Hilary Peppiette: How to die without leaving financial chaos behind you

Using a funeral director can be optional. Picture: FlickrUsing a funeral director can be optional. Picture: Flickr
Using a funeral director can be optional. Picture: Flickr
DEATH can be expensive. There are many myths surrounding what must be done, as opposed to what social convention, or the funeral industry, dictates.

When someone dies, the only legal requirement is that the death is registered, usually within eight days. The rest is up to the individual, or their family. The common quip is “just put me in a cardboard box”, but that can be an expensive option. There are ways to cut the cost of your expiration, and knowing these could ease the financial burden for your loved ones.

Do I have to use a funeral director? No, you can actually make all the arrangements yourself. If you do use one, beware of add-ons. For example, ‘hygienic treatment’ means embalming - completely unnecessary in most cases, but often added on as a matter of routine, especially by the big firms. It’s best to shop around, get quotes, find someone who will create the funeral that you want/that best reflects the personality of the person who has died, rather than a formulaic, over-the-top production that you are guilt-tripped into agreeing to.

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Easing the burden on family. Leave written instructions/notes about what you would like to happen at your funeral. Be specific. Do you want to be buried wearing your engagement/wedding rings? Where do you want your ashes to be scattered and by whom? What music do you want? DIY service with family and friends speaking and holding the space?

Plan for the inevitable. Consider pre-planning and paying for your funeral, but again, shop around and make sure you get the funeral you want at the best price. The funeral bill can be paid for from the bank account of the person who has died if the death certificate and funeral invoice are taken to the bank. A cheque can be provided and made payable to the funeral provider

What about that cardboard coffin? It isn’t generally the cheapest –anything that is out of the ordinary, including cardboard, seagrass, wicker, felt and bamboo, is usually more expensive. The cheapest coffin is usually the standard light wood coloured one with brass-effect handles, because they are mass produced and extremely popular. Direct cremation is one of the cheapest and low key options, and if you really want to save, consider leaving your body for medical research – there are no funeral costs at all if your body is accepted.

• Hilary Peppiette is an associate at Allan McDougall Solicitors