Having read an article recently ‘Prepaid Funeral plans; what you need to know before you buy’ I felt compelled to put pen to paper (or whatever the equivalent is these days in our new super high tech world) and clarify a few point; in particular the best way to compare funeral plans.
The truth about funeral plans
In general the article that focus’ on the security and value of prepaid funeral plans is thankfully extremely balanced; a breath of fresh air after recent scaremongering and attention seeking headlines. It clearly makes the point that a prepaid funeral plan can save families a lot of money and remove the worry of having to arrange a funeral.
All funeral plans guarantee to cover the funeral directors costs at today’s prices but it is the way they handle the third party funeral costs or disbursements as they are known which differs.
Third party costs for a cremation funeral currently consist of the cremation fees, minister’s fees and doctor's fees – although the law is set to change which means the latter costs will not be relevant.
These essential funeral costs which vary throughout the UK are beyond the control of the funeral director, which is why the majority of funeral plans only include a contribution towards them. Therefore if these third party costs increase above the rate of the contribution included, there could be more for the family to pay when the time comes.
This of course is the main reason why we recommend the Dignity funeral plan, as they are one of the few funeral plan providers that actually guarantee the cremation fees and minister's fees as well as the funeral directors costs.
Choose your funeral plan wisely
To be sure you choose the best funeral plan, it is important to take your time and read the small print. It is also equally important to know that the money you pay into the funeral plan is safeguarded and will be there to cover your funeral costs when the time comes. This is why we, like the article suggests only recommend you choose a company that is registered with and regulated by the Funeral Planning Authority (FPA).
To be registered with the FPA, funeral plan providers need to demonstrate that they comply with the Funeral Plan Authority’s strict rules and code of practise as to the service you receive and the way your money is held. They then need to prove this on an annual basis in order to be allowed to re-register.
Funeral plan companies that are not registered with the FPA have not had to demonstrate that they comply with these standards so beware!
The hidden truth about Comparison sites
So as you will see, so far I am in agreement with the article ‘Prepaid Funeral plans; what you need to know before you buy’. It’s factual, has input from the industry regulator the Funeral Planning Authority and it gives important tips on what to look out for when choosing the best funeral plan.
But then I come across the headline – ‘Avoid Comparison Websites’ which is the point I spit my dummy out!
The article gives a very dim view of funeral plan comparison websites, saying that customers think they are comparing all funeral plans but the reality is that the company behind the website is only offering one organisation’s funeral plan, even though they claim to work with several.
In truth it is not the fault of the article or the journalist that wrote it and I can’t blame the chap from the FPA for having a similar view. The fault lies firmly with the rogue websites that are misleading customers when it comes to comparing funeral plans; with agents ready to call, pressure you to buy there and then and tell you that the funeral plan will cover absolutely all costs – including a massive knees up in memory of Aunty Mabel!
Cards on the table time
I would just like to stick my two penneth in and say not ALL comparison websites are bad. Some companies like Over50choices are offering customers the chance to look at what is on offer and are very honest about what we can and can’t do and have been praised for doing so by organisations such as ‘Fairer Finance’, who recently carried out a full audit of the funeral plan industry and consumer watch dog ‘Which?’
We give our customers the chance to see how funeral plans compare but at the same time make it very clear that the plan we recommend is with Dignity. Basically we used to work with a range of plan providers, including companies like Golden Charter, Golden Leaves, Liberty and Perfect Choice however because we were recommending Dignity to most of our customer as they offer more guarantees and in our view a better value service, we decided to just recommend Dignity.
A word to the wise
At the end of the day the best way to compare funeral plans is to shop around and using a comparison site can be a good part of this process, if they offer a genuine service.
The important thing to check is what the funeral plan in question actually offers you; what funeral services are guaranteed and is the funeral plan provider registered with the Funeral Planning Authority.
And before you choose the best funeral plan, ask for a brochure. Rogue companies are loathed to send funeral plan brochures out and prefer to arrange the funeral plan there and then over the phone – telling you you have so many days to cancel the funeral plan once you have received your membership pack.
Buying a funeral plan is important so don’t be rushed. If they are not willing to send you a funeral plan brochure before you commit, move on as these are the rogue companies the article talks about.