Doing Nothing

What if I simply decided to do nothing at all?

After all, why get all hot and bothered when my wife will get everything anyway? I am likely to die first, so the problem of the children’s inheritance is really down to her – not me; she’ll be fine inheriting all my stuff automatically.

This is called intestacy.

My estate is divided in accordance with what are commonly known as ‘the rules of intestacy’, which are derived from different statutes. It breaks down to (a) who is the administrator of the estate ( ie “personal representative” – which is in my case probably my next-of-kin – ie widow), and (b) who gets everything (next of kin – ie widow again).

The only complications of modern lives – such as people with previous marriages (or relationships that bore children), civil partnerships, transgenders, adopted children, jointly owned properties, trust funds, debts, hire-purchase agreements or financial arrangements of that ilk – simply do not apply to me and my situation just now.

My life is pretty simple – wife and children, no HP, nothing being paid up or paid back. As simple as it gets.

The worst that can happen to me is that my wife dies first, but in terms of intestacy, it’s still basic and straightforward.

Nevertheless, I have some concerns. A Personal Representative / Administrator (ie my widow) is personally financially liable for any loss resulting from a breach of their duty, even if the mistake was made in good faith; such as

  • Failure to pay my debts and liabilities;
  • Failure to pay all Inheritance Tax, Income Tax & Capital Gains Tax due.
  • Failure to distribute funds to an individual who is successful in their claim against the estate;
  • Failure to identify, and correctly distribute funds to the beneficiaries; including those initially not known about.

This can go on longer than I would have thought; my creditors can potentially make a claim against my widow/ Administrator for up to 12 years after my death! And disappointed family members or dependants have up to 6 months to make a claim after the Grant of Representation has been issued.

There are always further unknowns – so it is a real concern.

Doing nothing means leaving all the bother and fuss to my widow – right at the time she doesn’t need such aggravation.

Is she really the best one to be Administrator? I am not so sure this would be a great idea.

Fact is, if I decided against dying intestate, and went for arranging a will – is she the best person to be the executor? If I get a life insurance policy written into trust, should I get another trustee or two to help out?

And another thing – as husband and wife, we are a couple – and so we do things together – so what would happen to the children if something happened to us both?

How would funerals be managed and paid for?

All things considered here, it is really not the best idea to do nothing. Intestate is not a good state.


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!

Burning Issues

I have concentrated on burial so far because that is what I thought would be best. The best burial I could imagine, at this point, would be in a shallow grave, in a mushroom suit, and in a woodland. It would be free from the ravages of council demands, free from exorbitant undertaker costs, and be as eco-friendly and green as possible – the shallow grave reducing carbon dioxide emissions, the mushroom suit taking care of all the toxins – even dental fillings.

However, I would like to leave something for future archaeology – and that seems to be frowned upon by the green brigade. You just can’t win, sometimes.

The drawbacks are that it places a bit of a burden on the grieving survivors – it is far easier to just call in a random funeral director to take care of it all.

I can’t get a mushroom suit quite yet, and the woodland locations are not very convenient at the present time, so it’s far from being particularly planet-hugging – being driven miles and possibly kept in a fridge – and without my time capsule of memories, I may as well consider cremation.

Cremation is always cheaper than burial. I don’t see the point of burying ashes – which is good because that is an extra cost.

The cheapest type of cremation is Direct Cremation – this is what David Bowie picked.

The dead body is collected during normal working hours and cremated at a time convenient to the undertakers. No family viewing, ceremony, mourners, and often no ashes to take away – this is usually extra.

According to the Money Advice Website,

“We suggest a budget of about £1,600. We found several companies online offering direct cremation for around £1,000. This price normally includes third party costs such as doctor’s certification and crematorium fees.

“If you’d like to have the ashes returned to you, this can cost an extra £100. And collecting the body outside of normal working hours, or from a nursing home or residence is about an extra £500. This brings the total cost of a direct cremation to £1,600.

“Costs may vary depending on location. So, shop around and check whether the company offers a reasonable price for covering your area.

“If you choose to hold a ceremony afterwards, you’ll need to factor in these costs as well. However, there are a variety of low cost ways to have a ceremony, such as having it at home.”

Clearly, it is possible to have an almost free funeral on a completely DIY basis – personally digging a shallow grave in the back garden. But Direct Cremation seems to be the cheapest option using a funeral director.

It is cheap, and frees all burdens from the bereaved at an emotional time. But it lacks niceties, and smacks a bit of “good riddance”. As such there is a risk of upsetting people in a state of grief.

I suppose it could be considered as a baseline or starting point – adding only those things that are needed, to create a package that ticks all the boxes.


What Happens When I Die

I know what has to be done by law upon a death, and it seems simple and easy – but is it too easy? I have questions that need answering, such as:

  • What if I die abroad and want to be buried/cremated back in Scotland?
  • What if I die in England and want to be buried/cremated back in Scotland?
  • What if I die in a hospital?
  • What if I die in a hospice or home?
  • What if I die at home?
  • What if the death is suspicious or mysterious?

I’ll give it a go tonight to find out the answers here.

My understanding is that if I die somewhere like a hospital, hospice or old folk’s home, then they can hold onto my body for a reasonable length of time – and usually arrange the Form 11/MCCD

If I die at home, I can be kept at home – in a cool space – for almost a week, but the first thing to do is get the Form 11/MCCD out of the way – that needs a GP to visit, or an ambulance can be called, but this might mean taking my body to hospital to get the Form 11/MCCD done there.

If I die abroad, there will be a local death certificate and registration has to be according to the regulations of that country. Although the local death certificate will be accepted in the UK, a certified translation into English might be required. Alternatively, the death can be registered with the UK authorities so that a record of the death will be sent to the National Records of Scotland and a consular death registration certificate can be ordered from New Register House. More information can be found here:

If I die abroad on holiday, then travel insurance might cover repatriation – the cost of bringing my body home for burial. If it doesn’t, then the whole thing could be very expensive indeed.

If I die in another part of the UK, there will be a local death certificate and registration has to be according to the regulations of that country. So in England & Wales, for example, there are only five days to register the death there, not eight – even though my body may be shipped home to Scotland after getting authorisation for the removal of the body from the country of death

Suspicious or mysterious death complicates things a wee bit. The death needs to be referred to the Procurator Fiscal for an inquest. In England & Wales the Procurator Fiscal is called The Coroner. In either case, the death cannot be registered until the inquest is complete. I imagine this to be true if my death abroad was suspicious, it makes sense even though I cannot find any sound information on this online.

The Procurator Fiscal’s involvement is necessary when:

  • there is no doctor who can issue a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death
  • the deceased was not seen by the doctor issuing the medical certificate after death nor within 14 days before death
  • the cause of death is unknown
  • the cause of death is believed to be unnatural or suspicious
  • death occurred during an operation or before recovery from an aesthetic
  • death is due to industrial disease or industrial poisoning.

The Procurator Fiscal  can instruct an inquest or a port-mortem medical examination to establish the cause of death. The paperwork is usually done between the Procurators Fiscal’s office and the registrar.

Funeral Parlour Visit

I popped into a local funeral parlour to get the scoop from a real person instead of the internet.

The chap gave me a leaflet and a business card. They have Funeral Plans of monthly payments by Direct Debit.

There are three types of funeral. A simple one (£3475), a more traditional one (£3865), and an expensive ‘comprehensive’ plan (£4400), all in association with Golden Charter Funeral Plans (which seems to be a finance company).

The differences between the plans:

  • Taking the deceased to a resting place within 15 mile radius is only during office hours on the simple plan;
  • The simple plan does not allow family viewing during office hours;
  • The simple and the traditional plans do not provide a list of mourners who sent flowers;
  • Apart from that, it’s down to coffins and limousines. Simple plan gets you no limo and the most basic coffin. One limo and a reasonable coffin for the traditional, and a superior coffin and two limos for the expensive plan.

I just don’t see where the money goes – the hire of a limo and a fancier coffin can’t be as much as £1000, can it?

Looking at the small print, the costs that are NOT covered are – extra services (embalming, flowers, additional cars etc), third party costs also known as disbursements (death certificates, crematorium fees or internment fees by the council etc), burial plots, and other costs – such as transporting the body, longer funeral services.

As I put before, the cost of burial is not cheap, and can suddenly go up any and every year on the whim of the city council.

City of Glasgow 2016:
£ 875.00 Internment
£1165.00 Lair               
£2040.00 Total         

– plus the simple plan here: add £3475 – that’s a whopping £5515… and that’s just for the basic funeral.

I have to budget for two of these – over £11 000! This is scary because I would have to pay for at least two plans on monthly instalments – and still have to find £4080 for burials -and that cost is constantly and unpredictably going up!

This won’t do at all. Maybe if I bought lairs at today’s prices it would help. Maybe if I whittled down the services, maybe if I looked at some alternative ideas then could be controlled.

It’s getting worse. I need ideas.



The Final rip-off

Just look at this scam:-

  • The Scottish government set the fiscal policy and cap local budgets;
  • The local governments set the costs of funerals and are using them to pay for “frontline services”;
  • The costs vary dramatically depending on where you live/ die;
  • The costs are hiked every year to suit council budgets;
  • The UK government social fund for the poor is not enough to stop people having to go into debt to pay for funerals;
  • You might get landed with an estranged relative’s funeral costs; and
  • You can’t rely on leaving your body to science to avoid these costs.

That is a really bad situation: it’s a set-up. It looks like you have no option but to pay what they ask – but you cannot budget for it, and the social fund won’t help. You are likely to have to take out a loan.

Summary of findings

  • Basic funeral costs in the UK have risen on average by 7 per cent every year
    since 2004, substantially above the rate of inflation.
  • The average total cost for a basic funeral in 2014 for a cremation is £2,610 and
    £3,240 for a burial.
  • The number of clients attending CAB across Scotland regarding funerals has
    increased 27 per cent in 2013/2014 compared with the previous year. The
    Scottish CAB network is now assisting with just over one case every day
    regarding the costs of funerals.
  • A postcode lottery of burial/cremation costs exists in Scotland with local authorities charging widely ranging fees. CAS research shows:
    • The most expensive local authority for burials, East Dunbartonshire (£2716), charges four times as much as one of the cheapest, East Renfrewshire (£715). This means there is only seven miles between the most expensive place to be buried on mainland Scotland and the cheapest.
    • CAS found that 5 of the 32 Local Authorities in Scotland did not publish the details of burial costs and cremation services on their websites these are: Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dumfries and Galloway, Perth and Kinross and Orkney.
    • Cremations also widely differ in price with Perth and Kinross council being the most expensive (£730) of the 12 councils to offer cremation facilities, more expensive than the average private cremation.
    • 20 Councils in Scotland do not run crematorium services meaning residents will have to travel to neighbouring communities or use private facilities. The private crematoriums in Dundee, Moray and Angus charge £830 which is 40 per cent more than Highland Council’s charge for a cremation in Inverness.

-The Real Deal, a Report by CAS

I have to think…

How about, instead of being buried/ cremated in Glasgow – we could look at East Renfrewshire instead. According to the CAS report:-

City of Glasgow 2014:
£ 842.00 Internment
£1120.00 Lair
£1962.00 Total

East Renfrewshire 2014:
£ 370.00 Internment
£ 345.00 Lair
£ 715.00 Total

This is under half price. But there is a catch. There is always a catch. I checked out the website for East Renfrewshire. The cemetery charges showed a BIG difference between local residents and people – like me – trying to save some money by getting buried in a cheaper local authority area.

The first thing I noticed is that the costs have jumped in one year – and also that it is more expensive to be buried at the weekend or on public holidays. I’ll take the cheapest option for comparison purposes:

East Renfrewshire UPDATED 2015:
£ 500.00 Internment
£ 465.00 Lair
£ 965.00 Total

East Renfrewshire for non-resident 2015:
£1500.00 Internment
£1700.00 Lair
£3200.00 Total

Checking back on Glasgow’s costs is trickier as they do not publish them. I got the figures buried (ha ha) in a pdf called Glasgow City Council Land & Environmental Services Charges 2016/17.

City of Glasgow 2016:
£ 875.00 Internment
£1165.00 Lair
£2040.00 Total

So I’ve gone from thinking I had an option of avoiding Glasgow’s £1962 by going a couple of miles to East Ren and paying £715, to Glasgow’s £2040 being a much cheaper option to East Ren’s massive £3200. Imagine paying £3520 for a weekend funeral!

Well it was worth a try. I think I need to speak with a Funeral Director face-to-face to see if there are deals or packages to be had.

Funeral Poverty is a Thing

I had no idea before I started looking at funeral costs that it was such a rip-off.

Citizens Advice Scotland have done a report (which you can get from their website) which states:

“…a funeral in Scotland can cost somewhere between £2,600 and £8,000 depending on the service chosen and where you live.”

In another report (The Real Deal – which you can get from their webpage), CAS found that people are getting into debt because a family member has died.

“The University of Bath (2012) found that the cap on other funeral expenses of £700, which has been fixed since 2003, is leaving many families well short of the true cost of a funeral…”

These reports are short and easy to read, but shocking too.

I was amazed to discover that a man donated his body to medical research – thinking that he had avoided all costs. He told his family he had left his body to science and not to worry – but universities and hospitals are not legally obliged to accept donated cadavers, and they didn’t need that body – so the family were hit with unexpected costs!

It gets worse; the CAS mention an example where a chap was the only living relative of a man who died in debt – and so this poor fellow was unexpectedly saddled with the costs of the funeral out of the blue.

This could happen to anyone at any time. Yikes!