Funerals are sensitive issues and frequently give rise to strong emotions. Yet funerals also vary widely in their nature, content and scope – they might be simple and basic or more elaborate, for example, they might have strong religious connotations – or none at all – or they might even do away with any semblance of ceremony and involve what is known as direct cremation.

Unless you have made your own funeral arrangements – via a prepaid funeral plan for example by expressing your views on these and other aspects of your final arrangements as well – some agonising and difficult decisions may need to be made by your family if they are left to interpret what are likely to have been your own highly personal wishes.

Prepaid funeral plans allow you to pay upfront for your funeral, potentially saving your family financial distress at an already difficult time.

Here we answer some questions around prepaid funeral plans.

Why buy a prepaid funeral plan?

There may be compelling reasons for planning the funeral you want, but why pay for it in advance?

The answer comes down to a simple one of costs. According to research done by insurers Sun Life, and published on the 28th of September 2018, the average cost of a funeral in the UK today is £4,271.

A report by the BBC on the 1st of June 2018, suggests that this average cost has risen by around £500 in the past year alone – prompting concern and a call for review by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

Prepaid funeral plans allow you to pay at today’s prices and, therefore, help to avoid the almost certain continuing increases in future.

How do I choose a prepaid funeral plan?

Since you want your plans to be carried out as faithfully as possible and since you are paying for the arrangements in advance, you need to know exactly what is covered by any prepaid funeral plan you purchase.

Typically, a prepaid funeral plan not only covers but guarantees the costs associated with a funeral director’s services. Those services may also vary quite widely, but an indication of the components of a more basic funeral are highlighted by Citizens Advice – namely, collection and care for the body of the deceased, provision of a coffin, transport of the remains to a crematorium or burial ground, and the provision of pall bearers.

Some prepaid funeral plan providers, however, also guarantee the costs of any minister’s or cremation fees, or a fixed contribution towards the costs of burial.

Is the money I pay in advance securely protected?

Any prepaid funeral plan provider who is registered with the Funeral Planning Authority (FPA) is obliged to ensure that the money you pay in advance is securely protected.

This is done by placing the funds in a separate, independent trust fund or by using them to buy a whole of life insurance policy in your name. The money you have paid is therefore guaranteed to be available at the time of your death – and the provider has made a separate contract with the funeral directors to deliver the requested services at today’s prices.