Arranging A Funeral
Arranging the funeral
A funeral can be either by burial or by cremation. The only legal requirement in the UK for funerals is that the death must be certified and registered and the body must be buried or cremated. You can organise it with or without the help of a funeral director, and personalise it as much as you wish. In some cases the deceased may have planned their own funeral in advance and you should check their paperwork in case they have prepaid for the funeral or have insurance policies in place to cover the cost.
Where there are no relatives or friends to arrange a funeral, in England and Wales the local authority or health authority will arrange a simple funeral and then try to recover the money from the deceased’s estate.
You cannot finalise the date for the funeral until after the death has been registered. If the death has to be reported to the coroner the date when the funeral can be held will be affected.
Taking the deceased’s wishes into account
The deceased’s executors listed in the will or their nearest relative will normally decide on the type of funeral. The deceased may have discussed what they would like with you or put it in their will but the people arranging the funeral are not bound legally to follow their instructions.
Most funerals are arranged through a funeral director. You should use a funeral director who belongs to one of the professional associations because they have codes of practice and complaints procedures in place. Some local authorities also run their own funeral services by arrangement with a local firm of funeral directors.
|National Association of Funeral DirectorsTel: 0845 230 1343
|The National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral DirectorsTel: 0845 230 6777
The person who arranges the funeral is responsible for paying the final bill and it is important to know where the money for the funeral will come from. The person who died may have taken out a pre-paid funeral plan, paying for their funeral in advance. It is important to check their personal papers to see if they had a plan. If they did, this should cover the whole cost of the funeral.
If there is no funeral plan, the cost of the funeral will normally be met out of any money left by the person who had died and, where money has been left, the funeral bill should be paid before any other bills or debts. The deceased may have had an insurance policy which will cover funeral costs.
Funds can be released from the deceased’s bank account if necessary or from their National Savings accounts. Normal practice is to take the funeral bill and the death certificate to the deceased’s bank and the bank will arrange for a cheque to be drawn in favour of the funeral director or pay the money electronically to them.
If sufficient funds cannot be accessed, friends or family may need to borrow money until the deceased’s estate is sorted out. Some funeral directors will allow payment to be delayed until this has happened.
Some people do not leave enough money to pay for even a simple funeral. If this happens, the person arranging the funeral will have to pay for it, although other relatives or friends may be willing to contribute. There is no general death grant, but if you are in this situation and you receive a means-tested social security benefit (such as income support) you may be able to get a payment from the social fund (known as a funeral payment) to cover the cost of a simple funeral. Even where a funeral payment is made, it may not cover the full cost of the funeral and you may still have to pay the difference.
If the person who died was receiving a war disablement pension, the Service Personnel and Veterans Agency will help with the cost of a simple funeral. (Helpline: 0800 169 2277)
You should be provided with a written estimate by the funeral director however, the final bill may be higher. The bill will cover the costs of burial or cremation, the fees for the funeral service and the professional services of the funeral director. There will also be charges for extras, such as minister, flowers, cars, service sheets and newspaper notices.
Between 2004 and 2011, the average cost of a funeral in the UK rose from just under £2,000 to just over £3,000 – an increase of about 60% and the average cost of a funeral in London is £5421 (Mintel Consumer Research Study, July 2011). This figure is set to rise by a third by 2015.
Arranging a funeral without a funeral director
You can arrange a funeral without the help of a funeral director. If you wish to do this, contact the Cemeteries and Crematorium Department of your local authority for advice and guidance. You can also get help and information from The Natural Death Centre (Tel: 0871 288 2098, Website: www.naturaldeath.org.uk).
Burial or cremation
A burial can take place in a churchyard, a local authority cemetery or a private cemetery. Burials can also take place on private land, or in a woodland. Anyone living within the parish has the right to be buried in the parish churchyard, if there is space, or in any adjoining burial ground. There is no right to be buried in any particular part of a churchyard or burial ground.
Most cemeteries are owned by local authorities or private companies and are non-denominational although some have space dedicated to particular religious groups. In the case of a local authority cemetery, anyone living in the authority’s area has the right to burial in the cemetery. Others may also be allowed burial, but for a higher burial fee.
In most cemeteries there are various categories of graves. Some graves do not give exclusive rights to burial while others give the right of exclusive burial for a set period of time. It is important to check the papers of the person who has died to find out if they have already purchased a grave space in a churchyard, cemetery or woodland burial ground.
Although there is no law preventing burials on private land (including a garden) anyone wishing to do this should contact their local authority, who may issue a certificate confirming that the burial is lawful.
The Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management produces a Charter for the Bereaved. This includes a wide range of information about burial and cremation, including information about burial on private land. (Tel: 020 8989 4661, www.iccm-uk.com).
Most crematoria are run by local authorities. A number of forms are needed before cremation can take place, including a certificate from a doctor, counter-signed by another doctor and an application form completed by a relative. These forms are available from the funeral director.
You may choose any form of service. If you do not want any form of religious ceremony, the British Humanist Association can give advice on a non-religious (secular) service. (Tel: 020 7079 3580, www.humanism.org.uk ). You can have a cremation or burial without any form of service. If, for any reason, there is no body, a memorial service can be arranged instead of a funeral service.
Disposal of ashes
Ashes may be scattered or buried at the crematorium, a churchyard or a cemetery, often with a short service. Ashes can generally be scattered anywhere, but consent should be gained from any private landowner. If you wish to scatter the ashes abroad do check with that country as many countries have strict rules on the importation of ashes. You can take ashes out of the UK.