Paying Up

I have found it difficult to determine how much a funeral costs. There seems to be a lot of choice, but really there are just unknowns.

Maybe the cost of a funeral would not matter as much if there was some policy or scheme with  a lump sum investment or affordable monthly premiums.

When I visited my local funeral director, I was amazed at how expensive funeral plans are.

They often state that 100% of the funeral cost will be taken care of – but that is seldom true (they have exclusions which they term as “Third Party Costs” or “Disbursements”).

These disbursements are considerable – for City of Glasgow (2016), it is £ 875.00 for internment plus £1165.00 for the lair  – that’s £2040.00 EXCLUDED by funeral plans. (see my previous post on this).

I wondered if they are expensive because they are sold by (and perhaps tied to) a particular firm of undertakers. Maybe it would be cheaper to get a funeral plan from the finance company, and pick a funeral director that is approved by them at the time they are needed.

A mate of mine recommended Golden Leaves, but – while they are better geared for expats living abroad (Spain mostly) – they only cover the funeral director’s costs and not the full cost.

The Co-operative is the biggest funeral business in the country, their website homepage states that the cost of the grave is not included. So their plan is all about headstones, embalming, undertakers uplifting and transporting the body and so forth – what they are famed for.

Sun Life sounds like insurance, but it is the same three plans as the Golden Charter ones offered by my local undertakers – a basic, a medium and a fancy. I just checked Golden Charter’s website, and they are now doing four plans – but it’s the same idea nevertheless – basic to comprehensive in stages, and the big costs are excluded.

Age UK differ in that they state that they do cover everything, unlike the other funeral plans. The plans are provided by Dignity – so I checked out their website, and in their exclusions:

Medical certification fees. For deaths where a coroner investigation is required, there are no medical certification fees. Also, changes to legislation in May 2015 mean there will no longer be a charge for a medical certification for any deaths registered in Scotland. Similar legal changes are being considered for the rest of the UK, so we do not include provision for these fees in our Plans. If the funeral takes place outside of Scotland, and a coroner is not involved, then if applicable, the medical certification fees must be paid by the next of kin or personal representative, when arranging the funeral.

Embalming, burial plot, memorial or headstone, flowers, catering/wake.

Having said that, they do cover the cost of cremation.

Funeral plans make a big deal about the fact that they can be cancelled and you can get a refund, after a fee has been taken, but there are other restrictions, such as having to have paid each month and run the plan for a certain period of time to be entitled to a refund, and in some cases to be entitled to receive the pay-out (so if you start the plan and die in the first year or so, they don’t pay out – just refund your premiums or lump sum)!

Another important consideration is the security of the money – according to The Money Advice Service:

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) doesn’t regulate funeral plans covered by insurance or trust arrangements. It does however stipulate rules for each method of investment, so sums paid by the customer are safeguarded and available to pay for the funeral when needed.

If you’re paying for your funeral bill upfront, you could consider paying for part of on your credit card. When you pay with your credit card, you benefit from Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. This means you can get extra protection if things go wrong with the funeral director.

You could also get this protection if you were to pay at least £100 of the funeral bill upfront, and then pay off the rest of the balance in monthly instalments.

All things considered, funeral plans seem like a really bad deal – they force you to take the funeral director route, to take things you don’t want or need (coffin, cremation etc). You get a “package” that is difficult to customise or personalise.

It might be better to negotiate with a funeral director without the limitations or set funeral plans, paying by other means.

I still do not know what type of funeral for my wife and myself. I still don’t know the costs and how to pay for this – but I think I can rule out Funeral Plans!

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