How could existing prepaid funeral plans be better?
Short answer: by giving priority to the needs of consumers. Here are seven things we don’t like about them:
Most prepaid funeral plans are designed by funeral directors for funeral directors. The funeral plan is a commercial weapon in an increasingly ugly turf war which enables funeral directors to capture tomorrow’s market share today. One of the biggest funeral planning companies even describes its business as “owned and run entirely for the benefit of independent funeral directors”.
The personal representative or family of the person who has died is too often deprived of the ability to shop around for a funeral director. Many funeral plan companies acts as brokers and subcontract the job of carrying out the funeral arrangements to one of their approved funeral directors. In addition that funeral director may then be put in the position of having to provide the funeral for several hundred pounds less than the face value of the funeral plan. So: everyone loses – except the funeral plan company. We believe that a funeral director should be chosen on merit by the customer at the point of need. Above all, we believe that face-to-face accountability between buyer and seller provides the only reliable consumer protection. For the record, Open Prepaid Funerals are still probably the best performing plans when it matters most, at the time of need.
The formulaic package funerals offered by many funeral plan companies are limited in range. In an age of creative, highly personal funerals, an off-the-peg funeral is not for everybody.
Not all prepaid funeral plans presently on the market are transferable. If, for example, a family member dies unexpectedly before the plan-holder, he or she may not be able to donate their plan to pay for their relative’s funeral. (Some will allow a plan transfer before or after death.)
Funeral plan companies typically promise that your funeral will be carried out according to your wishes. What they don’t tell you is that your funeral wishes will not be legally binding on those who will be responsible for making your funeral arrangements. You have no guarantee that your instructions will be carried out. So, whilst it is a good thing to think about how you’d like your funeral to be, and though most personal representatives or families will want to honour your wishes, we believe that you also need to negotiate your funeral details with your personal representative or close family and secure their willing collaboration before you die.
Far too much of the money you hand over for safekeeping, many hundreds of pounds, is spent on commissions, incentives, rewards and salaries to salespeople, funeral directors and others in ways that are not made apparent. We believe that a good funeral plan provider has a right to a decent living, but we also think that you have the right to know exactly where your money goes. Not all plan providers are open about this.
Our opinion, widely shared, is that the level of deductions made by some funeral planning companies is too high and unsustainable and poses the substantial risk that they will not, at some time in the future, be able to meet their obligations. This has become an alarmingly overheated market.
The Good Funeral Guide Prepaid Funeral Plan addresses every single one of the issues outlined above.