A number of problems can arise in relation to funeral arrangements even where the deceased thinks they have left clear guidance for those left behind:
It will be the responsibility of your ‘personal representatives’ (your executors if you have left a Will or your next of kin if you have not) to arrange and pay for your funeral. However, the funeral usually has to take place within a short time of a death and your personal representatives may not be aware of your wishes even if they are set out in your Will, since often they do not see the Will until after the funeral has taken place.
Funeral wishes set out in a Will are in any event not binding on your personal representatives and they will be able to arrange your funeral (or even decide to have none) entirely as they choose, regardless of what might be set out in your Will.
You may have set aside a particular amount to pay for your funeral but your personal representatives may not be able to access it without obtaining a Grant of Probate (see below). Nor will they be obliged to use the money for your funeral – and the money you have put by may be too little or alternatively too much for the actual cost of the funeral your personal representatives arrange for you.
The costs of your funeral are payable from your estate. However, when you die your assets will be frozen until a ‘Grant of Representation’ (usually referred to as a Grant of Probate) is obtained – and that takes some time, since a good deal of information has to be gathered from third parties before an application for a Grant can be made. Even so the funeral directors will quite justifiably expect to be paid promptly for their services, which can cause embarrassment for your personal representatives.
The most obvious advantage is that you can choose the funeral you want and know that you are going to get it. You can plan in as much or as little detail as you wish, making arrangements to suit your pocket, your particular religious (or lack of religious) views, your preference for burial or cremation, where you would like your mortal remains interred or scattered and whether or not you wish to have any form of headstone or plaque erected in your memory. You may select a particular funeral director to handle the funeral arrangements and can even decide upon the type of coffin you would like and the format of the funeral or memorial service. You will ensure that your wishes are carried out and also save your personal representatives the work and worry of making appropriate arrangements for you.
There is another key advantage to these schemes. History shows that funeral costs have risen steadily over the years. A guaranteed prepaid funeral plan does what it says. The cost of the funeral is pegged and paid for (either in one payment or in instalments) in full before you die. There will be no ‘hidden extras’ for your personal representatives to pay and they will not suffer the anxiety of funeral directors pressing for payment before a Grant is obtained and assets of the estate realised.