Death can be expensive, and not everyone or every family has the money set aside to spend on these expenses. If a loved one passes away and their family can’t afford a funeral, what happens?

The family is not left alone to struggle in this situation. There are multiple routes through which the government or other organisations can offer assistance to help the family get through the difficult time of loss.

You may have heard of a ‘pauper’s funeral’, which is usually a respectful arrangement for a person who dies destitute and without anyone to pay for their funeral. There isn’t technically such thing as a pauper’s funeral in the UK. There are, however, alternatives.

Have you ever wondered what happens if a deceased person’s family can’t afford a funeral? Or what happens if there is no Next of Kin?  

We have put together this guide to help UK citizens understand how a funeral can be paid when someone dies with no money or assets and whose relatives and friends are unable to pay the costs of cremation or burial. 

This article will explain the following:

  1. How much does a funeral cost?
  2. What happens if the family can’t afford a funeral?
  3. What if someone dies with no Next of Kin?
  4. Direct cremation: an affordable funeral option
  5. Prepaid funerals can save families from hardship

How much does a funeral cost?

First of all, it’s important to understand that funerals can be expensive, especially when traditional funeral options are selected. And not everyone can spare the money needed for costly services, for themselves or that of a loved one. 

There has been a gradual increase in the number of people in the UK who cannot afford funeral costs. A 2013 study suggested that as many as 1 in 5 Britons struggle to pay for funerals. This number is not expected to decrease any time soon. 

The price of an average UK funeral is estimated to be £4,383 and £3,290 for a cremation, and that price is showing little sign of decline.

What happens if your family can’t afford a funeral? 

If the family of a deceased person is unable to afford a funeral, then there are options in place. You can find the support you need and ensure that every person receives a respectable send-off regardless of their financial status. 

If a deceased person’s estate can’t cover their funeral costs and the family are unable to contribute, then a public health funeral will be paid for by the local authorities.

The exact details of how the funeral is funded will depend on the specific situation. 

A few of the most common options include:

  1. What happens if a person dies in a hospital?

If somebody dies in hospital and they, or their next of kin, are unable to afford a funeral, then their expenses will be taken care of. The NHS Trust will request that a simple funeral be conducted by the contracted firm, which the hospital chaplain will officiate for free. 

These funerals are typically no-frill services that include moving the body, the cremation, or burial in an unmarked grave. They do not offer obituaries, flowers, viewings, or other extras. A hospital will offer this service only if there is no next of kin (or none who can be contacted) and only when there is no one able and willing to make the necessary arrangements. 

Bereavement officers and chaplains labour tirelessly to care for the bereaved, particularly those in financial trouble. 

  1. What happens if a person dies outside of a hospital?

If the death happened outside of a hospital, the local government will cover the cost of a basic funeral planned by the hired firm. This is known as a public health funeral and is arranged via your local council when there isn’t enough money in the estate or any friends or family available to arrange the funeral.

A public health funeral is usually a cremation, provided that the deceased, their family, or the coroner do not object to the cremation. The deceased will be given a simple cremation or be buried in an unmarked grave. The time and date of the funeral are decided by the council. Extras such as cars, flowers, or notices in the local paper are not included.

  1. What happens if a person dies while receiving government benefits?

Funeral Expenses Payment is a government programme that assists low-income people who are receiving specific benefits in paying for a funeral. If you receive one of these payments, you will almost always be required to repay the government from any money you receive from the deceased person's estate, such as savings.

If you are on qualifying benefits, you can apply for a Social Fund award from the Department of Work and Pensions to help cover the costs of a funeral. The maximum award is £700, plus the cost of the cremation and doctors' expenses, or £700, plus the cost of a grave. 

You have the freedom to choose any funeral director you like, but most insurance policies don't cover the entire funeral costs, so you could end up paying up to a third of the cost of a basic funeral.

  1. What happens if a veteran passes away?

You can claim aid with funeral costs through Veterans UK if the deceased was claiming a war pension and their death was caused or hastened by an injury sustained while serving. Within three months of the funeral, you must file a claim.

  1. What if someone dies with no Next of Kin? 

When someone dies alone in the UK, the authorities will make every effort to track down and notify their relatives or friends who may not have been aware of the person’s death. The deceased’s family or friends may not have been aware of their passing and may wish to arrange and pay for the funeral.

Sometimes when the Next of Kin is located, the relative may have been estranged and may not wish to take responsibility for arranging the person’s funeral. In those circumstances, or when the relatives cannot meet the funeral costs, a government contractor will make the funeral arrangements.

If a person dies without a will (also known as dying intestate) and has no traceable next of kin, close relative, or friend, their unclaimed estate is given to the government, and a public health funeral is arranged by the local council where the individual died. 

Direct cremation: an affordable funeral option

For families seeking a low-cost funeral option, a ‘direct cremation‘, or ‘no service cremation‘ is the most affordable funeral option.

A direct cremation or ‘no service no attendance’ is a service to simply and affordably carry out the cremation of a loved one without a funeral home or ceremony, with the ashes returned to the family or next of kin. Then, when the time is right, a personalised memorial can be arranged in line with their budget – if they choose to.

Rather than a government-contracted destitute funeral, a direct cremation allows the deceased’s family or friends to make arrangements and say goodbye on their terms and in their own time. By taking care of the cremation first, families have time and headspace to plan a memorialisation that's right for them. A direct cremation won’t break the bank and it also gives Brits the choice to plan a tailored end-of-life service themselves, to ensure the memorial is reflective of the deceased’s life.

You can learn more and get a quote at or call 0808 258 3583. 

Prepaid funerals can save families from hardship

As new service options become available, many UK citizens are taking matters into their own hands and prepaying their own funeral to ensure they get the send-off they actually want. These can be arranged with many funeral providers months or even years in advance.  

By prepaying your funeral, you can determine your wishes in advance and cover the costs ahead of time, to take the burden off families later on. Bare customers have – and they’re using the savings to enjoy life while they can!

The other advantage of prepaying is that you lock in today’s price and ensure that, whether it’s needed in 5, 10 or 50 years, your family has nothing left to pay. 

Remember, it’s important to not feel pressured into paying for an expensive funeral service that you cannot afford. Bare Cremation was set up to make basic funeral arrangements affordable for families. We do not believe this is a time you should be adding greater financial stress to your life. 

For emotional support after the loss of a loved one, you can check out the NHS website, call the Cruse helpline on 0808 808 1677, or consult your GP. 

To learn more about a low-cost funeral with Bare, visit our website to get a quote, or call us on  0808 258 3583.