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Last Updated: Monday, 3 October 2005, 11:54 GMT 12:54 UK
Arranging and paying for a funeral
A funeral
A lot of planning goes into a funeral
Arranging the funeral of a loved one can be traumatic enough without the costs associated with it.

BBC News examines what you have to do and how much it costs to arrange a funeral.

According to a survey by the Oddfellows friendly society, the average cost of a burial in 2000 was 2,048. Even a cremation leaves grieving relatives on average some 1,215 poorer.

There are big regional variations.

Burials in London are the most expensive, some 598 higher than the national average.

The cheapest place for a burial is South West England where a standard service cost 1,545 and the cheapest for cremations is the North of England at an average price of 959.

Get several quotes

There are many different types of funeral available and it is useful to remember that you don't have to have a formal ceremony or a religious minister, and it doesn't have to take place in a crematorium or place of worship.

Costs for the same services can vary considerably from one funeral director to another.

It is advisable to get more than one quote to compare costs and services. Funeral directors should provide detailed price lists for you to take away.

Charges will vary for a doctor's certificate, a minister, newspaper announcements, flowers or the crematorium that is used. Ask the funeral director for a written quotation detailing all of these fees.

Before you start to make arrangements check whether the deceased had taken out a pre-payment plan themselves.

This may state the funeral director you can use and what sort of service they wanted - although if you want additional extras you will probably have to pay the added cost yourself.

If there is no pre-payment plan find out if there are sufficient funds in the deceased's bank or building society account to pay the bill.

Most banks will release funds to pay for funeral expenses. There might also be an insurance policy designed to cover funeral costs.

Help with funeral costs

If you are finding it difficult to pay for a funeral that you have to arrange, you may be able to get a funeral payment from the government's Social Fund.

You or your partner must be receiving one of the following benefits: income support, income-based jobseeker's allowance, housing benefit, council tax benefit or tax credits.

Whether help is available will depend on the financial status of the responsible person arranging the funeral, it makes no difference if the deceased received any benefits.

Awards will not be considered if there is a close relative who could afford to pay for the funeral instead.

You can apply any time after the date the person died and up to three months after the date of the funeral - and the funeral must usually be in the United Kingdom.

Contact your local social security office for more information.

You can find out where your local office is from the Department for Work and Pensions or Jobcentre Plus websites.

Leaflet SB16 on the department website has more information about the Social Fund.

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