The idea of taking out a Co-op funeral plan crosses the minds of many people. It offers an opportunity to reduce the financial burden on your family at a challenging time. While the more recognised names such as the Co-op offer various funeral plans, the industry has attracted some dubious participants. Most people will not even be aware that the pre-paid funeral industry has previously provided little in the way of consumer protection. However, things are changing!
Before we look at the Co-op’s funeral plans, let’s consider the changing regulatory environment.
FCA regulations on the way
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) will formally regulate the pre-paid funeral plan sector from 29th July 2022. This will mean a switch from the current regulator, the Funeral Planning Authority, with the aim of:
- Meeting consumer needs
- Offering fair value
Under the new regulations, the following parties will require authorisation through the FCA:
- Providers - parties that enter into and administer funeral plan contracts. This will include those operating before the FCA regulations come in.
- Intermediaries - those selling funeral plans to the public on behalf of providers. This includes funeral directors, will writers and other lead generators.
The "application gateway" opened on 1st September 2021, with all participants requiring authorisation before 29th July 2022. To focus the minds of funeral plan providers, application fees will increase by 40% from 1st November 2021.
Sector participants falling by the wayside
Those currently operating in the funeral plan industry but not planning to apply for authorisation from the FCA must advise the regulator accordingly. Providers looking to exit the sector are obliged to:
- Take steps to wind down their funeral plan selling operations
- Transfer existing plans to an authorised provider
At this moment in time, it is difficult to estimate how many parties will apply for authorisation, but some will fall by the wayside. The FCA is currently in consultation with the industry regarding a formal compensation scheme in the future. Such a scheme would only cover pre-paid funeral plans taken out with authorised providers and intermediaries.
What do Co-op funeral plans have to offer?
When looking at funeral plans, you must be aware of the details, specifically the covered fees and expenses. As of October 2021, the Co-op funeral plan service offers four different options:
- Gold plan
- Silver plan
- Bronze plan
- Simple plan
We will look at the individual plans in detail, but there are several issues covered, as standard, in every Co-op funeral plan.
Standard items included in every Co-op funeral plan
There are many issues to take into consideration when planning your funeral. As the costs continue to rise, it is crucial to be aware of the standard items included across all Co-op plans. These include:
- Choice between a burial and cremation
- Care and preparation of the person who has died
- Transfer of the body 24 hours a day, within a 50-mile radius
- Support from the Co-op Bereavement Notification Service team and other professional organisations
- Option to personalise your funeral plan with readings, hymns, songs, and other elements, which the Co-op will retain until your plan is redeemed
- Family support/assistance provided by a funeral director
- Access to a private remembrance room for loved ones
- Regular contact from the Co-op with the representative arranging the funeral
- Funeral plan monthly payments can be spread over 6 to 12 months or 2 to 25 years
- The cost of the plan can be paid in full on inception
- The plan must be paid in full before the individual’s 80th birthday
- Advice and guidance on additional products/services not covered under the funeral plan, such as flowers, newspaper notices, etc
As we will cover in a moment, the various plans provide different services and guarantees, but the above options and services create the core of the Co-op funeral plan offering.
What do the individual Co-op funeral plans offer?
As we touched on above, there are four specific Co-op funeral plans Gold, Silver, Bronze and the Simple plan. There are different additional considerations for each plan.
The Co-op Gold funeral plan costs £4295, which can be paid in full or in monthly instalments that will include interest charges. We will now take a look at the details of the Gold plan, which includes:
- Choice of two quality wood veneer coffins
- Mutual agreement on funeral details, time and date
- Flexibility on the cortege route
- Hearse and personnel required for the funeral
- Private remembrance room
- Previously defined third party fees guaranteed
- Two limousines on the day of the funeral
- Memorial canvas or a similar item up to the equivalent value
Under the Gold funeral plan, defined third party fees will be covered even if the prices rise in the future.
The basic cost of the Silver plan is £3995, which can be paid in full or in monthly instalments with interest applicable. The details of the plan are as follows:
- Choice of two wood effect coffins
- Ability to choose a specific cortege route
- Mutual agreement on the date and time of the funeral
- Prearranged appointments to visit a private remembrance room
- Co-op personnel available to carry the coffin
- One limousine on the day of the funeral
As with the Gold plan, under the Silver Co-op funeral plan, all pre-defined third-party fees are covered, even if there are any increases in the future.
The base cost of the Bronze funeral plan is £3595, which can again be paid in full or via monthly payments, including interest. The specific details of this plan are as follows:
- Wood effect coffin
- Cortege route will be direct to the crematorium/place of burial from the funeral directors
- Restricted dates and times for the funeral, typically Tuesday to Thursday before 10:30am or after 3pm
- Visits to the private remembrance room are restricted to regular working hours
- Co-op personnel available to carry the coffin
- Cremation fees guaranteed
- Maximum contribution of £1100 towards defined third party fees (increased in line with inflation)
As you can see, there is a cap on the maximum contribution towards defined third party fees. Therefore, those arranging the funeral will need to pay any additional third-party fees above and beyond this maximum contribution.
The base cost of the Simple plan is £3095, which can again be paid in full or monthly, incurring interest. This plan includes:
- A basic coffin
- A direct route to the crematorium/place of burial from the funeral home
- Choice of local crematorium (unless burial has been chosen) is down to the Co-op
- Restricted dates and times for the funeral, usually Tuesday to Thursday before 10:30am or after 3pm
- Visits to private remembrance room must be prearranged within regular working hours
- A maximum contribution of £950 towards defined third party fees (increased in line with inflation)
Even though the Simple plan offers significantly less than the Gold plan, we are still talking in the thousands of pounds. Consequently, it is crucial to be aware of what is being provided by your specific choice of plan. In addition, the reduction in guaranteed third-party fees could leave family and friends with significant additional payments.
Pricing and details of all plans are correct on 1st October 2021. Pension Times is not responsible for content on external websites.
When does funeral cover start?
If you pay your plan in full, then you will be covered from day one. However, if you spread the cost over 6 to 12 months or 2 to 5 years, there are issues to be aware of.
Death within 12 months of the start of your plan
If you die, of natural causes, within 12 months of the start of your plan, your representatives will have two options:
- Pay the balance of the plan to secure the funeral
- Cancel the plan with payments returned less a £250 cancellation fee
However, if your death is accidental, the Co-op will still provide funeral services, but no additional charge would be made.
Death after 12 months with balance payments remaining
If you are up-to-date with your payments and death by natural causes occurs after 12 months, the Co-op will still provide complete funeral services. So long as your payments are up-to-date, you will not be obliged to pay the outstanding balance on your plan. There is also the same commitment if you die from accidental causes, 12 months or more after taking out your plan.
Unfortunately, many people will experience financial difficulties which may impact their ability to cover monthly funeral plan payments. The Co-op is relatively flexible in regards to missed payments, and cancellation is not the preferred option:
Payment over 6 to 12 months
The plan may be cancelled if three monthly payments in a row have been missed. There would be a £250 cancellation fee with any additional payments returned to the individual.
Payment over 2 to 25 years
The plan can be cancelled if three monthly payments have been missed within five years. Upon cancellation, contributions are returned, less a cancellation fee of £250.
Covering missed payments
With the longer-term repayment plan, there is the option to cover missed payments in the event of death 12 months from the commencement of the plan. In this situation, the Co-op would not collect the balance due and funeral services would be supplied as agreed. Any missed payments must be received before the funeral.
Charges not covered by Co-op funeral plans
It is only when you begin to look at the various elements of a funeral that you realise the complexity. While Co-op funeral plans can offer great assistance towards the cost and organisation of a funeral, not all charges are covered. Therefore, you should be aware of any additional charges when discussing your plan and before signing up. This issue will be an integral part of future FCA regulations.
Some, but by no means all, of the charges not covered by funeral plans include:
- Additional local authority charges if the funeral is taking place at weekends, on public holidays or outside of regular working hours
- Removal of medical devices or prostheses before burial
- Transport over 50 miles when bringing the body into Co-op care
- Funeral processions above 15 miles
- Maintenance, removal and additional wording on an existing headstone
In some cases, where the capped charging element is not fully used for cremation expenses, the additional funding can be used for other official charges, like doctor’s fees. It is essential to check this before signing up for your funeral plan.
Tailored funeral plans
While the Co-op funeral service offers Gold, Silver, Bronze and Simple plans, there’s also the ability to create a tailored funeral plan. This will consider a range of different charges and services that may not be part of the standard offerings. It is also possible to incorporate a headstone payment plan into any tailored funeral arrangement. If you prefer to create a tailored plan, you will need to sit down with a Co-op representative to discuss your preferences and clarify any additional costs.
It’s dangerous to assume with any funeral plan
Whether looking for a standard Co-op funeral plan or a more tailored service, it is essential not to take anything for granted. Unfortunately, many people have assumed various costs have been covered in full only to be presented with additional charges at a tough time. Therefore, the introduction of regulatory protection, post-July 2022, has been welcomed by the industry and those looking to secure funeral plans.