In recent times it has been widely reported in the media that funeral costs are rising at an alarming rate, becoming completely unaffordable for the large majority of Britons. In a bid to get around these extortionate prices, many believe they will be able to have a ‘pauper’s funeral’ (also known as ‘public health’ funeral), and so don’t plan for funeral expenses.
Worryingly, many of these people are unaware about the strict requirements that need to be met in order to qualify for a pauper’s funeral, nor just how basic the burial is.
Pauper’s funerals really are no-frills services and do not include flowers, viewings, obituaries or transport for family members. The body is often transported in a van to the burial site,and you can’t choose the date, time, or the funeral director that will conduct the funeral. Shockingly, the burials can take place in an unmarked grave that is shared with other people- complete strangers.
If the body is cremated, the ashes are usually scattered in the crematorium’s garden, or may be buried in an unmarked plot. Only certain councils will allow friends or family to claim the remains, and it is up to them to cover any costs involved (sending cremated remains to a UK address costs £125 on average).
Appallingly, a recent undercover investigation by The Sunday Times revealed that councils are banning families from relative’s funerals as a cost-cutting measure. In several circumstances, officials had actually refused to provide details of when a family member’s funeral was taking place, thus meaning loved ones couldn’t attend and say their final goodbye. In other instances, families were told that if they wanted to be present at the funeral then the only option was to pay for a private ceremony.
A pauper’s funeral will only be given when no next of kin can be found, or if they are unable to pay for the funeral. In this circumstance, next of kin will have to make a written statement to confirm that they are not prepared to arrange or pay for the funeral.
If you leave behind any estate whatsoever, the funeral costs will be taken from that. It’s also worth nothing that pauper’s funerals are regarded as a ‘civil debt’ and the local council have up to three years to reclaim some, or all, of the funeral costs from the estate of the deceased.
(The ‘estate’ refers to any money, savings or property that a deceased person has left behind).
Already cash-strapped councils in the UK spend £4m a year on pauper’s funerals when family members refuse to do so, money that could be spent on improving transport, environmental health and local emergency services.
Researchers have reported that a growing number of people have claimed they ‘do not have the finances’ to fund a private funeral, then turned up to the council-arranged funeral with expensive bouquets of flowers and ‘other embellishments’.
In summary, a pauper’s funeral will be unsuitable for many, and should be talked through with your family before considering if its right for you. Does a pauper’s funeral sound right for you? Vote in our poll below & see what others are thinking.