UPDATE:  Funeral planning during Covid 19

England:  From 19 July 2021 there will no longer be a maximum number of attendees set out in law for funerals, post-funeral gatherings and commemorative events, such as a wake, scattering of ashes and stone setting ceremonies. The venue may set its own rules with regard to how many mourners can be accommodated.  For more information click here

Wales:  From 17 July 2021, funerals with physical attendance of mourners should continue as long as those attending adhere to the Regulations and a distance of two metres is kept between those attending a funeral.  The venue will determine how many mourners can be safely accommodated while maintaining social distancing both inside and outside. Activities such as congregational singing, chanting, or shouting should be specifically avoided indoors.  Wakes are permitted in regulated premises, not in private dwellings, for up to 50 people outdoors and 30 indoors from 17 May.  For more information click here.

Scotland:  From 19 July 2021, up to 200 people will be able to attend funeral services and post-funeral gatherings, with a new one-metre physical distancing (down from two metres), which applies throughout all regulated venues. The venue will determine how many mourners can be safely accommodated while maintaining social distancing both inside and outside.  A post-funeral gathering held at a private dwelling must follow the general rules on indoor and outdoor gathering.  For more information click here.  

Last update 19 July 2021

We all know these are challenging times.  However, for most of us, life goes on – through work, family, relationships, births, and even marriages. 

If we’ve learned anything since 23 March 2020 it’s that life can be unpredictable.  

This guide offers some guidance about what to consider when funeral planning during covid 19. 

Who is this guide for? 

  • Those curious about prepaid funeral plans.
  • Someone wanting to know whether buying more than a basic funeral plan right now is a wise move. Considering the uncertainty over when the limit on the number of mourners who can attend a funeral may be lifted.
  • Anyone worried about funeral planning during Covid 19 and how funeral plans are impacted.

Reading time:

 5  mins

For those who are new to prepaid funeral plans:

A prepaid funeral plan enables you to choose the type of funeral service you want. Paying for it in advance at today’s prices.  Always read the details carefully and take the time you need to satisfy yourself that a plan is the right one for you..

Can I buy a funeral plan during the Coronavirus pandemic?

Yes, you can purchase a funeral plan during  Covid 19. Just remember that you are organising in advance. So regardless of any current restrictions you can still plan for the funeral plan of your choice during covid 19. 

Will I get the services I paid for, if I activate my funeral plan during Covid 19?

At the moment both cremation and burial funerals are going ahead during Covid 19.

Although, it is possible that some elements of the funeral plan may not be fulfilled or will have been modified to keep everyone safe.  

If that's the case, the funeral provider will advise your family discussing with them what happens to those allocated costs within the plan. 

What's unchanged with funeral planning during covid 19?

  • The time in which a death needs to be registered
  • Your death will still need to be registered within five days of the date of the death if it occurs in England, Wales, or Northern Ireland; and within eight days if it occurs in Scotland.
  • How your funeral plan is activated
  • To activate your plan a personal representative (e.g. a family member or the executor of your Will). Will have to call using the number provided in the funeral plan documentation.
  • There is no restriction on the type of funeral service that can take place
  • The cremation or burial funeral service will still take place without delay wherever practicable, and your loved ones will still benefit from the services as detailed in your funeral plan.  These include:
  • Arranging your funeral and liaising with third-parties.
  • Bringing you into the care of the funeral home until the funeral.
  • A hearse or suitable vehicle to take you to the crematorium or place of burial.
  • A special route to take you to the crematorium or place of burial.  (Driving past the houses of family and friends who are unable to attend the funeral gives them the opportunity to say their goodbyes).
  • Family cars, with suitable social distancing measures in place, e.g. a dividing screen between the chauffeur and passengers in the same support bubble.
  • A coffin.
  • A minister or officiant to lead the service.
  • Distributing charitable donations.

What could be different with funeral planning during covid 19?

  • Viewing in the visitation room
  • The option to visit the chapel of rest or other service room (if included in your plan) may be withdrawn, or the number of visits and number of people who can visit may be restricted.  The decision to provide this service or not will depend on your appointed funeral director and safety.
  • The maximum number of mourners
  • Also a funeral plan that includes a funeral ceremony may have the number of mourners who can attend reduced, in accordance with government guidelines in place at the time. Along with the venue’s own health and safety policy and suitability for social distancing.  
  • Individuals with COVID-19 symptoms or who are self-isolating will not be able to attend your funeral, regardless of how close their familial or personal relationship is to you. 
  • How your coffin is carried
  • Furthermore, funeral staff may not be able to carry your coffin into the funeral service.  Instead, your coffin will be wheeled in by funeral staff on a coffin bier (trolley), or your coffin may already be in situ by the time mourners arrive.  
  • A change of venue for the funeral service
  • If a particular venue needs to be deep cleaned following a reported COVID-19 risk, this could result in a delay or a change of venue for your funeral.

What’s the best type of funeral plan to buy right now during the Coronavirus pandemic?

Hopefully, by the time your funeral is needed, all funeral services will have resumed as normal.  

However, if you want to err on the side of caution due to the belief or know that you are unlikely to survive beyond the restrictions of the pandemic. Then maybe the wisest thing would be to not overspend on a service with a ceremony for an unlimited number of family and friends to attend.  In that instance, you may wish to consider one of the following options:

A No-Frills direct cremation funeral plan

There is no ceremony, no mourners can attend, and no choice of date or time.  You will be transported to the crematoria in a suitable vehicle, such as a private ambulance. Typically the coffin is basic.  Although loved ones could arrange a virtual memorial service themselves on or around the day of the cremation, or have a memorial service later.  

In 2021, the cost benefit for this type of No-Frills direct cremation funeral plan is on average 56% cheaper than a Simple cremation funeral plan including a funeral ceremony.* 

A No-Fuss cremation funeral plan

Up to 12 people can attend a short committal-only service. Although the number could be reduced further depending on government and crematoria guidelines in force at the time.  A simple coffin is included in the funeral plan. Where as family cars (limousines) are not included.

In 2021, the cost benefit for this type of small and intimate No Fuss cremation funeral plan is on average 51% cheaper than a Simple cremation funeral plan including a funeral ceremony.*

A Simple funeral plan

Whilst mourners are allowed to attend a funeral ceremony, the number may be limited due to government rules in force at the time, and at the place of service.  The coffin is simple.  Family cars (limousines) are excluded from this type of plan, but may be available as an optional extra.

Review your funeral plan when the pandemic restrictions are fully lifted

If you purchase one of the above types of funeral plan due to the pandemic and restrictions are lifted before your funeral is needed. You have the option of upgrading or adding items to your funeral plan. For example, If you may want a higher quality coffin or the flexibility for your family to choose the date and time of your funeral. 

Although, simply upgrading your plan may be a cheaper way to do this. 

If you want to add items to your existing plan, a contribution will need to be paid towards it. This will save family from the likely increase in costs for those items.  Which they would otherwise pay for at the time of your funeral (subject to the terms of the plan).  

Typically, the contribution would grow in line with the Consumer Price Index (CPI) or similar, until the funeral. If there happened to be a shortfall, your family would need to pay the balance at the time the funeral.   

Note:  The ability to add a contribution amount will depend on the plan you have purchased.

What happens if I have difficulty meeting the repayments for my funeral plan during the COVID-19 pandemic?

In the event you are already paying for a prepaid funeral plan in instalments and Covid has affected your finances. Through being furloughed or laid off, speak to the plan provider as soon as possible to see what can be done.  

As it may be possible to tweak your monthly payment plan or take a payment holiday. With the option of making up the balance in the future.  

Also, be aware that your funeral plan may be cancelled if you miss one or more payments.  Depending on the plan provider and  method of repayment you chose when buying your funeral plan. In this instance the money you have paid will be returned, minus a cancellation fee,  or in some cases you could lose the money you have already paid in.

*Funeral plan types and prices compared:  

Simple, No-Fuss, and No-Frills funeral plans, including third-party cremation fees and doctors’ fees, from the UK’s leading Funeral Planning Authority registered funeral plan providers listed on Before You Go (as at 05.04.23.). 

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About the author 

Kim Bird

Kim, the founder of Before You Go, is a funeral cost expert and regularly appears in the press, on TV and on radio. She began campaigning for greater funeral price transparency over 10 years ago. Kim is a member of Parliamentary Groups for funerals and bereavement.

In 2017, Kim was included in the Maserati 100 & The Sunday Times list of top 100 UK entrepreneurs for having a positive impact on society and her industry.

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