Category Archives: Bastards

Buyer Beware

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

There’s a new pup in town.

It is with a heavy sigh that we bring news of yet another swimmer in the crowded waters of funeral plan providers, complete with grandiose claims, dubious mathematics and an apparent complete and wilful ignorance of the real costs involved in providing a funeral of the type they are offering.

Prosperous Life Limited has recently entered the unregulated funeral plan provider market, and is actively touting its wares to funeral directors and the vulnerable public alike.

The sole director of the company, a Mr Edward Gerald Smethurst, has a broad and varied experience in life, with positions as a director or secretary of 49 companies over the last 16 years  None of these have anything to do with funerals other than this, his latest appointment in a company incorporated on January 23rd 2017.

Now we’re sure that Mr Smethurst is a very nice man who knows a great deal about window fitting, alarm systems, bathrooms and bedrooms, helicopter charter and conservatories, but we’re not sure that he’s the man to entrust with your savings when it comes to paying for your funeral.

It’s the maths that bother us.

The ‘Prosperous Silver’ plan will cost you £2,400. ‘Prosperous Gold’ is £2,600 and ‘Prosperous Platinum’ £2,800. The chart below shows what you get for those figures. And how much is set aside for paying the cremation fee, the minister and the doctors (£1,000 in total for all three. Not enough by a long chalk, with  minister fees around £180, doctors’ fees £164.00 and some crematoria charging £999 for the cremation,)

Predictably, there is nothing shown for commission paid to the seller out of the remaining figures. Nor the amount of money taken in administration fees.

Perhaps Prosperous Life Ltd don’t pay commission to the agents selling plans?

Maybe all Prosperous Life admin is done free of charge?

Maybe Prosperous Life is a philanthropic, not for profit organisation with a network of similarly generous funeral directors across the UK willing to provide a solid coffin and a hearse and two limousines plus all other funeral director costs at the time of need for a maximum £1,800?

Or maybe not.

As our worried insider wrote to us when they let us know about this latest funeral plan provider:

“Who are they going to get to carry out the funerals for these people and what standard of care are they going to receive?”

Regulation anyone?


The sales pitch to funeral directors from the Prosperous Life ‘Funeral Director Liaison Manager’ is shown below.

“Prosperous Life Limited is a prepaid funeral plan provider, operating across the whole of the UK. We offer clients a choice of products, including not only the funeral plan but also legal services to compliment the plans purchased. Some of the services we offer include Wills, Probates and Power of Attorney.

All plans guarantee to cover the designated funeral director’s fees and services, plus an allowance towards disbursements. All monies paid by customers are held securely in a trust called The Great British Funeral Plan Trust and this is a completely separate entity to Prosperous Life Limited, which is managed and governed by an independent board of trustees, including chartered accountants and registered solicitors.

At the time of need, funds will be paid to the designated funeral director within 48 hours.

We are actively growing in the prepaid funeral space and generate new customers via several different channels including advertising in most national and regional papers.

With all this said, we are constantly trying to grow our funeral director panel and make mutually beneficial relationships. We get many requests for specific funeral directors as well as customers just wanting a reputable funeral director local to themselves”


There’s an unpleasant odour emanating from somewhere..

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Back in 2015, we reported on this blog about the legal skirmish between funeral plan providers Safe Hands Funeral Plans and Golden Charter – see here to refresh your memory. 

A paragraph from that blog post came to mind today:

‘While the lawyers order trebles all round and get ready to enwrap both parties in litigation for as long as legally possible, the good citizens of Funeralworld tremble. A lot of heavily soiled linen looks like being washed in public. God forbid that the public learn just how much of the money they spend on a funeral plan gets divvied up among sundry predators in the form of commissions, sales and marketing costs, directors’ wages, you name it.’

Well, thanks to the wonderful world of t’internet, that very information is now available in an easy to read table, showing just how much money is taken out of the total cost of a funeral plan in non-funeral related fees. Thanks to John Taplin from Open Pre-Paid Funerals Ltd for providing this link. 

Have a look here

Or, for a quick précis, we’ll summarise a couple of the lesser known facts listed in the table for you. 

  • The main providers of UK pre-paid funeral plans, namely Dignity, Golden Charter*, Golden Leaves, Avalon and Safe Hands will extract between £785.00 and £1,500.00 in ‘admin fees’ from the total amount you pay them. (Co-operative Funeralcare don’t publish the amount they charge). Editor’s note: *We have been reliably informed that where Golden Charter plans are purchased directly from a funeral director, the administration fee is much lower and the only deduction from the money you pay is £249.00.
  • If you buy a plan provided by one of those five companies from an agent working on their behalf (this could be a solicitor, a will writer, a financial advisor, a funeral director etc) then a commission payment of up to a figure between £500 and £600 is paid to them. (Co-operative Funeralcare don’t use agents, their plans are only available directly, or from their branches).
  • The money set aside within the plans provided by those five companies to cover the third party costs (crematorium fee, doctors’ fees and officiant’s fee or a contribution towards burial costs) ranges between £940 and £1,200. Co-operative Funeralcare don’t specify the amount set aside towards disbursements in their plans.
  • The value of the growth per annum of each plan is not published by any of the six plan providers listed above.
  • The growth of value of the amount set aside for third party costs for each plan is that of the Retail Price Index for five of the plan providers. Golden Leaves use the Consumer Price Index.

So, it is entirely possible that the money you pay in good faith for a funeral plan, thinking that you’re addressing the ever more hysterical annual announcements of the rising costs of funerals escalating beyond comprehension yet again, will in fact be whittled down to the bare bone when death occurs and the funeral needs to be arranged. A pocketful of cash here, a handful of cash there, all disappearing from that plan price in the direction of administration and commission before the ink is even dry on the medical certificate of the cause of death.

As an example, we were told this week about a funeral director receiving a call from one of the funeral plan providers listed above. The plan provider invited the funeral director to carry out a funeral for a plan holder who had just died. The plan holder had paid £3,595 for their funeral. It included all the traditional aspects of a funeral, collecting and caring for the person who had died, providing a coffin, dressing them and providing chapel visits, all professional assistance with the funeral, providing a hearse and a limousine and the third party costs.

So far so what, you might think. £3,595.00 sounds about ok for what is being provided?

Well, the amount that the funeral director was offered for undertaking this funeral was actually £2,445.00.

And, of that £2,445.00, £1,100.00 was allocated for the third party costs. In fact, the third party costs totalled just under £1,200.00.

So the funeral director, the one actually doing the funeral, was effectively invited to do so for £1,245.00.

That’s just £145 more than the £1,100.00 that had whistled out of the original payment to persons unknown in administration fees and commission payments.

The funeral director concerned politely declined the offer. They couldn’t make the sums add up.

The person who paid £3,595.00 for their plan and who died thinking their funeral was all sorted is none the wiser. Their family is probably none the wiser. The plan provider may have found a funeral director willing to carry out this funeral for £1,245.00 and nobody will be any the wiser. 

We think it stinks.

There is a whole can of worms writhing underneath the label of ‘Funeral Plans’. Thousands are sold each year to unwitting purchasers who want to are seduced by lines such as ‘We Believe Your Loved Ones Shouldn’t Be Left With Any Surprise Bills’ (capital letters not our own), or ‘A pre-paid funeral plan from the UK’s largest provider ensures peace of mind for you and your family’. There’s a very nice living to be made from selling funeral plans offered by the big six providers, but not such a good one from carrying out the actual funerals involved.

If you are thinking about planning your funeral in advance, do your homework. The only plan provider that we rate is Open Pre-Paid Funerals Ltd. So highly do we rate them, we have developed our own, unique alternative to funeral plans in partnership with them. It stands apart from every other offering on the market.

 It’s the GFGPlan.

GFGPlan puts your interests first. There is an administrative fee of £195.00 (and £25 of that is donated to the Good Funeral Guide). Other than that, we make no deductions whatever from the money you give us to look after for you. Zilch. Not one penny is spent on salaries, nobody gets a commission, and there are no free pens.

Read about it here.




Funeral poverty anyone?

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

‘High level return on investment within 2 to 5 years’
  • 2,500 plots available to investors
  • Plot price to investors £2,400
  • High level return within two to five years
  • Plots are valued at over £3,750
  • Clearly defined exit strategy
  • Minimum investment is 4 plots

‘A very rare opportunity has arisen to purchase burial plots in London’s Rainham cemetery, which is being extended to accommodate the high demand for burial plots within Greater London…..’

‘….As a unique investment brokerage we specialise in sourcing and delivering the best alternative investment projects worldwide. 

We are proud to present the Rainham Cemetery Phase 2 within the Greater London area. 

We are the EXCLUSIVE master agent for this project. After major planning and preparation we are finally able to offer new burial plots for sale to the general public. 

Due to the desirable location and the critical state of the market, plots are being offered purely on a first-come first-served basis.’

There’s good money to be made in this burial business apparently, according to the team of ‘highly skilled and very successful individuals’ aka the EXCLUSIVE master agents at Harley Investments Ltd.
We have a copy of the brochure at GFG Towers for anyone looking to make a quick buck out of bereaved families needing to find somewhere to bury a relative. 

Shark eats shark as LM Funerals are gobbled up for £37.5 million

Tuesday, 17 April 2012



Posted by Charles


Marvellous news from last Wednesday’s Telegraph: 

The Duke Street consortium, which includes Babson Capital Europe and Metric Capital Partners, has acquired LM Funerals from Sovereign Capital, a buy-out firm focused on investing in small companies.

LM Funerals is the third largest funeral company in Britain, with more than 60 branches – mainly in the Midlands and the south-east of England.

Sovereign bought LM Funerals in 2003 and used the company as a platform to consolidate what is a highly fragmented sector. Under Sovereign’s ownership, the company grew from 29 sites to 65 through a series of nine acquisitions and several new branch openings.

You’ll like this next bit:

Often the acquired businesses continued to trade under their original names after the deals were completed. This was done to ensure the “preservation of trusted local reputations and relationships that have been built over a sustained period”. [Source]

QUERY: If consolidation of a highly fragmented sector is a Good Thing, why the reticence about ownership?

FOLLOWUP QUERY: No mention of the benefits for consumers? (Oh, them.) 

FACT: Sovereign Capital paid £11m for LM in 2003. They’ve sold for £37.5m. The deal therefore represents a 3.4 x return. 

FACT: The name of the managing partner of Metric Capital Partners is John Synic. Really. 

THE GFG SAYS: Take the money and run, boys. Trebles all round!!


Hat-tip to Andrew Plume. 

Downer of the day

Friday, 16 March 2012

According to Co-operative Funeralcare, which takes care of a quarter of all UK funerals, sales of its Gold plan rose by 34% last year, while those of personalised, tailor made plans rose by 16%.

More here


Hurrah for Dignity!

Friday, 9 March 2012


Announcement by the Press Association:

The UK’s largest provider of funeral-related services has reported higher profits after its strongest year for the number of families planning ahead for a death.

Dignity, which has 600 funeral locations including 35 crematoria, said the number of pre-arranged funeral plans on its books and yet to take place increased to 265,000 in 2011, from 238,000 the previous year.

The group, which last year held 62,300 funerals, allows customers to plan a funeral in advance and make provisions towards the cost through its Dignity Guaranteed Funeral Plan.

Dignity said underlying pre-tax profits increased by 3% to £41.6 million in the year to December 30, as it increased its location portfolio by 33 in the year.

Sebastien Jantet, analyst at broker Investec, said Dignity had delivered “yet another set of strong results”. He added: “The highlights were a strong performance from the pre-arranged funerals division.”

The Sutton Coldfield-based group said its funeral services division, which brings in the largest proportion of profits, had received investment of around £9.5 million, with roughly half of this funding the replacement of its hearses and limousines.

The group’s crematoria division saw operating profits increase 7% to £21.3 million as it conducted 47,600 cremations, compared with 45,200 the previous year.

The group completed the construction of two crematoria in Somerset and Worcestershire in the period, while work continues on a new crematorium in Essex. The group is also the preferred bidder to operate Haringey Council’s crematorium in north London.

Looking ahead, Mike McCollum, Dignity chief executive, said: “While 2012 has started more quietly than 2011, the board remains confident in the group’s prospects and its expectations for 2012 remain positive and unchanged.”

Here at the GFG-Batesville Tower we celebrated this marvellous news by announcing a half day holiday (unpaid, of course) and shooting an intern. 

Die to let

Thursday, 23 February 2012


In Dorset a woman has been billed for £3,000 because her father negligently failed to give his care home 28 days’ notice of his own death. Full story in the Daily Mail here

Click on the letter to make it bigger. 

No opportunity wasted

Friday, 17 February 2012

Posted by Vale


Someone dies and another sees an opportunity: death is an opening in more ways than one. Now, it seems, the cyber criminals have got in on the act. When Whitney Houston was discovered in her bath at the weekend all the nodes and synapses of the internet flickered into life and, as the Malware Blog reports, Cybercriminals were quick to take advantage. The site found a fake video spreading on Facebook:

Wall posts with the subject “I Cried watching this video. RIP Whitney Houston” come with link to the supposed video. Clicking it leads them to a Facebook page that contains a link to the video. However, clicking this link only leads to several redirections until users are lead to the usual survey scam site.

Apparently the same trick was tried when Amy Winehouse died. I can’t for the life of me make out the commercial benefit, but there must be some. Don’t you hate this way that death can generate this sort of conscience-less entrepreneurialism? No, wait a minute…

Fill in the blank

Friday, 3 February 2012



Friday is competition day here at the GFG, and we’re giving a cigar to the first person correctly to fill in the blank. The story is recent, and comes from a regional newspaper.We”ll give you the rest of the story as soon as we have a winner. 


A GRIEVING family struggling to raise burial fees say they were advised by a funeral director: “Pool your resources and stick it on your credit card.”

Lillian Wilson, 88, died on January 13 and grandson, Andrzey said the family were not dealt with compassionately by funeral directors Moisters.

Andrzey said they used the firm as they had organised his father Ian’s funeral four years ago in a “sympathetic and professional manner.” But this time, he said the family were subjected to “aggressive pressure sales” at a time when they felt “vulnerable.”

Since Ian Wilson’s funeral, the family firm has been taken over by _____________________. 

Southport MP John Pugh said families must be kept informed when undertakers change hands.

He said: “The Co-op have a good reputation for funeral care but that being said, people should always be made clear who they are dealing with.

“At a time of crisis, families who have used the same undertakers over generations need to be told when things have changed.”

A spokesman from the funeral directors apologised to the family, added they pride themselves on “providing customer service of the highest possible quality.”

Andrzey said the family were “pressed from the outset” about fees.“There was no compassion for a grieving family,” he said.

“We were talking about how to pay the fees and the gentleman said to us; ‘why don’t you pool your resources and stick it on a credit card.’“

Andrzey, 29, who lives in Droitwich Spa in the Midlands said the family “sat around in shock” at the way they were treated.

As well as up front fees of £1,000, they must pay a “non-resident fee” because they don’t live locally.

But they were later told by another director that they did not need to pay as Mrs Wilson lived in Southport.

The spokesman from Moisters said: “A funeral director briefly discussed the funeral with a family member and the fees imposed by Sefton Council.

“These are £547 for re-opening a grave for a resident or £1,003 for a non-resident. We explained that we would have to take advice as to which fee applied because the owner of the plot (grandson Andrzey) lived out of the area.

“During the meeting we explained the requirement for a deposit payment to cover the cost of the council burial fees and other third party costs.

“If this could be met from the estate then we would not require the deposit but could directly invoice the bank or solicitor handling probate.”

The spokesman said the funeral director offered to meet the family again, but that they made alternative arrangements.

He added: “We pride ourselves on providing customer service of the highest quality and apologise if the family felt that they had not been treated in this manner.”


Find the story here