Archive for the ‘funeral’ Category

Paying for a funeral

Pillar2-Image-1The death of a loved one places a huge emotional strain on a person, but it also has the potential to place a large financial burden on them too.  Funerals can be expensive and, if you arrange a funeral, you may be responsible for paying for it, so, before you start, you need to check where the money will be coming from.

Your first step is to see if the person who has passed away made any arrangements for their funeral or if they have left enough money to pay for it.  When a person dies, their bank account is frozen unless it is a joint account, but you may be able to use part of their savings to pay for the funeral.  You will, however, have to provide the bank with certain documents, such as a certified copy of the death certificate.

They may have paid into schemes or pensions, so you should check to see if they have a life insurance policy, a pre-paid funeral plan, or any occupational or personal pension schemes that may cover the cost of the funeral.   Also, check to see if they were a member of the Cremation Society as, if so, they may be entitled to reduced cremation fees, and find out if they were a member of a union, club, professional body or association which makes a payment when a member dies.

If the deceased was a war pensioner, you may be able to obtain help paying for the funeral in certain circumstances.  For more information, contact the Service Personnel and Veterans Agency by visiting

The Social Fund
You may be able to receive some help with payment if you or your partner (spouse, civil partner or person you live with) are on a low income, through something called the Social Fund.  This is a one off, tax-free payment designed to help cover the essential costs of a funeral, including the necessary burial or cremation fees, plus up to £700 for funeral director’s charges, flowers and a coffin.  You must claim within three months of the funeral and the circumstances of other family members are considered first, to see if it is possible for someone else to pay for, or contribute towards, the cost of the funeral.

A funeral payment from the Social Fund is a loan, which has to be repaid if there is cash in the estate, or if property is left to anyone who is not the widow, widower or civil partner of the deceased.  The deceased needs to have been living in the UK and the funeral also usually needs to be held in the UK.  To be eligible, you must be in receipt of one of the following benefits or tax credits:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Pension Credit
  • Housing Benefit
  • Council Tax Benefit (or if the council tax payer where you live receives a second adult rebate because you are on a low income)
  • Working Tax Credit which includes a disability or severe disability element
  • Child Tax Credit at a higher rate than the family element

Bereavement Payment
A Bereavement Payment is a one-off, tax-free lump sum payment of £2000 made to a person when their spouse or civil partner dies if they paid enough National Insurance contributions, or if their death was caused by their job and you were either under state pension age at the time of their death, or if you were over the state pension age and they were not entitled to a Category A state pension when they died.  You are not entitled to this payment if you were divorced from them, or if your civil partnership had been legally ended, or if you were living with someone else as if they were your spouse or civil partner, or if you were in prison at the time of death.  If you are in receipt of State Retirement Pension when they die, you do not need to make a claim for a Bereavement Payment, it should automatically be paid to you when you inform the Department of Work and Pensions of your partner’s death.

If nobody is willing or able to pay for the funeral
The local health authority may arrange the funeral and pay for it if the person dies in hospital and their relatives cannot be traced or cannot afford to pay for the funeral.  If the person does not die in a hospital but the above applies, the local council has a duty to bury or cremate someone if no other arrangements have been made.

Please read our article for more information about what to do following a bereavement, visit our website or call us on 020 8642 8211.

Ways to personalise a funeral service

A funeral service can play a substantial part in bringing closure to friends and family of a loved one, especially if they feel that a service has truly celebrated their life in the way their loved one would have wanted.

As we explored in our guide to the latest funeral trends many of the more traditional aspects of a funeral, such as wearing black and singing hymns, are beginning to change as more and more people choose their own ways to personalise their funerals.  This is not to say that there is anything wrong with a ‘traditional’ funeral but just that trends have changed in recent years.

Personal touches
Image10Funeral attendees have traditionally worn black to funerals, and although it is still the most common colour to wear to a funeral, funeral goers are increasingly being asked to wear brighter colours.  Ultimately you need to think about what your loved one would have liked and what you think is appropriate.

Coffins and methods of transport used can come in a wide variety of shapes, colours and sizes.  Coffins can be personalised with special motifs, made of environmentally friendly materials or in a loved one’s favourite colour.  A motor hearse is the most common type of transport used to take a loved one on their final journey, however, horse-drawn carriages, lorries, dormobiles and even motorbikes with purpose built side cars can be used to reflect the character and interests of the deceased.

Floral decorations can bring colour to a funeral and many families will choose imaginative displays such as flowers spelling the name of their loved one or shaped like a car or a football badge.  It is common for attendees to bring floral tributes but alternatively you could ask for a donation to a specific charity.

If your loved one was a music lover then choosing a song that meant something to them can be a nice tribute, or you could request their favourite hymn or a poem.  You might want to share a story about your loved one, talk about their character and invite others to do the same or alternatively ask a minister to deliver a reading.

Traditional burials would see mourners throw flowers or soil into the grave; however, you may wish to do something which is different but still symbolic, for example, releasing doves to represent peace and new life.

Whether through unique transportation choices and elaborate coffins or more delicate touches like poems or special flower arrangements – every human is different and there are many different ways in which a life can be remembered and celebrated.  Discuss with your funeral director what you would like to do to find out what options might be available and remember that you do not have to stick to a standard template.

The rise of the environmentally friendly funeral

iStock_000009364008XSmall.jpgUntil recently, there were only two real options when it came to funerals – burial or cremation. Until 1968, burials were the more popular of these two options, as explained in our recent article looking at the history of cremation in the UK. Since 1968 however, cremation has grown in popularity, something we considered in our post on why more people are choosing cremations, so that now around three out of four funerals are cremations. However, are we now starting to see people move away from cremations in favour of something different?

In recent years, as environmental awareness has grown, so too has the desire amongst some people for an environmentally friendly funeral. Research from the Post Office carried out in 2007 showed that nearly 35 per cent of people were planning on having an eco-friendly burial rather than a traditional burial or cremation.

What is an environmentally friendly funeral?
There is no one definition of an environmentally friendly funeral, as there are lots of ways to make a funeral more environmentally friendly. You can choose to have a biodegradable cardboard coffin or an environmentally friendly woven coffin, such as ones made from cane, seagrass, cocostick, banana leaves, loom, bamboo, water hyacinth, or wool, but still hold the funeral in a church and be buried afterwards. You can ask mourners not to send cut flowers and send a donation to a charity instead, or, better yet, ask them to plant a tree in memory of your loved one.

Natural burial
What people generally mean though when they talk about an environmentally friendly funeral is a natural burial. Natural burials tend to take place in fields or secluded woodlands which have been specially designated for the purpose, with people being buried in unmarked graves, with perhaps a tree denoting where they are laid to rest, if anything at all. There are now some 200+ natural burial grounds in the UK, mainly woodlands and meadows. Several are situated within reasonably easy travelling distance of WA Truelove & Son Ltd.

How bad are cremations for the environment?
As people realise how bad cremations are for the environment, they are looking for alternatives. The average cremator runs for 75 minutes at temperatures of up to 1,150°c and, according to the Natural Death Centre, one cremation uses as much energy as a 500 mile car trip. Increasingly, many people do not want their “final journey” to do as much damage to the environment as a car journey from Plymouth to Edinburgh.

Part of a trend?
Our guide to the latest funeral trends looks at how funerals have changed in recent years and notes in particular that funerals have become less religious, focusing on celebration rather than mourning, and more personalised to the individual who has passed away. A natural burial could be viewed as being part of that trend, as a funeral amongst nature could be viewed by many as more uplifting than a funeral in a church, as could visiting a grave in a woodland rather than in a cemetery. A natural burial overall can be without religious association and is far more relaxed and informal occasion than a cremation or normal burial.

For more information about funeral options available, please visit our website or click here to read our guide to the latest funeral trends.

Why are more people choosing cremations?

Image4Why are so many more people choosing to be cremated rather than buried in the UK? Between 70 and 75% (and over 80% in Greater London) now choose cremation over a burial, although as we explained in our recent article looking at the history of cremation, it has not always been the case.

Cost and space were key reasons why people campaigned for cremation to be allowed 140 years ago. Since then, the population of England has increased dramatically from 30.5 million in 1901 to over 53 million by 2011, and a problem that existed 140 years ago has only increased. Land in graveyards and burial grounds around the UK is scarce, and even though many churches have bought neighbouring plots of land to extend their existing burial grounds, these “overflow” graveyards are also fast becoming full. This has led to the cost of a burial plot rising dramatically, making cremation a much cheaper option.

Another issue is our increasingly mobile population. People frequently move around the country because of work, family and a whole host of other reasons. It is becoming less common for people to stay all their lives in the town or village where they and their family grew up and therefore less common for them to be buried in a local family graveyard. Previously, if family members were buried in the local churchyard, it was easy for relatives to visit their grave regularly to pay their respects, talk to their loved ones, maintain it and add flowers. Now, they might only be able to visit the grave of their loved ones once a year, perhaps at Christmas. This can be very upsetting for many people who want to feel that their loved one is near them or around them and that they can talk to them. Having your loved one cremated gives you more flexibility than having them laid to rest in one place – you can keep their ashes in an urn or container, or you can scatter their ashes. To many people, scattering ashes can make them feel like their loved one is around them all the time and can therefore make their passing feel less final.

Personalisation and religion are also factors. There has been a decrease in recent years in the number of people that associate themselves with a religion. Burying a loved one in the local churchyard can hold little meaning if that person was not religious, whereas a ceremony in a crematorium does not have to have any religious association. However, everyone will have a place somewhere that means something to them – a favourite holiday destination, the place they grew up, became engaged, married, or just a favourite view point or walk. Scattering ashes in this place can have far more meaning to some people than burying a body in a churchyard.

Coupled with the decline in religious association has been a trend in recent years for a funeral to be more of a celebration of a person’s life than a chance to mourn their passing. Graveyards can be quite depressing places, whereas, if ashes are scattered in a place that had a special meaning to someone, visiting that spot can be a far happier, although still poignant, experience that allows mourners to reflect on their life rather than their death.

To read more about what people are choosing to do for funerals, please have a read of our helpful guide to funeral trends.

The history of cremations in the UK

Cremation is now the most popular type of funeral in the UK. By 2007, 72% of funerals in the UK were cremations. However, this has not always been the case.

Although humans have practised cremation for millennia, the advent of Christianity and the influence of the church in Britain stopped it happening here for hundreds of years. This was because the church rejected it, believing it to be pagan and a practice which would make the resurrection of the body impossible.

Read the rest of this entry »

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