What happens if you can't afford a funeral?

Last Updated: 27th March 2022

It is not uncommon for people to worry about the cost of funerals and what happens if you can’t afford a funeral.

As funerals in the UK are perceived to be expensive, it is worth considering what happens if you can't afford a funeral and the variety of options available to people that might feel concerned they might not be able to afford what they wish for at the end of their life.

When reviewing the costs of a funeral, the traditional, church funeral ceremony with a burial, limousines, funeral procession, flowers, a wake and so on, can increase the cost of a funeral significantly.

However, there is a number of people that do not wish to spend as much on funerals, as they may have done in the past, and any person wondering what happens if you can't afford a funeral might consider planning a funeral in advance to save on costs.

A prepaid funeral can be as simple and cost effective as possible for those people that would like to know what happens if you can't afford a funeral. 

A simple and no fuss direct cremation allows the person to be taken directly to the crematorium with no funeral service.  A basic prepaid funeral plan can offer a person the most cost effective death care by keeping costs to a minimum. 

The preparation of the deceased person is reduced greatly.  Whilst the deceased person is cared for with respect and dignity, as they would if they were having an expensive funeral, no embalming of the deceased person’s body is required, the coffin they are placed in might be defined as suitable, simple or basic, the ashes of the deceased person may not be delivered to a chosen place after the cremation takes place, and so on.

It is important to note that if a person would like to know what happens if you can't afford a funeral they should not assume the cheapest prepaid direct cremation funeral plan will offer a lesser service.  There are a few direct cremation prepaid funeral plans that offer more for a cheaper price than others so research on which prepaid funeral plan is best for a person is encouraged.

Whilst a prepaid funeral plan might still cause a financial concern to some people when they are wondering what happens if you can't afford a funeral, the research they carry out will indicate which prepaid funeral plans can be paid for in instalments. 

Having the cost spread over several months and years, depending on the financial circumstances a person is in and what they can afford, might ease the financial pressure they feel in ensuring they have their final arrangements covered before their death. 

It is worth a person checking the terms and conditions and the small print of each funeral plan before they invest in one because there are many different options and services that a funeral provider can offer and provide, depending on a person’s circumstances if they ask ‘What happens if you can't afford a funeral?’

If a prepaid funeral is not an option for someone because they do not have sufficient funds or the budget to spread the cost through a regular instalment plan, the question of ‘What happens if you can't afford a funeral?’ can weigh on a person’s mind.

Whilst a person may wish to have their final arrangements confirmed and in place before they pass away, there are other options for a person to consider when reviewing how they wish to be dealt with upon their death.

The question raised of what happens if you can't afford a funeral needs to be addressed for those people that have concerns on their finances and how they will be laid to rest when the time comes.  

There are alternative options to a person with insufficient funds to pay for their own funeral or the deceased person’s loved ones who will pay for their funeral after their death.

Once a person has died, if they have not paid for their own funeral in advance and they have not considered what happens if you can't afford a funeral their loved ones or next of kin may be able to use the funds that are left in the deceased person’s bank account, provided their bank account has not been frozen.  If it has, the executor or administrator of the deceased person’s estate will be able to gain access to this.  In any event, the deceased person’s death certificate will need to be produced and proof of identity presented.

If this is the option that the deceased person’s loved ones or next of kin takes, it should be approached in a systematic way so that money is not taken for anything from the deceased person’s bank account without following the correct procedures upon their death.

Anyone who is arranging a funeral for a deceased loved one who has not considered what happens if you can't afford a funeral could pay for it themselves and then claim back the costs of the funeral through the estate of the deceased person.  The executor or administrator of the deceased will be able to advise how much the estate is worth to ensure that all costs can be covered and the choice and type of funeral plan may be a direct result of how much is left in a deceased person’s estate.

Another option for a person to consider if they question what happens if you can't afford a funeral is for a funeral to be paid for through fundraising.  A fundraising page might be set up in order for the deceased person’s friends and family to be able to donate money that will go towards the cost of a funeral. 

Alternatively, and if all other options when reviewing what happens if you can't afford a funeral are not feasible, the government has several schemes in place of different varieties to ensure a person that cannot afford a funeral can be laid to rest with dignity.

For people in England and Wales, people on benefit who might worry about what happens if you can't afford a funeral can have their funeral costs covered by the government under the Funeral Expenses Payment scheme so that cremation fees (including a doctor’s certificate), burial fees for a particular plot, travel to and from the funeral and the cost of collecting the body and moving it to a desired location within 50 miles and the deceased person’s death certificate and other necessary documents are included.

There may also be a certain amount of money provided to cover the cost of other funeral expenses such as flowers, the coffin or a funeral director’s fees. 

The deceased person’s loved ones or next of kin will need to follow the correct procedure to be able to benefit from the Funeral Expenses Payment scheme.

The final option that might be considered is a Public Health Funeral for a deceased person that has no money or family left behind might be what happens if you can't afford a funeral.  If a person dies under these circumstances, the local council or the hospital the deceased person might arrange for a short, simple cremation service for the deceased person.  The local authority will choose the date and time of the service and additional things including flowers, a death notice and cars are not included.

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