10 August How to choose the best funeral plans August 10, 2018By Simon Franklin When considering how to choose the best funeral plans, one of the key things you need to be certain of is that your money is safe. So it is important to understand how your money is held, be it a trust fund or life insurance policy and essentially, that it is secure. The first step therefore to choosing the best funeral plan is to choose a plan provider that is registered and regulated by the Funeral Planning Authority, so you can be sure they have vetted the company thoroughly and given their seal of approval that your money is held securely. Once you know your money is safe, the second thing you need to be certain of is that the funeral plan you choose provides all of the services you require. Not all Funeral Plans offer the same levels of service, so the following information will help you understand these differences, so you can be confident in choosing the best funeral plan for you. The plan with the full guarantee When buying a funeral plan, the services included fall into two categories; those provided by the funeral director and the third party costs also known as disbursements. The funeral directors costs usually consist of their help and guidance with the documentation, services on the day, the hearse, coffin and depending on the level of service you choose, limousines for family and use of the chapel of rest. These fees are completely guaranteed on all plans so there shouldn’t be anything more to pay when the time comes. The third party costs or disbursements however are fees that are beyond the control of the funeral director, namely the cremation or burial fees, the minsters costs for conducting the service and the doctor’s fees for a second death certificate if applicable. Only two funeral plan providers, the Coop and Dignity provide plans that fully guarantee all of the services mentioned (apart from the doctors fees which due to a change in law, should not be applicable in the near future). All other plans are what they call Contribution Funeral Plans (see below for more detail). With a fully guaranteed funeral plan, you can be completely reassured that your family will have nothing more to pay for the services included, no matter when it is in the future. The plan that includes a contribution for third party costs As previously mentioned, this type of funeral plan, common amongst most providers such as Golden Charter, Golden Leaves, Avalon, Safe Hands and Perfect Choice to name but a few, guarantees to cover the funeral directors costs but only includes a contribution for the third party fees. This means your family could have more to pay when the time comes. The contribution which is usually between £940 to £1,200 and increases annually in line with either CPI, RPI or the trust fund is designed to help cover the disbursements, which for a cremation, currently cost around £1,000. When the time comes, if there are sufficient funds in the allowance, these costs would be covered with nothing more to pay. If however the third party fees are higher, the family would be left with a bill and asked to pay the shortfall. The simple plan with limitations Many plan providers like Dignity and the Co op have introduced limited or simple funeral plans that are slightly cheaper compared to the more conventional funeral plans but include restrictions. These restrictions will vary according to the plan provider but may include a more basic coffin, the time of the funeral service being restricted to either earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon when crematoriums are quieter or a limitation on the allocation of funeral directors. If you are happy with these limitations, then this type of simple funeral plan may appeal to you. The plan that just covers the funeral directors costs Another cheaper funeral plan option is one that just covers the funeral directors costs, with no provision for the third party fees; currently offered by companies such as Golden Charter, Golden Leaves and Safe Hands. Please be aware though that these essential third party fees will still need to be paid for at the time of need, so in this instance your family will be left with more to pay. The plan with a cremation and no funeral service This is a relatively new option, referred to as Direct Cremation or Direct Funeral and suitable for those wanting to save money on funeral costs or avoid the upset of a funeral. Direct Cremation quite simply is the cremation process but without a funeral service, so no family or friends in attendance. Once the cremation has taken place, the ashes can either be scattered on a garden of remembrance or returned to the family. Although a cremation without a funeral service is by no means mainstream, a growing number of people are turning to direct cremation as they prefer the freedom and flexibility it offers; giving families the opportunity to say goodbye their way in a more relaxed environment rather than at the crematorium. Direct Cremation funeral plans are now available from £1,500 to £1,900, so considerably cheaper than more traditional funeral plans however do compare closely, as with many of the plans your family could pay more for some services such as collection of the deceased out of core working hours or from home or a nursing home. The plan that can also be used in Europe People with second homes abroad or expats living in Spain, Cyprus, Portugal or the Canaries may want to consider European funeral plans if looking for help with funeral costs. Funeral Plan providers Avalon and Golden Leaves both have a presence in these countries and offer a range of funeral plans that provide dual certification, meaning the funeral can be arranged in any one of the countries mentioned, or back home in the UK. Finally So choosing the best funeral plans really depends on your personal requirements. Do you want to have complete reassurance that all of your funeral costs are covered? Do you just want to help out as much as your budget will allow? Do you even want a funeral service at all? A funeral plan and the reassurance it provides is an important part of future planning – just be sure you do your homework first and choose the best funeral plan for you.