The COVID-19 / Coronavirus outbreak has been causing issues for funeral directors, crematoria, cemeteries and places of worship alike. How will it impact on funeral plans drawn down? Will you get everything you paid for, or a refund of any services not provided?
Clearly, services will generally not be able to take place, funeral directors may be unable to provide limousines even for outdoor services, so whilst the basics are taken care of, there will be expenditure provided for in the plan which will not be spent. So will the family get a refund? In many cases, it will be a matter of negotiating with both the undertaker and the funeral plan provider, which is not ideal, but as the NAFD suggests, the starting point is at the time the call is made to arrange the funeral, which would normally be direct to the funeral plan provider to avoid breaching their conditions.
Please bear in mind that NOT using the services offered by a prepaid funeral plan is not the question we asked. The response to that question will vary from a polite “tough, we’re keeping the money” to a refund less the cancellation charge. So please do check whether your relatives – younger and older have plans in place and who they are with.
Stephen Pett, chief researcher at the Prepaid Funeral Review said “Our research has to cover both the contract details and company standing, but also their moral compass in difficult circumstances. That makes the results of this survey really interesting, and we hope all prepaid funeral plan providers will respond.” Photo of Stephen Pett.
Graeme McCausland, Chief Executive of the Funeral Planning Authority and himself a qualified actuary said: “Under the FPA Rules and Code of Practice registered providers are required to treat their customers fairly. In the current challenging circumstances, we would expect providers to adhere to these principles and where services cannot be delivered, to provide for alternative services or an appropriate refund for the undeliverable part of the plan.” Photo of Graeme
We asked the funeral plan companies what would be the impact on services and what happens where services cannot be provided. Here are there responses, in the order they came in:
1) Dignity Response on Refund on Funeral Directors services not provided during Coronavirus Outbreak.
Bottom line from a Dignity point of view is that the customer will only be charged for the services that they use. We do not want to hold onto any money of the clients that we are not entitled too, For example, if no limousines are used, we will refund £150 per limousine. If no mourners are allowed at the crematoria, we will only charge for a direct cremation. All outstanding monies will be paid back to the family directly,
We, Dignity, are making a guarantee that they will not lose out due to CV19. End.
2) Golden Leaves Funeral Plans COVID-19 Policy
CHANGES TO MATURING FUNERAL PLAN SETTLEMENT PROCEDURE
ALLOCATED FUNERAL PLANS
- In the current COVID-19 environment, we are conscious that some ALLOCATED funeral plans may mature, where some specific services that were included in the plan at outset, may not be able to be provided at the moment.
- In line with our terms and conditions of sale, in such circumstances, we are obliged to offer alternative services or products to as near as equivalent a value as possible to our client. Golden Leaves will redeem all allocated plans to the complete and agreed full usual redemption value in line with full invoice from the Funeral Director.
- For example, where a Limousine is included but cannot be provided, the Funeral Business will be required to offer additional flowers or a coffin upgrade to our client to the value of £200 instead.(if the plan included two limousines for example – £400 of alternative products or services would be required to be offered)
- We will pay the full settlement value and the mutual agreement surrounding the replacing of alternative services of equivalent value will be mutually agreed between the funeral business and our client directly at the time of the funeral arrangement.
- This will be the case for all instances, as Golden Leaves plans cannot be deconstructed – neither can they be downgraded and re-issued after death as this would not constitute a legal contract under the FSMA’s RAO parliament act of 2001.
- The only exception to this would be if our client wished to no longer have a traditional funeral but rather a direct cremation disposal service. In such circumstances, the funeral plan would be cancelled and the remaining funds refunded after the cancellation fee had been deducted.
MATURING FUNERAL PLANS SOLD BY FUNERAL DIRECTOR PARTNERS
- The process will largely follow the above, other than if the plan is an expansive one and includes many additional items, in such circumstances the Funeral director can offer a range of additional value services in replacement alongside an element of monetary refund to their own client.
- Golden Leaves will still mature the plan to the originally agreed full value to the funeral business in line with a full and matching invoice.
The above approach will remain in place unless any guidance to the contrary is issued by the Funeral Planning Authority on the matter.
End of Golden Leaves Statement
We have had this situation recently due to the current coronavirus outbreak.
For instance, we have given a refund for limousines and we discuss with the next of kin and funeral director. In another case, the family were happy for flowers to be paid for instead of supplying a limousine. We will sort out on a case to case basis which we feel is a better way. End.
4) Choice Funeral Plans/ Funeral Partners Ltd
We had an informal chat with them and though the services and costs vary by branch, they would certainly toe the official FPA line and treat customers fairly. End.
5) National Association of Funeral Directors
We are advising the public to talk directly to their funeral plan providers, to understand how the current restrictions might affect the delivery of funeral plans. End.
I had an interesting chat with them. They are happy to work with clients and downgrade to a direct cremation with a refund or have the service a few months or weeks down the road. They also pointed out that in some cases undertakers are able to accommodate small numbers of people at a burial or cremation – provided the mourners can actually get there without being arrested of course! End.
The Coops policy seems to be very much “we will do what we can” – it is so long-winded we just didn’t have the time to go through it all, but if you would like to, here is the link to the Coop Funeral Care Covid-19 policy.
Replies are still awaited from, in no particular order:
Safe Hands Plans
Funeral Planning Trust
Empathy (who had an incorrect email on their website!)