Funeral Planning

Is a funeral policy legally binding?

Having a funeral plan can seem a little morbid, but it can make good financial sense and ensure you get the send-off you want. Paying for your funeral in advance can be worthwhile in money terms, but are funeral plans legally binding?

 - 6 Min Read
Last updated and fact checked:
Is a funeral policy legally binding?
  • You should think about your funeral plans to ensure you get the send-off you want
  • Wishes relating to your funeral in your will aren’t legally binding
  • Prepaid funeral plans mean you pay the cost upfront and get a say in the kind of funeral you’ll have
  • The FCA regulates the prepaid funeral industry, giving you more protection

Funeral policies - FAQs

  • Are prepaid funeral plans protected?

    The Financial Conduct Authority currently regulates prepaid funeral plans. Your funeral plans have FSCS protection, ensuring your funeral plans will go ahead even if your provider goes bust. You can also receive refunds and make complaints to the Financial Ombudsman.

  • Are my will’s funeral wishes legally binding?

    Wishes in your will relating to funeral or burial arrangements aren’t currently legally binding. You can outline your wishes to help your loved ones plan your funeral. However, your wishes aren’t legally binding, and you may wish to look into prepaid funeral plans for more guarantees.

  • Can a funeral plan be cancelled?

    You can cancel your funeral plan within 30 days and receive a full refund. You will be charged a reasonable cancellation fee if you decide to cancel outside this time. You can often make changes to your funeral plan arrangement, but these may incur an additional cost.

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Paying money upfront for something you're guaranteed never to see can be nerve-wracking. But, of course, you want to make sure you know what you’ll get after popping off to your final sleep. So we’re going to cover the following:

  • How to ensure you get the funeral you want.
  • Your rights to cancel your prepaid funeral plan.
  • What happens when your funeral plan provider goes bust.
  • The process when your funeral plan can't be carried out.

How do I make sure my funeral wishes are followed?

The first thing that springs to mind to get the funeral you want is to put it in your will. Unfortunately, putting something like your favourite song in your will doesn’t guarantee it’ll get played. Funeral requests in a will aren’t legally binding.

Another issue with using your will for your funeral arrangements is timing. Your funeral will often happen within a few weeks of your death, but it can take far longer for your will to get read.

You can talk with the solicitor who’ll execute your will and draw up a “List of Wishes." Of course, it'll cost money and still won't be a cast-iron guarantee, but at least you've clarified what you want.

With a prepaid funeral plan, you’ll sit down with a funeral director and lay out what you want. The type of plan you pick will cover things like:

  • The quality of your coffin
  • How many limousines will be used
  • Access to the chapel of rest

Plus, you can get other details noted down, like the charity you want to benefit from donations in lieu of flowers. Your family and friends can change these details. For example, they might choose to upgrade your coffin.

The best action is to talk with the people you expect to be left behind. Chat with people about what you want at your funeral – if you want people in bright colours and a boozy wake, make sure people know about it.

Can I cancel my prepaid funeral plan?

The Financial Conduct Authority regulates prepaid funeral plans. The regulation brings better consumer protection and includes rules such as:

  • A ban on cold calling
  • A ban on commission payments to intermediaries
  • A guarantee for the service provider to deliver a funeral unless you die within two years of taking out the prepaid plan
  • An option to refer complaints about a firm to the Financial Ombudsman Service

You will also receive a full refund if you cancel your plan within 30 days of purchase. You can still cancel your plan after these 30 days, but you’ll need to pay a reasonable charge. The fee is generally around £250 with the popular funeral plan providers.

Is my funeral plan protected if the company goes bust?

If your prepaid funeral plan is with a company registered with the FCA, you will benefit from the Financial Service Compensation Scheme (FSCS). It gives you greater protection and helps you transfer your funeral plan to another service provider or receive a refund. 

Stay protected by only buying a funeral plan with an FCA-authorised provider.

What happens when my funeral wishes can’t be fulfilled?

Circumstances change, and getting the funeral you want can't always happen. For example, it's possible the graveyard where you wish to be buried doesn't have any plots left, or your ashes can't be scattered where you want them to be.

In this case, you need to trust that those you care about can make the right decision. There’s only so much planning that you can do. When you think about it, your funeral is about those you’ve left behind and what you wanted, so letting people make decisions after you’re gone shouldn’t be harmful.

Richard Martin from Scattering Ashes told Pension Times: "We get so many people come to Scattering Ashes upset that they can't fulfill wishes being scattered at the top of Ben Nevis. Wishes can't always be achieved so let your loved ones know if it can't be done you trust them to do the best thing possible."

By law, the final say in any funeral lands with the executor of the will or the administrator of the estate if you’ve not got a will. Concerned about family arguments over your funeral? Be sure to have a will and name an executor you trust to carry out the instructions in your will.

If my plan can’t be carried out? Will there be a refund?

During the coronavirus pandemic, there have been strict regulations in place regarding funerals. We’ve seen caps on attendance, social distancing, and restricted access to chapels of rest.

In this instance, most companies dealing with prepaid funeral plans have been offering partial refunds. The refund will likely go directly to your estate and be managed according to your wishes.

A plan covered by the FCA will allow you to make a complaint to the Financial Ombudsman. The people dealing with your funeral after you’re dead will be able to complain if they think your funeral wasn’t up to par and seek a refund if necessary.

Choosing a funeral policy

Your funeral is your last chance to express yourself to the world. It's also a special time for those that loved you to bid you farewell. But, of course, you want to get the whole thing right, so you want to be sure that your wishes are respected.

Legally, funeral wishes in a will aren’t binding. A prepaid funeral plan gives you more protection. Of course, unforeseen things can happen. But if your service provider is FCA registered, you can bring a complaint against a funeral plan provider or intermediary. You can also cancel your prepaid funeral plan, and your provider needs to go through with the funeral even if you die before paying the final instalment. 

The best way to get the funeral you want is to tell your executor and other family members how you want your funeral to look. It's essential to have these conversations with your loved ones. Talking through your funeral wishes can also make this difficult time easier for them.

The content on is provided for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as professional financial advice. Should you need such advice, you should consult a financial adviser that is registered with the Financial Conduct Authority. Any references to products, offers, rates, and services from third parties or those advertised are served by those third parties and are subject to change. We may have financial relationships with some of the companies mentioned on this website. We strive to write accurate and genuine reviews and articles, and all views and opinions expressed are solely those of the authors. We are not regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority to provide advice, to act as an authorised introducer, or to otherwise sell any financial services or products. However, we endeavour to only link to and highlight brands that are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and/or the Prudential Regulation Authority, and where your money will be protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme should you choose to buy a product or service from that particular brand.
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