Planning for the funeral on your own can be overwhelming. Funeral directors come in handy during such times, providing the support and practical assistance you need. There are numerous benefits of hiring these professionals, but there are lots of considerations to make too. In this guide, we examine everything you need to keep in mind when planning a funeral in the UK. We also analyse the factors you need to consider when selecting the right funeral director for the job. Read on to learn how you can get the most suitable funeral director while keeping the funeral cost to a minimum. Table of Contents Avalon - Best UK Funeral Plan Our Rating Cremation options available with and without funeral service Coverage starts after one year of payments No restrictions on date and time of service Sign Up Now Best Funeral Plan Providers in the UK 2020 1. Avalon Funeral Plans - Best for Cremation With over 25 years of experience in this line of work, Avalon operates under the purview of the Funeral Planning Authority. It works with 1,800+ independent funeral directors all over the UK, making it easy to find local funeral directors no matter where you live. The company sells plans all over the UK and beyond. In fact, in the past, it was known for offering European funeral plans for expatriates too. Currently, its plans apply locally, and you can use them in some European countries in case you have property abroad. Another highlight is that it transports the deceased for free all over the UK; there is no restriction on mileage no matter how far one is away from home. It offers multiple funeral plans to suit different budgetary requirements. These include: Cremation with Service Plan Standard Funeral Plan Plus Funeral Plan Premium Funeral Plan One outstanding highlight of the offered plans is that if a person chooses to pay for any plan over a span of 2 years or more, he can get the Avalon Promise. This ensures that if the person dies before paying fully for the plan, he can still get all the services offered under the plan. Our Rating No mileage restriction within the UK 30-day money-back guarantee for all plans Avalon Promise ensures you get all plan services in spite of death before full payment Additional cremation fees Visit Avalon Now 2. Golden Charter - Best for Local Funeral Services With Golden Charter, you can get access to a vast network of over 3,300 local funeral directors all over the UK, all of them working independently. It offers a number of plans including: Value plan Standard plan Select plan Superior plan As a contribution plan provider, Golden Charter does not guarantee the cost of all services. Rather, it only guarantees the funeral director’s services. Payment options vary depending on age and payment duration can be up to 30 years. While this is remarkably flexible, costs can be really high if you choose longer timespans. Anyone over 18 years can buy a plan and there is no upper age limit for those who make full payment in one go. However, you need to complete the instalment payments by the time you are 80 and you can only qualify for monthly plans of you are between 50 and 80. Its funeral plans are transferrable, which means that any family member can use an existing plan. For all plans that Golden Charter offers, you can get free transportation if death happens while on holiday, so long as it is within the UK. Our Rating Vast network of directors No cancellation fee within 30 days of signing up Plans are transferrable within the family Terms vary depending on age Visit Golden Charter Now 3. Age Co - Best for Budget Funerals Founded in the UK in 2009, Age Co, which was known before as Age UK, is the largest registered charity for the elderly in the UK. Funeral plans are one of the many services that it offers, and for this service, it operates under the Funeral Planning Association. It has four affordable plans which include: Basic Ivy Holly Rowan To be eligible for any of these plans, you need to be over 50 years old. For people over 85 years old, you can only pay in full or in 12 monthly instalments. Age Co works with 1,300 directors, 800 privately owned and 500 independently owned. Our Rating Guaranteed plans meaning no extra costs Guaranteed acceptance for those over 50 years old No cancellation fee Age limits apply Mileage restrictions apply Visit Age Co Now What Are Funeral Directors? Funeral directors essentially manage funeral homes and funeral plans. Having a professional guide you through the funeral process could really come in handy. It is an emotional and difficult time, and getting the right kind of support can go a long way in making the situation bearable. When someone dies in the UK, there are numerous administrative factors to consider before, during and after the memorial service. Good funeral directors will see to it that the entire process goes without a hitch. Some of the key services to expect from a good funeral director include: Before the Ceremony: Transporting the body from the place of death and taking care of it up until the funeral Dealing with the legal documentation required for a burial or cremation to take place Providing the facilities for viewing the body before the ceremony Placing death notices online and/or in newspapers During the Ceremony: Dressing the body Planning ceremony details, ensuring that your wishes and those of the deceased reflect in the arrangements Offering a variety of caskets and coffins to suit individual choices and budget Accepting donations on your behalf Providing pallbearers if necessary After the ceremony: Arranging the transfer of cremated remains or the deceased to the desired place Organizing the ‘Thank you’ cards Assisting in arranging the preservation of ashes in a memorial casket or scattering after a cremation Benefits of Having Funeral Directors There are lots of compelling reasons why you should entrust this delicate task to a professional. Consider below the five benefits that funeral directors offer. Experience A lot of work goes into planning a suitable send-off for a close family member or friend. Fortunately, a majority of people do not have to plan for such services frequently. But since it is their job description, funeral directors get to do it on a daily basis. So, when you hire professional funeral directors you get experienced individuals to handle things on your behalf. With the right set of skills and knowledge for the job, they can give your loved one an honourable farewell. A Smooth Ceremony Since they have experience in this line of work, professional funeral directors ensure that the service goes without a hitch. This makes it easier for you to focus on the memory of your loved one, rather than the organization aspect of things. Good Documentation and Logistics There is a lot of paperwork to deal with when a loved one dies. The bereaved are likely not in the best frame of mind to deal with this on top of the loss. Funeral directors deal with this kind of stuff all the time. Letting them do so for you is one way to make the stressful trek less overwhelming. Helpful References Getting everything for the ceremony to fall into place takes quite a bit of coordination and it involves a whole network of participants. From getting the florists and lawyers to the pastor and caterers, professional funeral directors know all the people that matter. By virtue of this, they can help you keep the funeral cost manageable. Round the Clock Support During times of grief, thoughts and plans may be all over the place. In some cases, you may need to set something straight after work hours or over the weekend. The best thing about funeral directors is that they also work on evenings and weekends. Having them on call anytime you need them makes a world of difference in ensuring everything works out well. Assistance Beyond the Memorial Service Even after the memorial service, there is still a lot to work on. For instance, in the UK, you need to submit papers to relevant state officials to get a death certificate. In addition to the death certificate, you may need to work out the will and other legal documents. You might also require help sorting out the properties the deceased has left behind, resolving insurance claims, making an application for funeral benefits and handling inheritance taxes. Professional funeral directors can hold your hand through this as well. What is a Funeral Plan? This is an arrangement under which you get to select the type of send-off ceremony you want and make advance payment for it. Under this arrangement, you get to freeze the cost of a funeral at current prices. By so doing you can avoid the rising costs of funerals and eliminate the anxiety that comes with planning for an unexpected burial. Funeral Plans and Funeral Directors Cost In the UK, the average funeral cost is £4,500. Actual costs will vary depending on where you live and the elements you need in the funeral ceremony. Moreover, depending on whether you choose burial or cremation, the expenses will vary. Here are some of the expenses you may need to consider: 1. Disbursements These are the costs that your funeral directors will collect on behalf of third parties. These third parties include all the people they liaise with to plan the event. Some of the common disbursements include: Death notice fees Doctor’s fees for death certification Florist fees Caterer’s fees for wake or reception Venue hire fees Religious leader or celebrant fees 2. Burial vs. Cremation Cremations are generally less expensive than burials though the exact fee will depend on whether you choose a public or private crematorium. In addition to the cremation, you may also need to pay for an urn, for ash scattering or for burying the ashes in a cemetery. 3. Funeral Director Fees While the services of funeral directors can reduce the stress you experience during this time, they come at a cost. Thanks to the advent of the internet, it is now easier than ever before to compare rates and find cheap funeral directors with a good reputation. Tips to Manage Funeral Costs There are a number of sources that can assist you in managing the funeral costs. These include: The UK Government – In the UK, the government has a program known as the Funeral Expenses Payment under which you can get monetary assistance if you qualify. The amount can be up to £700 or £1,000 depending on when the person dies. The Estate of the Deceased – If the deceased had sufficient funds in their estate, you can claim funeral expenses from there during probate. In case they did not leave a will, you could use a bank statement to find out about possible insurance policies, funeral plans or any other assets. Budgeting Loans – These are small loans free of interest that you can repay directly from benefits. Veterans UK – For people who were receiving a War Disablement Pension or whose death was a result of serving in the HM Forces, you can get full support here for the expenses of a simple funeral. What to Look for When Choosing Funeral Directors When choosing funeral directors, you hardly have the time or the emotional sobriety to be selective. Here are some important tips that could help you make a good choice: Confirm that they are Members of One or More Official Organisation There are two major organizations for funeral service directors in the UK. These are: The National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD) The National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF) These bodies have codes of ethics and practice that they require members to adhere to. In the highly unlikely event that you have a complaint, having the backing of these associations will come in handy. Check their membership credentials on the service provider’s website. Compare Prices Funeral costs should not be your sole consideration but it matters. The fact that costs keep increasing every passing year means you might need to compare offers. At the end of the day, they all achieve the same objective. So getting cheap funeral directors with a reputation for quality services would be worthwhile. One of the best ways to find cheap funeral directors is by comparing the rates offered by different funeral plans. Check User Reviews In today’s digital age, people take to the internet to express their feelings, good and bad, about all services, including funerals. To get a firsthand account of a given service, find out what previous users have to say. Service Package Do you have any personal preferences for the ceremony? Do the services you have in mind cater to these preferences? While some funeral directors offer comprehensive packages, others specialize in traditional, alternative contemporary or eco-friendly services. Some offer embalming services and others do not. Find out what they have on offer before making a down payment. Payment Options Funeral directors also differ significantly in terms of their supported payment options. There are some who require the full payment upfront while others can wait. A highly convenient option that some offer takes the form of funeral plans. You get to pick out a plan beforehand and even pay in instalments. This way, the ceremony does not send you into debt or drain your existing resources. Steps to Follow If A Loved One Dies Here are the steps you need to follow in the UK before the funeral ceremony can take place: 1. Call your Chosen Funeral Director or Funeral Plan Provider As is the case with any other death, you will need to call your chosen funeral director or funeral plan provider as a first step. If the deceased is in a hospital, hospice or at home, they will plan to bring them into their care. However, if they died abroad, the funeral director or funeral plan provider will advise you on the way forward depending on the specific circumstances. 2. Register the Death For anyone in England, Northern Ireland or Wales, you will have 5 days to register the death. Those in Scotland will have 8 days to do so. You will then receive your loved one’s Medical Certificate of the Cause of Death (MCCD). You will need to share this paperwork with your funeral director. 3. Plan for the Funeral Ceremony Most funeral directors are able to arrange face-to-face meetings to plan the funeral ceremony. But if you don’t have the time to meet them, planning can take place over the phone. Conclusion Funerals are a difficult time, more so if you have to handle the nitty-gritty to see to it that everything runs smoothly. However, with the right choice of funeral directors by your side, you can leave the planning and execution to the experts. There are plenty of local funeral directors to choose from to ensure that you can have some peace of mind during this difficult time. The key to making sure it all works out well lies in making the right pick. Essentially, the idea is to choose funeral directors that can help you bear the enormous weight without taking over from you. Keep in mind that the decisions they make will impact the way the friends and family will remember the deceased. Based on the above tips and reviews of funeral plan providers, you now have everything you need to easily find good funeral directors. FAQs What happens when people die before they complete making payments for a funeral plan? This will depend on the funeral plan company in question. Some funeral plan providers offer to cover all expenses despite the fact that not all payments had been made. Others will require you to clear the outstanding or forfeit some of the outlined services under the plan. Always check beforehand to avoid headaches when planning for the send-off. Will I have to call the police first when a loved one dies at home? In the UK, the law requires you to call both the police and an ambulance service (999) if an unexpected death occurs at home. They may need to order a post mortem to determine the cause of death so as to issue the relevant documents. However, if the death was expected, you should call the NHS helpline (111) or notify their GP. Should I cremate or bury my loved ones? If your loved ones expressed their wishes on how they want their send-off carried out, it would be best to honor those wishes. However, if they did not, the choice is entirely up to you. Funeral service providers can help you learn more about both options so you can make an informed choice. Can I get help to cover funeral costs? Yes. You can get help from the government through the Funeral Expenses Payment, charitable funds or budgeting loans among other sources. Who is a funeral celebrant? This is a qualified person who works with you to carry out a service suited to your preferences, values and beliefs.