A Nottinghamshire funeral directors is warning people to check the small print of their pre-payment funeral plans after a survey found that some people are dying without covering the cost of their send-offs.
Gillotts Funeral Directors, which operates four branches across the county and a further office in Derbyshire, says it has noticed an increase in families hoping to use pre-paid plans to fund funerals, only to find they have insufficient funds.
Sometimes it is because the cost of third party services such as cremation and burial fees have increased more than since the plan was paid for, but Gillotts also said that “hidden” fees levied for selling and administering some plans have left them short by hundreds of pounds.
It even came across one plan where £700 of the overall £3,500 cost had been removed from the plan as commission for the company which sold it, meaning that the plan was unable to cover the cost of a suitable funeral from the outset.
The warning comes following the results of a survey by the consumer group Fairer Finance, which says that thousands of people could be let down by poor funeral plans that they do not understand.
It has accused some companies within the funeral industry of using high-pressure sales tactics to take advantage of vulnerable people, who part with money without understanding the full picture of what they buying, and called on proper regulation of funeral plans.
Joanne Hutsby, a partner in Gillotts Funeral Directors, who is also president of the Nottingham and Derby Funeral Directors Association, the local branch of the National Association of Funeral Directors, said: “Pre-payment plans are increasingly common and are an excellent way of ensuring that your family does not have to pick up the bill for your funeral.
“Like most funeral directors, at Gillotts we sell pre-payment plans and we know how they can bring people peace of mind, not least because they give them an opportunity to plan exactly what they want for their own funeral. The only plan we sell is Perfect Choice, which was created over 20 years ago by the National Association of Funeral Directors to provide a product which was transparent and fair to both the client and the funeral director, and we refuse to sell any other funeral plan.
“Sadly, however, we come across many examples involving other plans where families have been sold something which did not provide what they wanted, maybe because they weren’t asked the right questions, had not been made aware of any limitations, or they simply did not read the small print.”
Examples include plans where the buyer has been invited to nominate their chosen funeral firm, only for their family to be told late that the company cannot, or will not, fulfil their wish. This may be because the plan is tied to a large national company, or because the nominated firm is unable to fulfil it because of the amount of money removed in commission and management charges.
This could mean that the only company willing to carry out their wishes is based in another town or city.
Joanne added: “Our pre-payment plans guarantee that the price of our services will be the same, no matter how far into the future the funeral takes place, but we always stress that we can’t make the same assurance about any service provided by a third-party supplier.
“We always make sure that all of our costs are transparent, so it’s crystal clear how much is being invested for the funeral. That can’t be said about a great many plans, unfortunately, and so if buyers are to avoid embarrassment, upset and anger on behalf of their families, they need to make sure they know exactly what they are investing in.
“We would certainly back Fairer Finance’s calls for proper regulation of plans. We have seen first-hand the distress that an unsuitable pre-payment plan can cause amongst relatives who thought everything was paid for, only to find they have to pay money themselves in order to give their loved one the funeral they deserve.”
Gillotts, which operates offices in Eastwood, Stapleford, Kimberley, Selston and Heanor, has seen a 100% increase in the numbers of its own pre-paid funerals over the past year.
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