)
  • Exclusive Right of Burial renewal (typically 10 – 99 years)
  • Permission to erect a memorial (headstone)
  • Memorial headstone

Further possible costs:

  • Removal of existing memorial headstone and installation fee*
  • Additional memorial inscription fee*
  • Grave maintenance: e.g. weeding and cutting
  • Deed of Grant transfer fee
  • Copy of lost Deed
  • Copy of lost cremation certificate
    *Excludes memorial mason’s costs

What is an Exclusive Right of Burial?

When purchasing a grave, some people are surprised to learn they are not actually purchasing. The grave space is in fact being leased under what's termed an Exclusive Right of Burial. This is the Right to say who can be buried in the grave and the Right to have a memorial erected on that piece of land, if permitted. Some natural woodland and meadow burial grounds don’t allow any kind of memorial marker.

The Exclusive Right of Burial applies for a set number of years. You are more likely to find an Exclusive Right of Burial lasting between 50 - 99 years and much less in areas of the UK where space is at a premium, such as London. It is possible to find a cemetery that will allow you to buy an Exclusive Right of Burial 'in perpetuity', which means no more fees for your family to pay in the future. However, that option is already rare and getting rarer by the year.

When the Exclusive Right of Burial has expired, they will need to be purchased again, which could be the same cost as when first purchased plus any price increase.

Exclusive Right of Burial & interment fees (2020)

In the examples above: Fees will be doubled for a non-resident at the cemetery. There is no additional fee for non-residents at the natural burial ground.

What is a Deed of Grant?

When you purchase your Exclusive Right of Burial, you will receive a Deed of Grant (or Certificate) issued in your name, which gives you – the registered grave owner – the Right to lease the plot from the burial ground.

This Deed needs to be produced for each burial and if you want to renew the Exclusive Right of Burial. The Deed can be transferred during the owner's lifetime or after their death.

Deed of Grant transfer fee
Example: Torbay Crematorium & Cemeteries (2020

Transfer ownership £55

How many people can be buried in a grave?

The number of 'lifetime residents' is limited to the depth of grave purchased or space in an above the ground chamber, vault, niche or mausoleum. This could be up to four body burials and space for up to four ashes interments. The number will differ between burial grounds and types of burial grounds.

It's standard policy for a natural meadow or woodland burial ground to only allow one person to be buried in a shallow grave. If a natural burial is the way you want to go and you want to be with your nearest and dearest, then consider purchasing adjacent plots. 

How much is a memorial?

It depends. There are many varieties of memorial, and the specific type and dimensions will depend on the burial ground. Another important consideration will be where the memorial is situated. If the grave is too near a tree, the memorial headstone or bench could become stained or damaged by the sap and leaves.

What types of memorials are there?

Here are some options for you to think about.

  • Memorial headstones (upright, flat, kerbed), available in materials such as marble, limestone, granite, bronze
  • Memorial plant or trees
  • Memorial bench (exclusive or shared)
  • Memorial plaque (acrylic, bronze, bronze finish, wood, granite, with or without a photo)
  • Memorial vase
  • Birdbox
  • Birdbath
  • Sundial

If you plan on being cremated, you could opt for your ashes to be turned into a diamond or embedded in a piece of jewellery or glass paperweight.

How would you like to be memorialised? 

Cost of the memorial
Example:  Torbay Crematorium & Cemeteries (2020)
Cost for an upright headstone  £720*

* Black granite headstone, including 50 letters, fixing and memorial permit (£405).  VAT applies if the headstone is not purchased at the same time as the funeral.

How much does grave maintenance cost?

The upkeep of the grounds is the responsibility of the place of cremation or burial. The upkeep of your actual grave could be up to someone else. This is an investment in personal time. Alternatively, they could employ the services of a grave tending company - especially if they live far away.
A contract to maintain the grave would usually include cleaning the headstone of algae, mould and moss; weeding; cutting of the grass, planting seasonal bulbs; replacing faded flower displays or placing fresh flowers on your grave at agreed intervals, plus a photo of the work done.

Cost of grave maintenance:
Example: Grave Care International

£99 per annum (1 visit)

A word of caution if you are thinking of buying a grave in advance

Some burial grounds will allow you to purchase a grave in advance so you can pick a favourite spot, providing they have plenty of grave space available.  There may be a surcharge for this. 

Other burial grounds will only allow the grave to be purchased at the time of need.  This poses a serious problem if you want to be buried with or next to loved ones, or in a particular area of a specific cemetery. There's no guarantee that such a space will be available when the time comes.

Is cremation or burial better for the environment?

This is a difficult question to answer definitively, because it depends on your definition of greener.

Both options leave carbon footprints. 

  • A gas cremation makes the same domestic energy demands as a single person would for an entire month. Looking at it another way, that's equal to the amount of fuel required to drive 4,800 miles.

    An electric cremation is more efficient when run on a green energy tariff. It releases about 90% less carbon than a conventional cremation. (There’s only one electric cremator in the UK currently, and it doesn’t run off a green tariff).
  • Some argue in favour of burial on the basis that cremation releases too much CO2.
  • Burial takes up valuable land that could be used for agriculture, housing, or leisure.

Then there are the more granular details of the funeral, such as:

  • The transportation used to get you to the place of burial or crematorium.
  • The upkeep of the burial ground
  • The sustainability of the materials used to make the coffin.
  • The garment/s your body may be dressed in.
  • Whether you're embalmed.
    Formaldehyde is a carcinogenic and toxic substance, used to preserve appearance for the benefit of mourners paying their last respects. (Formaldehyde is also present in some veneered coffins). With burial, there is a risk that formaldehyde will leak into the water table.
  • Where the funeral flowers come from.
  • The paper used for the order of service.

Is a meadow or woodland burial the answer to reducing a funeral’s carbon footprint?

Until recently, the general consensus was that a body burial at a natural burial ground (often referred to as a Woodland or Meadow burial) was the approach that produced the least carbon.

With this option, bodies are never embalmed and biodegradable coffins or shrouds are required. Graves are shallow (only one person per grave), which means your body is returned to the earth much faster. Only natural grave markers are allowed (if any at all), such as a wooden stake or natural stone so that the landscape is disturbed less. It's also common for native trees and wildflowers to be planted over graves.

However, research in 2020 reveals cremation as the winner, not least because there is likely to be a crematorium near your home. 

Conclusion:   Earth to earth or ashes to ashes?

Choosing cremation or burial is a big decision. We have covered many of the key points above, but in the end, it all comes down to personal preference.


List of medical schools
Human Tissue Authority  

Body donation in Scotland
Scottish Government

21 amazing things to do with your ashes
Before You Go Compare  

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All, Family matters

How to talk to family about my funeral plans

Planning your own funeral can be daunting, but the really tough part is telling those closest to you about your plans. 

Even if you’ve only started thinking about your funeral, it’s never too early to have that conversation with the people you care about – to let them know why it’s important to you to make plans.

 It’s thoughtful and practical. You might also want to get them involved. Our suggestions on how you can bring up the subject should make it easier.

Who is this article for?

  • Anyone planning for their death
  • Anyone who is thinking about or who has finalised their funeral plans
  • Anyone who wants to personalise their funeral and have their wishes carried out
  • Anyone who would like their loved ones to help them plan their funeral

Reading time:

 3 mins

Thinking about my mortality

Most people try to avoid thinking about death, but there are certain situations that, to borrow a phrase from the writer Samuel Johnson, focus the mind wonderfully.

For some, it might be the loss of a loved one or the occasion of their funeral. For others, it could be the onset of a serious or terminal illness. Reaching a landmark age can also trigger a sense that there is more time behind you than ahead of you (60 may be the new 40, but you may have packed 60 years of living into it!). Whatever the cause, if this is you, it’s time to take action.

Take a deep breath

It’s a sobering moment when you first accept that you’re going to leave life’s party at some point. But once you can come to terms with your own mortality, you can start to put your affairs in order. Although funerals aren’t cheap, setting money aside to pay for it with an insurance policy or a prepaid funeral plan can make financial sense and gives you the opportunity to choose every aspect of your funeral. The tricky part comes when you want to share your funeral wishes with other people.

Finding the right time to share my funeral planning arrangements

Any one of the key life events we mentioned before could provide the inspiration for a calm and measured discussion about your funeral plans.
Television programmes can also act as conversation openers – especially soap operas or real-life dramas.
Alternatively, you could ask people to pop over at a set time because there’s something important you want to talk about with them. We suggest you start small, along the lines of, “I’ve been thinking about my funeral.”
A casual chat around the kitchen table, with tea and biscuits at hand, can help dispel some of the tension when you start talking about your funeral.
Ideally, familiar surroundings are better than a public place for this sort of conversation, unless you find yourself in a hospital or in a care home. 

Who should I talk to about my funeral planning?

It may feel more comfortable to sound out one person first so that you can gauge their reaction before you try a wider audience. That could be your spouse, partner, son or daughter, sibling or best friend. Pick someone with whom you are used to sharing confidences so that there is already trust there. You may be tempted to start with someone from outside your intimate circle, but it’s those closest to you who are likely to be affected by your plans.

Should I involve family or friends in my funeral planning?

It may feel more comfortable to sound out one person first so that you can gauge their reaction before you try a wider audience. That could be your spouse, partner, son or daughter, sibling or best friend. Pick someone with whom you are used to sharing confidences so that there is already trust there. You may be tempted to start with someone from outside your intimate circle, but it’s those closest to you who are likely to be affected by your plans.

Meeting resistance when talking about my funeral?

Don’t be surprised if other people change the subject or flat out refuse to discuss the matter. At least you’ll have broken the ice and the next time you return to the subject of your funeral you can gradually introduce some details, perhaps starting with why it’s important for you to talk about this now.
It’s okay for people to get upset or to try and make a joke about it to deflect from the seriousness of the topic. You might even want to make a light-hearted remark yourself to get the ball rolling. “Have you seen the price of funerals? It’s a wonder people can afford to die!”
Or you can explain that you want to clear the air now to avoid family arguments in the future and set everybody straight about what you want to happen when you die. You can mention a prepaid funeral plan or life insurance policy if you have one, and if not, you can talk about how you plan to leave funds to pay for your funeral. No confusion and once it’s all settled there’s no need to discuss it again. 

The important information they need to know about your funeral planning

Tell them why you want to raise the subject now and how important it is to you that they understand your funeral wishes. Discussing the details now will help them when the time comes. They are far more likely to listen when they realise that it’s something you care deeply about.
If you have no particular preferences regarding the details of your funeral, let them know so that they can make those decisions whenever they feel ready or wait until the time comes. Otherwise, have your Funeral Wishes Planner to hand. If it’s completed, talk them through the details. If the planner is still blank, go through it together or outline the basic details of what you’d like and give them permission to decide on the rest.
Make sure they understand your financial position (whether you have a prepaid funeral plan, life insurance or any savings put by), and where you will keep the relevant paperwork, including a copy of your Funeral Wishes.


Get your free

Funeral Wishes Planner

Pass on the detail of your send-off so that the people you care about won't have difficult decisions to make when the time comes.

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