A funeral can be organised with or without the help of a Funeral Director. You will have many options to choose for the funeral and in some case the deceased may have already planned their own funeral in advance.
How do you arrange the funeral and what are your rights under the law?
The main legal requirements in England and Wales are:
- The death has to be certified by a Doctor or Coroner
- The death has to be registered with a Registrar
- The body should be either buried or cremated
- There is no legal requirement to have any kind of funeral ceremony at all.
What is the role of the Funeral Director?
Using a Funeral Director
The majority of people choose to use a professional Funeral Director. This can help at what is usually a stressful time, and will ensure that the deceased is dealt with in a dignified manner. Your Funeral Director can advise you about the options available to you.
Organising alternative burials
You will need a death certificate signed by a Doctor and a certificate for burial from the Registrar.
Remember that, if you are planning a private burial, which includes those not in a churchyard or cemetery, you must first register your intention to do so.
If you are planning an interment on private land, then a number of local authority permissions will need to be granted. Even if you own the land concerned, you must check the deeds to ensure there are no restrictions on what the property may be used for. It is important to consult the local district and environmental health department who will want to ensure that the local water table will not be affected.
A record of the burial should be made and kept with the deeds or other relevant documents relating to the land.
How will you pay for the funeral?
If you arrange a funeral, you're responsible for paying the bill, so check where the money will come from and if there will be enough.
Funeral costs may be paid in different ways including:
- From the estate of the deceased
- The deceased may have been paying into a funeral scheme or have a prepaid funeral plan, so you will need to check paperwork to see if a plan exists
- Money from a life insurance policy or pension scheme
- The deceased's bank or building society may agree to release funds to pay for funeral costs
- You, or the executor, may need to pay and then recover the money from the estate later.
Funeral costs for the same services may vary considerably from one Funeral Director to another. You would be advised to get more than one quote to compare costs and services. Disbursements and fees paid to others, for example, for Doctors' certificates, a Minister, newspaper announcements, flowers or the crematorium may be additional to the funeral costs. You should ask the Funeral Director for a written quotation detailing all these fees.
If you are finding it difficult to pay for a funeral that you have to arrange, you may be able to get a social fund funeral payment form the Benefits Agency, so long as you or your partner receive one of the following:
- Income Support
- Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Housing Benefit
- The disability or severe disability element of Working Tax Credit
- One of the extra elements of Child Tax Credit
- Universal Credit
- Pension Credit.
Contact your local social security office for more information. If you are widowed you may able to claim Bereavement Allowance, a taxable weekly benefit paid to you for up to 52 weeks from the date of death of your husband, wife or civil partner. You may be able to claim Bereavement Allowance if all of the following apply:
- You're a widow, widower or surviving civil partner aged 45 or over when your husband, wife or civil partner died
- You're not bringing up children
- You're under state pension age. Your late husband, wife or civil partner paid National Insurance Contributions (NIC's), or they died as a result of an industrial accident or disease.
Documents you'll need before you can arrange a funeral
You will also need to give the Funeral Director, crematorium or cemetery office the following forms:
- The Green Certificate for Burial from the Register Office, or an Order for Burial if the Coroner was involved.
- An application for cremation signed by the next of kin or executor, from the Funeral Director or crematorium.
- The Green Certificate for Cremation from the Register Office, or Order for Cremation if the Coroner was involved.
Detailed planning of the funeral
The key decisions that need to be made for the funeral are listed below. If you're using a Funeral Director they will help you with:
- Where the body should rest before the funeral
- The time and place of the funeral (though this can only be finalised once the order for the burial or cremation has been issued)
- Type of service (religious or other) and who will conduct it or contribute to it
- How much to spend on the funeral
- Whether to have flowers or instead donate money to a chosen charity
- Where to donate flowers after the funeral
- Sending out invitations
- Placing a notice in the newspapers
- Taking the deceased's wishes into account.
It is important to remember to check the deceased's will or other written instructions for special wishes about their funeral or what should happen to their body. However, the executor does not have to follow the instructions about the funeral left in the will. If there are no clear wishes it's generally the executor or nearest relative who decides whether the body is to be cremated or buried.