What price peace of mind?

Charles 14 Comments


It’s been another very bad day at the office for the financial product known as the funeral plan, demonstrating its attractiveness to cheats and scammers. Sooner or later some devious little twerp is going to do a runner with a shedful. Some reckon they know who that twerp is. 

Yorkshire Asset Protection, a financial services firm offering ‘specialist advice’ and ‘bespoke solutions’ for people’s estate planning needs, has folded, leaving widow Lynda Madden £6,500 out of pocket. What she and her husband were told were Golden Charter funeral plans turned out to be nothing of the sort. 

Read the whole sad story here

Meanwhile, allegations concerning the growing power of Golden Charter (the real Golden Charter) as funerals’ broker is something we’re increasingly aware of here at the GFG. Funeral directors write in to sound off. A typical account arrived a couple of days ago.  A funeral director who is not signed up exclusively to Golden Charter tells us he was offered £1958 to arrange a funeral which, had he been exclusively signed up, would have yielded him £2686. He says the family had paid over £3000 for the plan, which included provision for a willow coffin. 

Why shouldn’t a £3K plan buy you a £3K funeral? I put this case to Golden Charter and was told that the company rewards those who support it and help it grow the business — why should FDs who don’t commit to it benefit from the hard work and commitment of others? 

I also took the opportunity to ask Golden Charter about its telesales operation in the light of  reported case where a vulnerable old person was distressed by what she felt were pressure sales tactics. I was told that any report of anything other than ethical conduct by a telesales operative would be dealt with swiftly and surgically. 

Golden Charter has invited me, in a spirit of openness, to go and see them at their HQ in Glasgow to lay before them all the concerns that consumers might have about its funeral plans, and I am minded to accept the invitation. If there’s anything you would like me to ask them, please let me know. Drop me an email or leave a comment. 




  1. Charles

    It’s only fair to declare that I used to work for Golden Charter. I was appointed as a Regional Support Manager (RSM) – but the ‘S’ soon very obviously meant Sales. I left, not being a salesperson by any stretch of the imagination, and in particular being unmotivated by any sort of targets where funerals are concerned.

    I didn’t hear from Golden Charter for a couple of years after I set up in business, but in March this year I was contacted by one of their ‘Allocations Team’ who told me that a client of theirs had nominated me as his chosen funeral director. He had a 50+ base plan, worth £1137 to me. I asked about disbursements and was told that he ‘probably had an insurance policy to pay those.’ I asked if I could contact the client to make sure he was aware of this, but was told that Golden Charter could not divulge this information until I accepted the plan. They did however give me his age and his postcode. It didn’t take me long to find him!!

    Not surprisingly, he was totally unaware that the amount he was paying (by instalments I believe) would not cover the entire funeral.

    In the meantime, Golden Charter not only stopped answering my e-mails, but had obviously decided that I wasn’t going to accept the plan without finding out more, so had allocated the funeral to a funeral director in another town.

    Ironically, the client had nominated me because he wanted his funeral to be held at my premises, just down the road from his family and his small circle of friends. So Golden Charter had not only ignored the client’s request for a chosen funeral director, but his request for where his funeral would be held.

    Once I was involved directly with the client, he cancelled his Golden Charter plan, but it is easy to see how this poor gentleman could easily be thinking that everything was sorted. His wife, who has learning difficulties, would not have had a leg to stand on when he died.

    Would we buy a car from someone who didn’t know a wheel from a bonnet? Would we buy a washing machine from someone who said it didn’t need a door? So why do we buy funeral plans from someone who asks us to sign on the dotted line without having any real knowledge of a funeral?

    I am a strong believer in funeral plans – because I want to protect my business against the corporates in the future. But I am also firmly of the opinion that funeral plans should only be sold by the people who will ultimately be honouring them – funeral directors.

  2. Charles

    The dilemma faced by all small funeral directors.

    We feel we must compete with the big firms for plan sales – because we know this is the future of our business. However, we also know that the plan seller will shaft us – paying us only a percentage of what the client (our client?) paid for his or her plan.

    The whole can of worms needs proper investigation and dare I say it – the oxygen of negative publicity could help too. Perhaps Which or a national newspaper? As ever with our industry, ignorance greatly assists those who seek to deceive.

  3. Charles

    If these plans are unsatisfactory to FDs and consumers alike there would seem to be room for something better.

    Kingfisher, may I ask how you deal with the matter of third party costs when creating a plan with a client? Thank you for your very frank comment.

    1. Charles

      I agree with Kingfisher entirely on this one. We have had some similar experiences, Funeral Plans can, if responsibly sold, be a good thing for some people. Not for everyone, but for some. Funeral directors are really the only people in a position to do this well and responsibly.
      The third party costs are really not such an issue. We speak personally to everyone we sell a plan to and make sure they know exactly what the situation is with regard to those. They get an itemized bill, just as for a funeral and a letter explaining the situation so they get it in writing and face to face. We explain that they can buy a plan without those costs included at all, they can include those costs as they are now and we explain that there will be a shortfall. We also take the rather radical approach of giving families a refund if there is money left over. Its really not that hard. As with anything else in funerals all it takes it ethical compassionate people. Everything else follows naturally. We have also, in certain circumstances, advised people not to buy a funeral plan but to put the money into a savings account instead. It doesn’t suit everyone.

    2. Charles

      Third party costs / disbursements / call them whatever you want, they’re still the same thing …

      As I said in a post a week or so ago here https://www.goodfuneralguide.co.uk/2013/08/funeral-plans-and-the-peace-of-mind-delusion/#comments we put the client before ourselves and guarantee the entire cost of the funeral.

      To some this may seem like commercial suicide – we may end up paying for a few clients’ funerals – but I think it is much more likely that all that will happen is that we make a smaller profit on the funeral plans that are not required for a long time. So be it.

      The goodwill that we create by doing this far outweighs any commercial loss we might make by guaranteeing the cost of a funeral plan. Clients who have bought funeral plans from us talk to their friends and neighbours, and when they need a funeral director they come to us.

      When I started this company nearly 3 years ago, an ex boss said to me “look after your clients, give them what they want, and the business will look after itself.” He was right.

  4. Charles

    Ah, now, that’s very interesting, Jenny: you give change. The only good plan is one that says Here’s your pot; spend it as you like — and make up the difference if it’s not enough. (If it’s more than enough, put the difference behind the bar!)

  5. Charles

    Question, Does anything now give 100% peace of mind in this profession……..I am impressed with Andrews remarks/comments, how transparent is this man, I was once told, I was 1 of many salesman, whilst working for a large Funeral provider, my reply in front of 12 other FDs soon got my cards well and truly marked.
    I have never had or intended to work in sales, and be told we make more profit on a upgraded coffin than we do on a standard one was the final nail, I even questioned how ethical it was to sell a coffin at nearly £300 when its only cost £38.00. No need to ask the reply I got.
    I can recall asking how we (A large funeral provider) could charge a client nearly £1,000 for a horse drawn hearse when most of the staff knew the horseman only charged us £550.00, A quick phone call, A Fax to confirm the date and time, and that was it,
    A client that desperately wanted a horse drawn funeral for his late wife, but could not afford it got his wish, as the client made contact with the horseman and paid him direct, needless to say I was back in the Operations managers office again.
    Would I take the same route now im working for myself, im sure 1 or 2 would ask me…….my reply is simple make a profit by all means, but don’t be greedy and most importantly don’t use someone’s bereavement to gain from it.
    Charles, when you get a spare moment speak with Liam about Funeral Plans, and the recent incident in transferring a plan from one large Funeral Provider to a independent, Got to be so so careful in using the words Large funeral provider, I don’t wish for any more Solicitors letters telling me im being watched……. if you would like see this letter Charles I will send it your way

  6. Charles

    We should all be flattered that certain FD’s employ lawyers to read this blog and monitor our websites.

    We should also be cautious. They do have deep pockets.

  7. Charles

    It’s because the most recent comment now comes first unless someone replies directly to someone by clicking on Reply at the bottom rh corner of a comment, in which case it comes out on top of the comment directly replied to, and out of order. It was the same when the comments were the other way up, except in reverse order, in which case the direct reply would come out directly below the comment being replied to, again out of order.

    I can’t decide whether its an improvement, whatever the opposite of an improvement is, or pretty much the same. But it does take a bit of getting used to.

    1. Charles

      It means you have to scroll from the bottom of the page, up to the top of the next comment up, then scroll down again to read it, then find the comment above the comment you’ve just read and go to the top of it, scroll down, up and down like a yo-yo… all the time keeping a mental note of the date and time of each comment if you want to read them in chronological order.

      Before, you started from the top and scrolled down, like a normal person would, taking in your stride answers (out of synch) to a comment you’ve just read as they appeared immediately below it, which was hard work but not as hard as this system.

      “Give us back our eleven days!”

  8. Charles

    Interesting to note that Golden Charter are only prepared to reward those who support it and help it grow their business. I offered Golden Charter Plans for many years. When these plans started to mature with very poor returns, often leaving me with a shortfall of up to £1000.00 per funeral, I became very concerned. Due to these concerns, I decided that it was very much in my interests and the clients interests that I stopped offering these plans. After all the hard work and commitment Golden Charter have spoken about, I find myself being offered an even lower maturity value, just because I refuse to exclusively sell their plans. What a great reward for all my efforts selling the Golden Charter plans to my clients in the first place. All the Golden Charter plans my company holds are now basically toxic debt. My advice to any funeral director is not to trust this plan provider. They will sell you short (very short) if you don’t offer them exclusivity forever and ever. The Golden Charter scandal / time bomb is also one of the main reasons for my resignation from the Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors. My new plan provider, which we have used for the past seven years, invests the whole amount paid by the client into a trust fund. Nothing is ever deducted from this amount and guess what? I get the entire maturity value for the plan, no matter what. The client doesn’t get secretly ripped off and I get the proper fees for the at need service. The maturity value of the independent trust fund has always been in excess of the at need cost of a funeral, so we can offer additional services. A total contrast to the average £1000.00 shortfall from golden Charter. I’ve recently compared the todays maturity value of a similar amount of plans held between Golden Charter and the independent trust fund and was shocked to find my independent trust fund was more than double the value of Golden Charter! We’re not talking a small amount of money here, it’s 100K higher? Time for some funeral directors to wake up and smell the coffee, however when you do, you’ll only find out that you have no option but to remain their slave or they’ll certainly ensure you’ll suffer financially for your treason.

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