By Jaclyn Glover, Deputy Manager, Citizens Advice Newtownabbey
Q: My brother has passed away and I have organised the funeral. I am unsure if he has any savings at present. Am I responsible for the costs?
A: The person who arranges the funeral is responsible for paying the final bill and it is important to know where the money for the funeral will come from.
The person who died may have taken out a pre-paid funeral plan, paying for their funeral in advance. It is important to check their personal papers to see if they had a plan. If they did, this should cover the whole cost of the funeral.
If there is no funeral plan, the cost of the funeral will normally be met out of any money left by the person who had died and, where money has been left, the funeral bill should be paid before any other bills or debts. Even if the person’s bank account has been frozen following the death it may be possible to have funds released from a building society or national savings account on showing the death certificate. The person may also have had an insurance policy which will cover funeral costs. In other cases, relatives may need to borrow money until the person’s money and property are sorted out. Some funeral directors will allow payment to be delayed until this has happened.
Some people do not leave enough money to pay for even a simple funeral. If this happens, the person arranging the funeral will have to pay for it, although other relatives or friends may be willing to contribute. There is no general death grant, but if you are in this situation and you receive a means-tested social security benefit (such as Income Support) you may be able to get a payment from the Social Fund (known as a Funeral Payment) to cover the cost of a simple funeral, providing there are no other relatives who could have taken responsibility. There are specific criteria for a Funeral Payment, it may not cover the full cost of the funeral and you may still have to pay the difference.
If the person who died was receiving a War Disablement Pension, the Service Personnel and Veterans Agency may be able to help with the cost of a simple funeral. The helpline number of the Agency is: 0808 1914 2 18 (Monday to Thursday from 7:30am to 6:30pm: Friday from 7:30am to 5:00pm)
The funeral director should always give a written estimate of the cost of the funeral, but the final bill may be higher. The bill will cover the costs of burial or cremation, the fees for the funeral service and the professional services of the funeral director. There will also be charges for extras, such as flowers, cars, service sheets and newspaper notices.
Other costs - Anyone who receives a means-tested benefit (such as Income Support) may be able to receive help from the Department for Work and Pension’s or in Northern Ireland the Social Security Agency’s Social Fund through a budgeting loan towards the cost of travelling to the funeral of a close relative.
If the person who is paying for the funeral is receiving a means-tested benefit it may be possible to receive help from the Social Fund through a Funeral Payment towards the cost of travelling to the funeral.
• Get free, confidential and independent advice from your nearest Citizens Advice – go to www.citizensadvice.org.uk/nireland or call at: Citizens Advice Newtownabbey, Dunanney Centre, Rathmullan Drive, Rathcoole, Newtownabbey, BT37 9DQ. Telephone advice is available 9am – 4pm each day on 028 9085 2271 (Lunch 1:00 - 1:30pm), email advice is available at firstname.lastname@example.org