When someone dies, it might not be immediately clear who should arrange the funeral. There may also be a few things that family and friends might need to clarify — does the executor need to have a role in the funeral plans? And who is legally responsible for paying for the funeral?
If you’re thinking about paying for and planning your own funeral, see our information on prepaid funeral plans.
Who can arrange a funeral?
Though anyone could take on the task of arranging the funeral, whether or not they are a family member, it’s common for the next of kin to assume responsibility. The next of kin is the closest living relative of the person who has died — if not a spouse, then a child, otherwise a parent or sibling.
Often, someone will take responsibility for the funeral arrangements with the family agreeing that this person will handle the plans and there will be no disputes. Sometimes though, no appropriate person will volunteer to plan the funeral or there will be some disagreement about who has the right to make arrangements. If the person who has died did not specify an individual to handle the plans in their Will or other end-of-life planning document (or did not have one), this hierarchy from the National Association of Funeral Directors provides a clear guide to who has the right to arrange the funeral.
If someone is nominated as Executor, or otherwise asked to take on the funeral arrangements by the deceased person, then this person is entitled to make plans. No one else should assume responsibility for making arrangements if this is the case, unless they have the agreement of the nominated individual. If more than one person is elected then all parties should confer before any planning starts.
It may seem like a good idea to stipulate who you’d like to make the arrangements in your Will, but bear in mind that these are sometimes not accessed or consulted until long after the funeral has taken place (this is partly why funeral wishes in wills are not legally binding). We would always recommend discussing your wishes with loved ones and recording them somewhere easily accessible.
Does the person arranging the funeral pay for it?
The individual planning the funeral won’t necessarily be the one responsible for paying for it. Usually, an executor (named in the Will) is identified. As they have legal access to the estate of the person who has died, they might be able to access funds that can be used to pay for the funeral. Banks in the UK can also release funds from the estate to meet the cost of the funeral on presentation of a death certificate. Regardless of whether the Executor is also the person making the funeral plans, it is common for funeral costs to be covered by savings or other assets.
If the next of kin is arranging the funeral, they will also accept responsibility for paying the funeral costs, whether through a bank, solicitor or using private funds. Even though they are assuming official responsibility as an individual, it may be a good idea for the whole family to make a payment plan together so there are no surprises, objections or disputes that are too late to rectify.
In some cases, the person who has died may have a life insurance policy, or a funeral plan that is designed to cover the costs of the funeral: these prepaid funeral plans are sometimes purchased from the funeral director that the individual has nominated to arrange their funeral.
If funds are an issue, families in the UK may be entitled to a Funeral Expenses Payment (the Funeral Support Payment in Scotland) to help with the costs. Alternatively, the local council may be able to arrange a simple funeral (which might include a short service), depending on their relevant policies and the availability of funds from the deceased person’s estate.
What if I want to arrange my own funeral?
It is perfectly possible for you to arrange your own funeral if this is what you would like to do. It might be hard to think about your own funeral, but many people want the peace of mind that family and friends won’t face a financial burden when the time comes.
It also gives you a greater say in the proceedings once you have passed away. If you want a simple funeral arrangement, confirming this with the funeral director yourself is a good way to ensure this. If your preferred arrangement is more complex, clarifying the plans in advance is useful in preventing any confusion and making things exactly as you want them to be.
The funeral director should have a system in place to keep your funds safe in the meantime. For instance, at Freeman Brothers, all funds are kept in trust by an independent firm. We apply to them to pay the account once the funeral takes place, ensuring the money is only accessed when it is required.
Freeman Brothers | Funeral Directors West Sussex
At Freeman Brothers, we’ve been serving families in Sussex and Surrey since 1855. As an independent, family-run firm, we’re known for our professional, caring service. Whether you require a simple service at a crematorium chapel, a woodland burial or anything in between, you can trust us to take the utmost care and respect with your funeral plans.