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Who is responsible for making funeral arrangements?

When a person dies, the task of arranging their funeral can be completed by anyone, regardless of whether they are related, but who is responsible for making the arrangements?

In most cases the responsibility of arranging a funeral will fall to the next of kin. The next of kin is identified as the person who was the closest living relative to the deceased at the time of death, such as a spouse, child or grandchild.

If you’re not sure who is classed as the closest relative, there’s an ‘order of priority’ set out in the Non-Contentious Probate Rules, and the next of kin is whoever is at the top of the list.

Often, it's also the next of kin who covers the funeral costs, unless otherwise stated in the will of the person that’s died.

Who legally has to pay for a funeral?

Following a death, an important step is to identify if the person left a will naming an executor. The executor may also be the next of kin, or may be another member of their family, or even a friend or a professional. Usually, the executor is responsible for arranging the funeral, covering the costs of the funeral arrangements, and managing the estate after death.

With legal access to the estate of the person who has died, the executor may be able to fund the funeral costs through the savings or assets left behind. Alternatively, the person may have had a funeral plan or life insurance policy in place to cover the costs of the funeral.

In the case that there are no funds available to cover funeral costs, the local council will hold a public health funeral. These are short, dignified services arranged at a date and time set by the council. They are however usually a last resort – families may be entitled to governmental support or may be eligible for payment plans. Find out more about government help with funeral costs.

Is the next of kin responsible for funeral costs?

In the UK, the title of next of kin is often given to those closest to the deceased at the time of death - common next of kin include spouses, siblings, and children. Unless otherwise specified in the will of the deceased, the next of kin will generally arrange the funeral and be responsible for handling the funeral costs. Sometimes, families will agree amongst themselves how to plan and pay for a funeral together, with the next of kin handling communications with the funeral director and the logistics of making payment.

A next of kin is only legally responsible to cover or source funeral costs if they are named as the executor of the will, or if they enter into a signed contract with a funeral director to make funeral arrangements.

There are several ways to source funds or pay for a funeral. The deceased may have arranged a funeral plan or had a life insurance policy in place or may have left savings and assets for the executor to source funds from.

If you have any questions about paying for a funeral, speak with your local funeral director for support and advice.

For legal advice surrounding funerals and wills, visit our Legal support for Wills & Probate page or contact us directly.