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Funeral Plans : Think Ahead For That Special Send-Off

By Steve Rowlands - Tue 6th Apr 2010

A few years back Anita Roddick’s funeral embodied the same environmental concerns that she famously championed throughout her life. The Body Shop founder's coffin was made from biodegradable shrubs and was carried in a vintage Volkswagen camper van to the crematorium in Chichester, West Sussex, where special filters reduced mercury emissions.

Almost 3 years later, green funerals are becoming more and more popular but, even if you have something less exotic in mind for yourself, it is still worth planning ahead.

Planning ahead for your funeral means you can choose how the whole funeral will proceed - and prepare to pay for it. Even a modest funeral with a small reception afterwards can cost upwards of £3,500.

During 2009 around 600,000 funerals were held, with 70% of these being cremations, however just 31,360 were pre-planned and pre-paid. The remainder were likely to have been hastily put together by family and friends all hoping that they were fulfilling the last wishes of the deceased.

As well as coming to terms with the loss of a loved one, and the organising of the funeral, there is the issue of a considerable expense to meet. This can be taken care of by considering a funeral plan.

The National Association of Funeral Directors reports that funerals in the UK are cheaper than in mainland Europe and America but this is little comfort if you are discovering for the first time how much funerals cost at the same time as dealing with your grief.

The average funeral director's Costs in the UK are around £2,000 but this does not include third party disbursements, such as : cremation and burial costs, minister's and doctors' fees, nor does it include flowers, order of service, an announcement in a newspaper, any kind of wake or funeral wake, or anything "out of the ordinary" – a floral display of favorite flowers, or a horse drawn carriage instead of a hearse.

Each feature of a funeral comes with a cost and, although haggling over costs may make you feel uncomfortable, many suppliers are thought to take advantage of this, so it may pay to shop around.

Some of the associated costs are fixed, such as the issuance of a death certificate, currently £60, and then a further £18 for a medical referee.

Local Authorities set burial and crematoria fees and a few years ago the most expensive place to be cremated was reported as being York at £511, the cheapest being Guernsey, at £151. Burials are always more expensive - In boroughs where the burial grounds are already full you may have to move to a neighbouring borough and pay additional costs.

Woodland or green burial sites, along with eco-coffins made of bamboo, wicker or cardboard are becoming more popular because they are thought to be less environmentally damaging than cremations.

With this much choice it is all the more important to make your wishes known.

There may also be problems when it comes to actually paying for a funeral that has not been pre-planned. Some banks may agree to pay funeral director's fees directly from the deceased's bank account on production of a death certificate, however, this is at their discretion and they will not pay any additional costs or expenses that they consider to be ‘unreasonable’.

The easiest and most reliable way to alleviate the financial burden is to take out a pre-paid plan, first introduced into the UK in the mid 1980s and regulated by the Funeral Planning Authority. There are now almost 500,000 people with pre-paid schemes. You can pay a one-off lump sum, in two or three stage payments or by monthly installments.

Installments are likely to prove more expensive in the long run but the monthly fees are much more manageable - starting from as little as £28 over a 10 year period. An important advantage of this option is that, even if you die before the 10 years is up, almost all funeral companies will honour the original quote; so your family only needs pay the outstanding amount, rather than the current price of the same funeral.

The average age of someone taking out a funeral plan is 70 and most people only think about their funeral for the first time when they find themselves involved in organising a funeral for a friend or relative. A better time to make plans is when the event is not imminent. Letting your wishes be known and paying in advance may be the final act of kindness to those left behind.

Why not contact Golden Leaves via the link (above) to find out how we can find the plan that will meet with your final wishes.