All, Funeral planning

What do you plan on wearing to your funeral?

Clothes let us express ourselves and also help define us in other people’s eyes. Choosing your clothing to be buried or cremated in is a really simple way of personalising your funeral. We look at some of the finer details to help you style your send-off. “The joy of dressing is an art.” - John Galliano, fashion designer.

Who is this guide for? 

  • Anyone curious about the ‘dress code’ at their own funeral  
  • Anyone who wants to personalise their funeral  

Reading time:

 3 mins

What – or what not – to wear at your funeral 

Mostly, anything goes. Literally! Unless you follow a faith tradition you don’t have to wear anything at all if you don’t want to. Although it’s more likely you will want to be dressed in something – especially if you think your neighbours would want to pay their last respects.

There is one caveat: some materials can be harmful to the earth when buried and harmful to the atmosphere when cremated. Crematoria do have filtration systems to cope with emissions, but if cremation is the way you want to go it is worth asking your preferred crematorium if you’re unsure. As a rule of thumb, don’t plan on wearing anything you wouldn’t want to put on a bonfire in your own back garden.

Choose clothing made from natural fibres. Avoid synthetics. Natural woodland and meadow burial grounds are very strict about this requirement.

If you wear glasses, plastic or otherwise, you can keep those on even if you plan on being cremated. The harm from such a small amount of plastic is negligible. However, you may want to think about donating your glasses to charity instead. 


A few ideas

So, what might you wear?
 
You could choose your Sunday best, a cosy nightie or set of pyjamas, football top, military uniform, a themed costume, or any other attire you can imagine. Don’t forget your shoes, accessories and underwear (unless you’re going commando). Shoes may have to be removed before you leave for the crematorium, depending upon the material used in their manufacture – such as rubber-soles.

Maybe you’d prefer to keep things simple and wear a funeral gown supplied by the funeral director? A funeral gown is unisex; it looks like a satin nightdress and comes with a choice of plain, frilled or lace fronts, and is typically available in shades of white, pink, blue and yellow.

It’s worth noting that if you decide on a direct cremation or direct burial (that’s a cremation or burial service with no ceremony and no mourners present), you will be cremated or buried in whatever clothes you died in. This isn’t because of any legislative requirement. This is purely down to the way funeral directors differentiate their services and the pricing of those services. And, after all, the ethos of a direct cremation or burial is to be the simplest of all funeral services with as few processes as possible.

Who would you like to wash and dress you?


Ritual washing is a feature of many faiths. If this doesn’t apply to you and the idea of a stranger washing and dressing you is less than appealing, you have a few options.
  • You could request that you remain as you are.
  • You could request that a person of the same sex washes and dresses you.
  • You could ask loved ones in advance if they would feel comfortable taking on this responsibility. It is known to be emotionally beneficial for those who have. Many funeral directors allow people to use their facilities and would be on hand to help.
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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).
    Sources: 
    (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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The problems and solutions to buying a prepaid funeral plan
All, Funeral planning, Money

What are the downsides to a prepaid funeral plan?

If you are considering buying a prepaid funeral plan and have done your research online, you may have come across some discussion around problems bereaved families have experienced with the funeral plan when it has been activated. 

The purpose of this article is to address, with complete transparency, the three most common prepaid funeral plan issues. We will also look at the causes of those problems and how you can avoid them.

Who is this guide for? 

  • Anyone considering purchasing a prepaid funeral plan
  • Anyone concerned about issues they have read online about  funeral plans 
  • Anyone who wants a safe way to plan and pay for their funeral in advance

Reading time:

 6.5 mins


The truth about prepaid funeral plans problems

At Before You Go, we are passionate about the benefits of funeral plans.  We have first-hand knowledge of arranging funerals at people’s time of need and have seen the financial and emotional difficulties families face when the funeral isn’t planned.  That’s why we’ve made it our mission to be the best impartial funeral plan comparison website and educator of prepaid funeral plans in the UK.

Before You Go Compare - on a mission to be the best educator of funeral plans

As we delve into the problems people have experienced with funeral plans, in the spirit of complete transparency, we would like to stress these ‘problems’ are both rare and often completely avoidable.

What do we mean by ‘rare’?

The Competition & Markets Authority report 2020 commented that the Funeral Planning Authority dealt with “a small proportion” (0.02% to be precise) of all financial product complaints resolved by the Financial Ombudsman Scheme (FOS) that same year.* 

We want to share this information with you in the hope you and your family will never end up experiencing the same difficulties and problems.

*  Source:  Gov.uk  - CMA Funeral Plans Impact Assessment

The 3 most common funeral plan problems and solutions

  1. 1
    The funeral plan didn’t cover the cost of the funeral 
  2. 2
    The funeral plan didn’t cover the cost of the funeral extras 
  3. 3
    More money was paid into the funeral plan than the funeral plan eventually cost! 

Problem 1:  
The funeral plan didn’t cover the cost of the funeral

It’s important to understand that a prepaid funeral plan is made up of two parts:

1.  the funeral directors fees; and
2.  the third-party fees (also known as “disbursements”), e.g. the burial or cremation fees. 

A prepaid funeral plan guarantees to cover the cost of the funeral director’s service, no matter how much these costs may rise in the future. 

Costs for third-party services are outside the funeral director’s control.  They aren’t included in all funeral plans.

What’s included in the funeral director’s service?

  • Professional fees for arranging and liaising with all parties 
  • Bringing the deceased into care 
  • Care of the deceased until the funeral
  • Optional viewing of the deceased *
  • Optional Embalming *
  • Transfer to the crematorium or place of burial in a hearse or suitable vehicle
  • Supply of family cars * 
  • Coffin 
  • Necessary staff on the day 
  • Extras, e.g. 'Thank you' cards *
  • Bereavement support *  
  • * Available with some funeral plans  

What are the common issues?

1

Miscommunication
The details of what is and is not included in the funeral plan have not been correctly communicated by the seller. This could happen unintentionally – by an inexperienced staff member.

2

Mis-sold
The seller is acting on behalf of one plan provider that pays them the highest fee.

3

Lack of knowledge
The buyer has little or no experience of arranging a funeral and it's not evident what elements may be missing from the plan that they had assumed would be covered.

4

Not sharing the detail
The buyer has missed the crucial step of sharing the funeral plan details and the fact that there will or may be some additional costs to pay at the time the funeral is needed.

Why don’t funeral plan providers include third-party cremation or burial fees as standard?

The reason why some funeral plan providers choose not to include third-party cremation cover, and most funeral providers choose not to include burial cover, is that these fees differ so widely throughout the UK.  

A UK-wide funeral plan price could unfairly penalise people in areas where these cremation or burial fees are lower.  It would also make the core principal of a funeral plan (i.e. to cover the funeral director's fees) too pricey.  

To make funeral plans affordable, funeral providers offer three types of plans that will pay all, some, or none of the third-party fees.  Otherwise known as "Guaranteed", "Contribution" and "No contribution" funeral plans.

Third-party fees example (2020)

UK Cremation:
Beckenham crematorium  £1,070
Belfast crematorium  £392
Difference: £678

UK Burial:
Kensal Green cemetery  £1,550
Belfast cemetery charges £608
Difference: £942

Source: Cremation Society – Jan 2020

How much?

What’s the solution to ensuring the funeral plan covers the full cost of the funeral?

Buy a 'Guaranteed' plan.

If you want to ensure the funeral director's fess and the third-party cremation or burial costs are covered, you will need a ‘Guaranteed’ funeral plan.

You should be aware that some cremation plans don’t always include the doctors’ cremation certification fees, because they aren’t always needed – it depends on the circumstances surrounding the death. (Doctors’ fees aren’t applicable in Scotland).

If you can’t afford a ‘Guaranteed’ funeral plan, your next best option would be a ‘Contribution’ plan.

Buy a 'Contribution' plan

A ‘Contribution’ plan sets aside an amount for the third-party cremation or burial costs. The amount grows, typically in line with Consumer Price Index (CPI),  until the funeral.

Each funeral plan provider sets their own level of UK-wide contribution.  This is the amount they feel would most likely cover the cremation or burial costs at the time the funeral is needed. Any shortfall would need to be paid from your estate or by your next of kin at the time of your funeral.

If you live in an area where cremation or burial costs are particularly high, depending on the plan you buy, you may be able to top up the contribution amount. and this may provide a better rate of return than putting money aside in a regular savings account. (Please note, this does not constitute financial advice).

'Price promise' plans

Another option would be to consider a funeral plan that promises to pay the full benefit of the funeral plan once a certain number of repayments have been made, e.g. 12+ months.

If you die before the qualifying period, and (for some plans) the death is not accidental, the balance of the funeral plan would need to be paid from your estate or by your personal representative.

Bear in mind, if you do end up paying the plan in full, the cost of the ‘price promise’ funeral plan could be more expensive than a plan without a price promise.

Have the conversation

Whichever funeral plan you settle on, make sure you give your family or representative a copy of your funeral plan pack and let them know if they can expect to pay a balance at the time of the funeral. 

Problem:     Cost of funeral plan doesn’t cover the cost of the funeral.

Solution:     Buy a guaranteed plan. Alternatively, consider a contribution funeral plan or a plan with a price promise. Let your family know the type of plan you have bought and if they can expect to pay some or all of the third-party cremation or burial costs at the time of the funeral.


Problem 2:  
The funeral plan didn’t cover the cost of the third-party funeral ‘extras’

Third-party funeral ‘extras’ are the non-essential items often bought at the time of arranging a funeral, e.g. floral tributes, order of service stationery and funeral notices.

The majority of extras aren’t normally included in set funeral plans, because not everyone wants them.  To include them would push up the price of the funeral plan.   Extras you may find included are the scattering of cremated remains and a set of thank you cards.

What is the common issue?

A problem occurs when the funeral plan buyer assumes third-party extras  are included in a funeral plan.

What’s the solution to covering third-party funeral 'extras'?

Depending on the funeral plan you choose you may be able to add a contribution to your plan towards the cost of the extras. You choose the amount you would like to add to the plan to cover these costs, or your funeral plan advisor can guide you.

The contribution will grow in line with the Consumer Price Index (CPI) or in some other way,  until the funeral is needed. If there’s a shortfall, the balance will need to be paid at the time of the funeral to the funeral director from your estate or by your representative.

Problem:     The funeral plan didn’t cover the cost of the third-party funeral ‘extras’.

Solution:     Pay a contribution towards the extras.


Problem 3:  
More money was paid into the funeral plan than the funeral plan eventually cost!

If you paid for your plan through the lower Fixed Monthly Payment (FMP) option (i.e. payments up to age 90 or for life), depending on when you took out the funeral plan and when you die, you might end up paying more into the plan than the value of the funeral when it’s needed.

What’s the solution to not paying more into a Fixed Monthly Payment funeral plan than the funeral is worth?

Look for a funeral plan that includes a rebate on the overpayment.

The overpayment amount is the difference between the total amount you have paid into the plan and the sum paid out to the plan provider to fund your funeral. If the plan is deemed to be in a state of overpayment, your estate will be eligible for a rebate of the overpayment of up to 100%. The amount will depend on the type of plan and age of the plan holder at the time the policy is taken out and the date of death.

Golden Leaves is currently the only funeral plan provider to offer an Overpayment Rebate Promise. Terms apply.

Problem:     More money was paid into the plan than it paid out to the funeral director.

Solution:     If you're going to pay for your funeral plan with the Fixed Monthly Payments (FMP) option, consider buying a plan that includes an Overpayment Rebate Promise.


Useful information

What is a set funeral plan?

A set funeral plan is a package of all the funeral director’s services you would need. Amendments to a set plan can often be made at the time of taking out the plan or at the time of the funeral. 

Read More
Wood
All, Funeral planning

How to choose the right coffin or casket

You go through life choosing clothes, cars, furniture and home decor that makes a statement; why should it be any different when it comes to your final journey?

This guide helps you choose the right coffin or casket.  We review the differences in design, materials, and their suitability for cremation, burial and greener funerals.

Who is this guide for? 

  • Anyone who wants to know what choices are available for coffins and caskets
  • Anyone who is thinking about personalising their choice of coffin or caskets
  • Anyone who wants a prepaid funeral plan and is curious about the types of coffin or casket included

Reading time:

 4 mins


What is the difference between a coffin and a casket?

Have you ever imagined your own funeral?  

Are mourners lining the streets, and TV newscasters celebrating your example of humanity at its  finest? Or maybe no-one’s there. Whatever you’ve imagined, there’s one major detail missing from your fantasy funeral. No, not the dying part.

Picture this… you are planning ahead and you are standing in the funeral director's showroom being shown the latest models. The funeral director lifts a lid to show you the plush white velvet button-backed interior and asks you whether you prefer the look of a coffin or a casket. And then you realise that you don't know the difference - except that one is hugely more expensive than the other in this scenario.

So, what is the difference and how do you choose the right coffin or casket?

Let's start with the basics.

A coffin

A coffin has six sides and is tapered at the foot end. The sides can be plain or panelled.  The lid can be flat, or go up to three tiers in height.

Coffins tend to be cheaper.

A casket

A casket has four sides and is rectangular in shape.  The lid can be split, which means the top half can be left open during a viewing or funeral service.  

Caskets tend to be more expensive.

(The term 'casket' can also refer to the box-shaped container that houses someone's ashes, following a cremation, but those are obviously a lot smaller!)

Both coffin and caskets come in a huge range of different materials and finishes

The interior materials, colours and prints used for the linings and pillows are also varied. You can have pretty much anything you want. Casket interiors tend to be more luxurious - typically being upholstered in a soft brushed velvet or crepe material, including the inside of the lid.

The coffin is more frequently chosen for funerals in the UK.   Perhaps this is owing to the British reserve - caskets are more 'showy' (see American TV shows for examples), or down to the fact that coffins are typically cheaper.  Funerals can be expensive.  

The average cost of a basic funeral in 2021  is £4,184 (rising to £9,263 when you factor in the funeral extras and legal bill for estate administration).  There are plenty of people who won't have the money for this unexpected expense (1 in 7 go into debt).  

What are the different types of coffins and caskets?

Coffins and caskets come in a variety of materials and designs. 

  • Wood effect  (made from MDF or similar, and wrapped in paper that looks like wood)
  • Wood veneer 
  • Solid wood 
  • Wool 
  • Cardboard 
  • Wicker (made from e.g. willow, seagrass, bamboo, banana leaf, pandanus)

Caskets are also available in metal, which makes them more durable and suitable for vault burials.  They come in a variety of finishes too,  including gold, bronze and copper.

How much do coffins and caskets cost in 2021?

As you might expect, prices vary massively - from cheap as chips to steeper than Everest!  Some examples of typical costs:

You can get a basic wood effect or cardboard coffin starting from £200  

You can get a simple wicker coffin from £300.  

You can buy an American steel casket for around £950 rising to as much as £25,000, depending on the material and interior.


Sources for average pricing:   About the Funeral, London Coffin Company, The Coffin Company, Comparethecoffin

What type of coffins and caskets are included in a prepaid funeral plan?

Each set prepaid funeral plan includes one of three types of coffin.  The types  can be broadly categorised as: 'Basic', 'Standard' and 'High quality'.  The funeral plan details will generally include the coffin material, e.g. wood veneer, solid wood, wicker.  

The reason the descriptions are so vague is because no-one knows when the funeral will take place and the type of coffins and caskets available today, quite possibly won't be available when the time comes.

The type of coffin almost always matches the level of service benefits provided in the plan, i.e. the 'Basic' lowest cost wood effect or natural eco coffin will be included in the lowest cost and simplest in the range of funeral plans on offer.

Caskets are not usually included in a set plan.  See our Top tips below if a casket is what you want.

Top tips for getting the coffin or casket you want when buying a prepaid funeral plan

If the coffin included in your set funeral plan doesn't match what you had in mind, here are a few things you can do:

  1. 1
    Make a request
    Have a chat with the funeral plan provider.   If it's possible to personalise the plan, ask them to update your funeral plan notes with the details of the coffin or casket you would like if it is available at the time of the funeral, and that doesn't incur an additional charge for your family. Or if your budget allows, you might even like to think about purchasing a coffin in advance, may be even personalising it.  And providing the plan provider agrees it's fit for purpose at the time it's needed, ask them to use that instead.
  2. 2
    Tailor your funeral plan
    Ask the plan provider if you can tailor your set funeral plan.
    Swap the coffin type (e.g. 'Basic' for 'Standard') or let them know the specific coffin or casket type you want and would be willing to pay extra for now, or make a contribution towards - this means that any shortfall would have to be paid for at the time of the funeral.     
  3. 3
    Change your funeral plan
    If you are set on using a particular funeral plan provider, it may be cheaper and better value to upgrade your plan if you want a better standard of coffin, e.g. go for the 'Gold' funeral plan with the extra services included, instead of the 'Silver' funeral plan.   As with all major purchases, research and compare your options before you buy.

What is an eco-friendly coffin or casket?

Eco-friendly coffins and caskets are 100% biodegradable and made from sustainable sources, e.g. recycled materials constructed from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) sourced timber. Eco coffins do not contain plastic or metal.

Types of coffin and casket linings include jute and unbleached organic cotton. Handles can be wooden or made from rope. Lids are fastened with closing toggles or poles.

Eco-friendly coffins are locally sourced in the UK and imported with consideration to the environment, such as Russian Doll style (one inside another, insider another, inside another …).

Pebble coffin & urn
by Pebblewood


Adult pebble coffin shown in use as a coffee table (left).  Commission only.  

Matching urns available from £425, and keepsake urns from £215.

Soft coffins and shrouds:  The alternatives to traditional coffins and caskets

An alternative to a coffin or casket is a soft coffin or shroud. There are various choices of materials for these too, such as cotton, bamboo yarn and wool felt, with integrated handles. The shroud can be carried with the aid of a willow stretcher.

Woollen shroud 
by Bellacouche

Prices from £835

Which coffins and caskets are suitable for cremation and burial?

Any type of coffin is suitable for burial.  Only eco-friendly biodegradable coffins will be accepted at natural burial grounds.   And metal caskets are suitable for burial only and repatriation.

If you like the idea of making your funeral as green as possible and would like to be cremated, an  untreated solid wood coffin or casket is the best option as it takes less energy to burn than wicker and cardboard.

Can you buy a coffin in advance of the funeral?

Yes, you can.

For those who want to think outside the box, so to speak, your coffin or casket could be purchased long before you need it for its intended purpose and could be used in the meantime as a bespoke piece of furniture, such as a bookcase, a coffee table, wine rack or a blanket box.  Any of these (which, incidentally, have all been done) would undoubtedly become a talking point.

Shelves for Life by William Warren
Shelves For Life
by William Warren


At the time of the funeral, the shelves can be taken apart and reassembled to make your coffin.

The brass plate (on the bottom shelf) is for inscription with your name and dates.


Email if you would like measurements and instructions to build your own. (Include your height and build). 

How to personalise a coffin or casket 

Even if you decide to run with the coffin or casket's original function, you can still personalise the design if you buy it ahead of time or your family can decorate it before the funeral.  It could be painted in your favourite colour, with a memorable scene, or just paint the coffin lid in blackboard paint for the mourners to write messages.  Or how about covering it in decoupage using album covers, sheets of music, sentimental photos, football programmes ...

Glitter coffins

Glitter coffins from The Glitter Coffin Company

Off the shelf out-of-the-ordinary choices include sparkling glitter coffins in every hue imaginable, and for the more glamorous effect, a coffin or casket covered in Swarovski crystals.

'Picture' coffins and caskets are popular. This is where the coffin or casket is wrapped in one of many existing printed designs of flowers, animals, transport, sport and hobbies.  You can even create your own design from your favourite photos and  photos of memorabilia.

All the above mentioned off the shelf options are available with matching ashes caskets.

Useful RESOURCES

Natural coffins
Woollen coffins - Natural Legacy
Natural coffins - JC Atkinson
Pebble coffin –  Pebblewood Urns
Woollen felt coffins and shrouds - Bellacouche

Decorated coffins
Glitter coffins -  Glitter Coffin Company
Crystal coffins -  Colourful Coffins


Picture coffins
Picture coffins -  JC Atkinson
Picture coffins -  Colourful Coffins


DIY
Flatpack coffin -  Coffin Club
Shelves for Life -  William Warren

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How to write your own eulogy

The task of writing a eulogy when a loved one dies often falls to a close family member or friend.  It can feel especially daunting because it’s frequently at short notice, and there’s only one chance to do it well.

This guide offers an alternative to leaving that burden behind, so that your loved ones are not lost for words when they’re already dealing with your loss.   We’ll show you how to create a eulogy you can be proud of, even if you’ve never written one before.  That’s one thing we can take the grief out of.  

Who is this guide for? 

  • Anyone who wants to leave a special message for mourners at their own funeral 
  • Anyone who wants to improve a eulogy they are planning or have already written 
  • Anyone thinking about leaving instructions or some pointers for their own eulogy

Reading time:

 3.5 mins


What is the purpose of a eulogy?

Most funeral services include a eulogy and it’s more than just a pretty speech.  When it’s written well, the eulogy gives a flavour of the deceased’s personality and journey through life.  At a time of heightened emotions, the eulogy can also ease the pain a little and help people to grieve.   

Why it makes sense to write your own eulogy

No one wants to hear a eulogy that starts with: “I didn’t know the deceased well, but I like to think…”  But lots of people have.  

Writing your own eulogy is not only a kindness to others, it also gives you the opportunity to select your favourite anecdotes to be remembered by.  Nobody knows you better than you. 

You get to tell your story your own way.  That could mean paying tribute to loved ones and friends, sharing some passions, or acknowledging some failings.  Many of us go through life feeling we’ve been misunderstood, but this is one way of definitively setting the record straight!  A good eulogy conveys the deceased’s character and gives solace to the bereaved.  

What is the structure of a eulogy?

Before you start writing your own eulogy, you need to understand the nuts and bolts.

 A eulogy typically lasts around five minutes and is a central part of the funeral or memorial service; on paper that equates to roughly a page and a half of text.  

Now that you understand what the eulogy is for and the ideal length, you can break it down into manageable sections that flow naturally.  The big question is: what do you want to say?  

How to make a start writing your own eulogy

A straightforward approach to creating your own eulogy would be to have three sections.  

  1. 1
    The beginning introduces you on your own terms.  That could mean solemn, humorous or any point in-between.  As the saying goes, it’s your funeral!  
  2. 2
    The middle section covers some life events, usually in chronological order, so that could reference childhood, adult life (work / family) and later life.  
  3. 3
    The end section could be what you feel you’ve learned from your time on Earth or a mention of those you’re leaving behind.  This part may also include a moment of reflection.  

The importance of writing a eulogy in your own voice

Act naturally.

No one expects you to tell a whole life story in five minutes.  What you can do instead is touch upon key milestones in your life and maybe one or two appropriate anecdotes, bearing in mind the mixed audience and the emotions of the day.  

Writing in your usual speaking voice will give your words authenticity and bring your presence into the room.   

The alternatives to writing your own eulogy

Putting your own eulogy on paper can be difficult.  Aside from the practicalities of finding a structure that works for you and deciding what to include or leave out, it means confronting your own mortality and perhaps thinking about those who must go on without you.  

What are the alternatives if you struggle with the writing?

There are a couple of options that may make the process easier for you: 

1
Record your eulogy instead

Not everyone is a writer, and some people find they can organise their thoughts better by speaking.  Use the voice recording function on a mobile phone, or the free-to-use software such as Audacity which enables you to record and edit your words, plus add music.  It’s just record, cut, copy and paste.  Then you convert the file to mp3 or wav format.

Or why not video yourself using your mobile phone?  For a full belt and braces approach, upload your video to a captioning service.  If the mourners can’t hear you, hopefully they will be able to read you.

2
Write some pointers

Rather than creating the full eulogy, you could write out some pointers.  This could include which people to speak with, some hints about what you’d want to be said, and any phrases or anecdotes you would like to be included. 

What to do with your eulogy once it is written

Whether you decide to write your whole eulogy, just jot down some notes, or record your final speech for posterity, make sure other people know about it and where to find it.  

Once you've had your say keep a copy (always have at least one back-up copy!) with other important documents, such as your funeral wishes, your Will and your funeral plan if you have one. 

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All, Funeral planning

How to choose the right music for your funeral

Music moves us like no other art form.  It enables us to express emotions and form emotional memories, which is especially relevant at a funeral service.  

This guide considers the purposes music can serve at a funeral and where music fits into a ceremony.

Who is this guide for?

  • Anyone planning a funeral who wants music that sets a particular tone 
  • Anyone who wants to know where music occurs in a funeral ceremony 
  • Anyone wondering how to choose the music for their funeral 

Reading time:

 3.5 mins


Where words fail

What is the purpose of music at funerals?

Selecting the right music for your funeral can be a daunting task, especially if you’re a lover of music. So much to choose from! How you begin to whittle down your choice starts with why music is played at funerals.

Music is an integral part of a funeral service and accomplishes several things:

  • It personalises the service by reflecting an aspect of your personality or life. 
  • It sets the tone of the funeral, whether that is formal, religious, or contemporary. 
  • List It uplifts or consoles.
  • It brings people together and allows them to grieve.

How many pieces of music can be included in a funeral?

Typically, three pieces of music are played during the 45-minute average length funeral with a ceremony.  The duration can be doubled for an additional fee paid to the crematorium or place of burial, plus the funeral director for their extra time.

You can, of course, include as many pieces of music as you like during the ceremony – it could be all music - although it is usually interspersed with the eulogy, speeches and readings from family and other mourners.   A Christian funeral service will typically include two hymns.  With that in mind, allow 3 – 4 minutes per piece of music.

How to squeeze more music into your funeral ceremony

One way to include a wider range of your favourite music is to only choose selected verses from a particular hymn, or to ask for just an excerpt to be played from a popular song or a piece of classical music. It’s important to leave clear instructions as to which excerpt.

It’s also vitally important you give details of the composer or which version of a song you want to be played, preferably with the album title. The ever-popular, smooth-as-silk rendition of ‘Over the Rainbow’ by Eva Cassidy might be what you have in mind at your funeral, but if you don’t specify the recording artist you could end up with the version by Me First & The Gimme Gimmes, giving an altogether different feel to your send-off!

At what points is music played during a funeral service?

Music is usually played at the following key points during a funeral service:

1

As the mourners arrive in the space where the service takes place.

2
During a period of reflection in the middle of the service, known as the committal.
3
At the end of the service as the mourners leave.

You may decide to have a song played that meant something to you as mourners take their seats, a more formal piece of music during the committal and something uplifting at the end. It all comes down to personal choice and what you want to convey in the service.

How to convey to your audience who you are through your choice of funeral music

It is possible that not everyone who attends your funeral to pay their last respects will know you well.  

To keep in tune with your audience, your eulogy could be used to help some people understand why a song has been chosen that wouldn’t be traditionally associated with a funeral and ensures your funeral hits the right note.

10 pieces of classical music for funerals as chosen by Classic FM


  1. Barber – Adagio for Strings
  2. Mahler – Adagietto (Symphony No 5)
  3. Elgar – Nimrod
  4. Percy Grainger – Irish Tune from County Derry
  5. Arvo Pärt -  Cantus
  6. Vaughan Williams – The Lark Ascending
  7. Pachelbel – Canon in D
  8. Bach – Air on a G String
  9. Albinoni – Adagio in G minor
  10. Schubert – Ave Maria
Top of the classics

10 hits that regularly top polls for the most popular choice of funeral music


  1. Monty Python - Always Look on the Bright Side of Life
  2. Eva Cassidy - Over the Rainbow
  3. Frank Sinatra - My Way
  4. Andrea Bocelli - Time To Say Goodbye
  5. Celine Dion & Andrea Bocelli - Prayer
  6. Robbie Williams - Angels
  7. Nat King Cole - Unforgettable
  8. Vera Lynn - We’ll Meet Again
  9. Abba - Dancing Queen
  10. Westlife - You Raise Me Up
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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

How to get to your funeral

When you’re planning a funeral, especially your own, it’s surprising how many aspects of the big event you can tailor. Take getting there…


The way you are conveyed on your final journey to the funeral (as well as the route) can help those left behind better understand who you were. You might like to take care of the transport arrangements for loved ones too, so getting to the funeral on time is one less thing for them to worry about.  This guide looks at some of the transport choices available and offers suggestions.

Who is this guide for?

  • Anyone who wants to personalise how they are transported to their funeral
  • Anyone thinking about arranging transport for loved ones
  • Anyone thinking about personalising their final journey within a prepaid funeral plan

Reading time:

 3 mins


Choosing the right family car

Traditionally a hearse transports the coffin, with the option of additional vehicles (‘family cars’) to convey the chief mourners to the service. These are typically one or more limousines (petrol and electric versions), each of which can carry up to six people, sometimes seven (the passenger seat next to the driver).

Limousines are not essential – some people feel more comfortable in their own cars – but many people appreciate having others to share such a poignant journey.

Taking care of the transport takes care of the people you care about, by removing one stress and worry on the day, ensuring t they’ll get to to the funeral on time.

Some funeral hearse transport ideas

Traditionally a hearse transports the coffin, with the option of additional vehicles (‘family cars’) to convey the chief mourners to the service. These are typically one or more limousines (petrol and electric versions), each of which can carry up to six people, sometimes seven (the passenger seat next to the driver).

Limousines are not essential – some people feel more comfortable in their own cars – but many people appreciate having others to share such a poignant journey.

Taking care of the transport takes care of the people you care about, by removing one stress and worry on the day, ensuring t they’ll get to to the funeral on time.

Some funeral hearse transport ideas

Traditionally a hearse transports the coffin, with the option of additional vehicles (‘family cars’) to convey the chief mourners to the service. These are typically one or more limousines (petrol and electric versions), each of which can carry up to six people, sometimes seven (the passenger seat next to the driver).

Limousines are not essential – some people feel more comfortable in their own cars – but many people appreciate having others to share such a poignant journey.

Taking care of the transport takes care of the people you care about, by removing one stress and worry on the day, ensuring t they’ll get to to the funeral on time.

Prefer to keep things simple? What about an estate car, a Land Rover, or – popular with natural meadow and woodland burial grounds – a bicycle hearse or a handcart?

And if you’re determined to have the last laugh, there’s always Del Boy’s three-wheeler from Only Fools & Horses reimagined as a hearse, or one that looks like the Batmobile.

You can more or less ask for whatever you want.  Essentially, if it’s legal, your funeral provider will try their best to accommodate.

Prices for an alternative hearse will be about double what you would expect to pay for a traditional motor hearse.   If budget is your primary consideration, the lowest cost option is what’s termed a 'specialist vehicle’ or ‘suitable vehicle’ – typically a private ambulance or estate car. 

Procession route: Going down memory lane 

You can specify the route to be taken on the way to the funeral.

Instead of going direct to the crematorium or place of burial, you could leave instructions for the cortege to depart from your place of rest (e.g. your home or funeral home) and take in places along the way that were meaningful to you. That might be the park you walked the dogs, the place where you got married, your favourite pub (also handy for showing people where the reception is!), your local footie ground or a bench where you’ve enjoyed watching the world go by. You could even specify a drive through your hometown on the way to your journey’s end at the crematorium or place of burial. 

The only limitation on where and how far you travel will be if you use a funeral director. The funeral director has services with and without the option to travel a particular route, and within a number of miles – which can sometimes be extended for an extra cost per mile. 

What transport options are included in a funeral plan?

The short answer is: it depends. There are a variety of prepaid funeral plans to suit all needs, with transport or without, and the option to upgrade, e.g. to a horse-drawn hearse.

A plan will include a traditional hearse or a suitable vehicle as standard, and typically up to two limousines. The funeral cortege will start its journey either directly from the funeral home or from outside your home. Some funeral plans offer scope for personalising the journey within a mileage allowance.

Funeral plan providers’ terms differ as to when you can make changes to your Plan - at the time you buy, during, or after a final payment – and indeed, if you can make changes.

Only Fools and Hearses

For all Trotter fans and independent traders

Useful RESOURCES

Only Fools & Hearses - bygc.me/onlyfoolsanrdhearses

Vintage Lorry bygc.me/lorry

Motorcycle Hearse - bygc.me/motorcycle

Trike Hearse - bygc.me/trike

Morris Minor Hearse - bygc.me/moggy

Land Rover Hearse  - bygc.me/landrover

Bicycle Hearse - bygc.me/bicycle

Chevrolet 3001 Pickup - bygc.me/chevrolet

Ford Funeral Handy Van bygc.me/handyvan

VW Camper Van - bygc.me/vw

Fire Engine Hearse - bygc.me/fireengine

Hot-rod Hearse - bygc.me/hotrod

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Is embalming necessary?

Of all the processes and procedures associated with the treatment of a body after death and before a funeral, embalming is the least understood by the general public. 

This guide explains what embalming is (often referred to as 'hygienic treatment'), and why you might consider it for your body after death.

Who is this guide for? 

  • Anyone who wants to know what embalming is
  • Anyone unsure if embalming is necessary
  • Anyone who is thinking about their body being visited by family and friends after they die

Reading time:

 3 mins


What is embalming?

Put simply, embalming is a way of preserving a body’s ‘life-like’ appearance after death and slowing down the natural process of decomposition. 

Is embalming mandatory?

No, embalming is not mandatory.  Your loved ones can still touch you and kiss you as they say their goodbyes if you aren't embalmed.  But there are a couple of exceptions:

  • If you die with a communicable disease you will be embalmed to protect the health of others.
  • If you are to be repatriated overseas. 

The cost charged by a funeral directors today for embalming is around £120.

Why might I choose to be embalmed?

It can be both a practical and an aesthetic choice.

Embalming not only improves the condition of your body after death temporarily giving you a ‘relaxed’ appearance, it can also restore colour tone to your skin.   If you look much like you used to when you were alive, this of course can considerably improve the experience for loved ones should they want to visit you before the funeral.  

4 reasons why you might choose not to be embalmed?

1

Embalming is an invasive procedure.   A chemical solution is introduced into your body.    No internal organs are removed for this process.  

2

There is a possibility that embalming may not restore the skin tone to the one you had in life. (You could end up looking like you have just come back from a two-week Caribbean holiday, when your normal pallor is akin to having taken a weekend break in Skegness ).  And some people notice a ‘chemical odour’ around an embalmed body.  Both of these potential side-effects can cause additional distress to loved ones at a time when they are already coping with their loss.

3

You may choose not be embalmed on religious grounds.  Both Judaism and Islam prohibit the practice of embalming, unless it is a legal requirement. Other religions have a neutral stance.

4

If you are planning on having a green burial, you need to be aware that natural woodland and meadow burial grounds will not normally accept embalmed bodies, due to the toxicity of the chemicals used and the harm it can cause the surrounding ecosystem. 

Embalming is a sensitive subject that some people feel uncomfortable discussing. However, if you have specific questions or would like to know more about it, we suggest you contact The British Institute of Embalmers.

Useful RESOURCES

For more information on embalming, contact The British Institute of Embalmers   

  01564 778991      

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