Selecting a Funeral Director
Almost all families faced with bereavement use the services of a Funeral Director. This is because they are knowledgeable about what to do and have the staff and resources to carry out all the tasks relating to the actual funeral service.
It is quite usual to select a Funeral Director within the local area of where the funeral service is to take place. However, just as funeral services are not the same, nor are the Funeral Directors providing those services particularly similar in their provision.
Indeed, the cost of a funeral is determined by the kind of service required and the quality of Funeral Director engaged to carry out the same.
For example, a burial in a new brick grave bought for four interments, the provision of an expensive oak casket, a floral hearse, a hearse, 6 limousines, a church service with personalised service sheets, several expensive floral tributes and a few national obituary notices is going to cost a lot more money than a funeral service that consists on of a vinyl covered coffin in a hearse only meeting the family directly at a crematorium with none of the above additions. This must be fairly obvious.
However, the amount of the funeral account will also be determined by the quality of the services and facilities offered by the selected Funeral Director. Those with a state of the art funeral home, new hearses and limousines, qualified staff, quality private chapels and mortuaries etc. have invested more in their service provision and will understandably cost more than those operating out of a shop frontage, with old vehicles, part-time staff and few of the above facilities.
This is well understood when booking other services. For example, star ratings given to hotels helps potential clientèle select the quality of service and facility required at a price they feel comfortable with.
However, the funeral industry is happily not engaged very often by a family and when it is it is by virtue of sad and regrettable circumstance. Therefore, knowledge of what to do and the costs involved are not as well known to a family as other areas of life.
Planning a Funeral
- A funeral can be either by burial or by cremation. 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.
- They may have also have a funeral plan set up to pay for the funeral, therefore locate details and contact the provider.
- The date for a funeral cannot be confirmed until the death has been registered. If a coroner is involved this could delay the funeral.
- 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 doesn’t have to follow the instructions about the funeral left in the will.)
- If there are no clear wishes it’s generally up to the executor/administrator or nearest relative to decide whether the body is to be cremated or buried.
- The only legal requirement in the UK regarding funerals is that the death is certified and registered and the body properly taken care of, by either burial or cremation.
- You’ll need permission from a coroner in the local district before a body can be moved out of England and Wales, including abroad. The rules are complicated but the coroner’s office will be able to provide information. Also, there are specialist funeral directors who should be able to help in these circumstances (read more on funeral directors in the section below). The coroner will need at least four working days before the body is to be moved and will issue a removal notice (form 104), part of which is sent to the Registrar of Births Deaths & Marriages. Use the link below for more official information on this.
- Your Funeral Director will help you with decisions such as:
- where the body should rest before the funeral
- time and place of the funeral (though this can only be finalised once the death is registered)
- type of service (religious or other) and who will conduct it/contribute.
- whether the committal should be a burial or a cremation.
- 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
- notice in the newspapers
Wills, Living Wills and Powers of Attorney
Why it is important to make a will
- So you can dictate what happens to your estate when you die
- To pass your estate to your partner if you are not married, and other people who would not inherit under the intestacy rules – http://www.adviceguide.org.uk/index/family_parent/family/who_can_inherit_if_there_is_no_will___the_rules_of_intestacy.htm
- To outline how your children would be cared for – often a guardian is named and monies for your children are placed in trust with that guardian having control over the monies
- Inheritance Tax Planning – if this is likely to be an issue it should be thought about before death and financial advice sought
- It is important to update your will as and when your circumstances change
- You may also wish to note down special instructions for what you would like to happen at your funeral, although these do not need to be in your will.
How do you make a will?
- A will is a legal instruction about what should happen you your estate when you die, who the beneficiaries will be – you instruct an executor to carry out the actions of your will – this can be anyone you deem appropriate including family member, solicitor, bank or financial advisor .
- A solicitor can help you draft a will
- Or you can purchase a will pack from a number of different outlets this is a basic will where you fill in the appropriate details
- There are certain instructions that are needed to make a will valid
- Once a will has been made then keep it in a safe place, solicitors can hold a will for you and there are websites online which will do this for you
- Our links page includes a link to a will-writing service.
- A Living Will is a statement expressing your views on how you would or would not like to be treated if you are unable to make decisions about your treatment yourself at the relevant time in the future. This would be in cases where you do not have mental capacity to make a decision such as after a stroke or car accident.
- There are two formal names for living wills which are:-
- Advance decision – a decision to refuse treatment
- Advance statement – any other decision on how you would like to be treated
- http://www.ageuk.org.uk/money-matters/legal-issues/living-wills/ (They also have a PDF available for download giving lots of detail)
Powers of Attorney
- When you lack mental capacity to make decisions someone can do this on your behalf this is called a power of attorney
- These can be everyday decisions such as ones about food and clothes or more important decisions such as where you live and medical treatment you receive
- Ordinary Powers of Attorney can be set up by you for someone to look after your finances (this may be when you are abroad and you are unable to), they stop when you no longer have mental capacity
- Lasting powers of attorney work can be set up when you are still mentally capable of making decisions but continue to work if you want to have someone continue to look after your finances once you lose mental capacity. They can also be set up for other areas of your life such as healthcare and personal welfare. They have to be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian
- Forms for Powers of Attorney – http://www.justice.gov.uk/global/forms/opg/lasting-power-of-attorney/index.htm
Role of the executor
The main role of an Executor is to ensure the deceased’s wishes are carried out according to what is stated in the will. An Executor may choose to enlist the help of a solicitor or accountant to administer the estate or he may himself take full responsibility for the deceased’s assets.
The Executor will:
- Inform family, friends and all relevant persons of the death of the deceased.
- Also usually be involved in making the funeral arrangements. This is often done jointly with family members and friends of the deceased
- Need to apply for a grant of Probate. The grant of Probate is the authorisation required by financial institutions before control of assets can be passed on.
- Have the responsibility of paying any of the deceased’s outstanding debts from the assets of the estate.
- Need to ensure the correct amount of tax is paid out of the estate.
- distribute the rest of the estate to the named beneficiaries
- Once the beneficiaries have been paid and the estate wound up the Executor has completed his job and that role has come to an end.
It is possible for a person to renounce their role as Executor if for any reason they do not wish to continue. A form of Renunciation needs to be completed and the Probate Registry informed.
Applying for probate
- A grant of probate is needed to sort out the deceased affairs. The executor of the will applies for this
- If there is not a will a close relative can apply for a ‘grant letters of administration’
- The forms that need to be completed vary depending on location and if inheritance tax is due. The link below outlines the forms
What to do when someone dies
If the person dies at home call your GP and nearest relative immediately.
If the GP has seen the deceased in the last 14 days for what he believes has caused of death then he can certify the death.
However, if the GP has not seen the deceased in last 14 days, or has seen the deceased in the last 14 days but not for what he believes has caused the death then the coroner is informed.
If the person dies in hospital then the body will usually stay in the hospital mortuary until a funeral director or the relative arrange for the body to moved to a chapel of rest or home.
A Medical certificate of the Cause of Death (MCCD) is issued by the doctor who was treating the deceased, unless the coroner needs to be informed.
In April 2014, Medical Examiners will be introduced to independently scrutinise and confirm the cause of death when it is not referred to the coroner, they will also be the primary source of general medical advice to coroners. This role is currently being piloted in a number of locations in the UK.
When a death is referred to the coroner he is likely to request an autopsy (post-mortem investigative operation) to be carried out.
If the coroner, after the autopsy has been carried out views there is no reason for an inquest an Order of Burial can be issued, or in the case of cremation a Certificate of Coroner, Form Cremation 6.
If the coroner believes an inquest needs to occur there are three options:-
- If a burial is requested he can open the inquest, issue a coroner’s Order of Burial, and then adjourn the inquest to a later date. The inquest can occur at any-point, including post-funeral.
- When a cremation is requested, then a Certificate of Coroner, Form Cremation 6 is issued, the inquest again can happen post-funeral this occurs when the coroner is confident that there will be no need to re-examine the body
- The coroner has the discretion to refuse a burial or cremation request until the inquest is concluded if he believes that a further examination of the deceased’s remains may assist with establishing the cause of death or who might be responsible for causing the death.
The person registering a death, often a family member, presents the certificate issued by the doctor. The registrar issues the official death certificate (one copy is given and additional copies can be purchased) and a green disposal certificate (commonly called a green certificate), unless the coroner has replaced the same with either an Order of Burial or an Certificate of Coroner, Form Cremation 6, which is passed to the funeral director.
A death should usually be registered within 5 days, however if the coroner has been involved this can be extended.
In the case of cremation, regardless of where the person dies, the following forms (where relevant) need to be completed:-
- Form Cremation 1
- Application applying for a cremation, this is usually next of kin, another family member or executor of the will.
- Form Cremation 4
- Completed and signed by either the GP who was treating the deceased, or the doctor treating the deceased in hospital
- Form Cremation 5
- Completed by an independent doctor, he must not work in the same practice as the doctor who completed Form 4. He independently confirms the reason for death.
- Form Cremation 11
- Coroner issues after a post mortem (this is completed as doctors Forms 4 and 5 could not be completed)
- Form Cremation 6
- Coroner issues after either the post mortem or the inquest
(this is completed as doctors Forms 4 and 5 could not be completed)
- Coroner issues after either the post mortem or the inquest
- Form Cremation 10
- Authorisation of cremation of deceased person by medical referee, this is signed after reviewing all the forms have been completed correctly
What to do if someone dies abroad
- If the person dies aboard, then the British Consul in that country needs to be informed, if you are on a package holiday the tour operator will do this for you. If a death takes place abroad it must be registered according to the law of that country. The death should also be reported to the British Consul who may be able to arrange for the death to be registered in the UK as well.
- Returning a body to the UK is expensive but the cost may be covered by any travel insurance taken out by the person. If the death was on a package holiday the tour operator should be able to help with arrangements.
- When a body is returned to the UK, the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages for the district where the funeral is to take place must be told and will need to issue a certificate before burial can take place. If cremation is to take place the Home Office also needs to give permission.
- If the death was not due to natural causes the coroner for the district will also need to be told and an inquest may need to take place. In Northern Ireland a coroner can also arrange a post mortem or an inquest if the family requests it.
Donation of organs
- The person who died may have wanted to donate organs for transplant. This will be easier if they were on the NHS Organ Donor Register, carried a donor card and had discussed the donation plans with their family. Relatives will still be asked to give their consent before donation. Most organ donations come from people who have died while on a ventilator in a hospital intensive care unit. For more information about organ donation and transplantation, contact:
NHS Organ Donor Register
NHS Blood and Transplant
Organ Donation and Transplantation Directorate
Fox Den Road
Organ Donor Line: 0300 123 2323 (24 hours a day, every day)
Donation of the body for medical education or research
- Some people wish to leave their bodies for medical education or research and anyone wanting to do this needs to make arrangements before they die and tell their relatives. When the person dies, relatives in England and Wales should contact the Human Tissue Authority who will advise on what should be done. If a body is accepted (and many bodies are not suitable) the medical school will arrange for eventual cremation or burial. The address of the Human Tissue Authority is:
- In Scotland, contact your nearest medical school.
- In Northern Ireland you should contact:
Professor of Anatomy
Department of Anatomy
Queens’ University Belfast
Medical Biology Centre
97 Lisburn Road
Tel: 028 9024 5133
How to register a death in the UK
- You must register the death with the Registrar of Births, Marriages and Deaths for the district where the death occurred.
- You need to do this within five days of the death (eight days in Scotland) unless it has been referred to the coroner.
- You can find the address in the phone book or from a doctor, local council, post office or police station. If you cannot contact the registrar for the district where the death occurred, you can make a formal declaration in any district and this will be forwarded to the correct one. If this happens there may be some delay in certificates being issued.
- This is an interactive tool which people can use to track exactly how they should register a death, giving different guidelines for England & Wales and Scotland http://www.direct.gov.uk/bereavement_radio.dsb?pro=BDT
- This link to the General Register Office in Scotland so a death can be registered http://www.nrscotland.gov.uk/registration/registering-a-death
- This gives full information about how to register a death in NI http://www.nidirect.gov.uk/index/information-and-services/government-citizens-and-rights/death-and-bereavement/death-and-bereavement-what-to-do-when-someone-dies/registering-a-death.htm
- Who can register a death that occurs at home or in hospital
- a relative
- someone present at the death
- an occupant of the house
- an official from the hospital
- the person making the arrangements with the funeral directors
- Documentation needed is
- medical certificate of the cause of death (signed by a doctor)
- And, if available: birth certificate, marriage or civil partnership certificate, NHS Medical Card
- Information you will need to supply
- the person’s full name at time of death
- any names previously used, including maiden surname
- the person’s date and place of birth (town and county if born in the UK and country if born abroad)
- their last address
- their occupation
- the full name, date of birth and occupation of a surviving spouse or civil partner
- if they were getting a state pension or any other state benefit
Locate the will
- If you don’t know where it is the deceased’s solicitor may hold a copy
- Inform the executor named in the will that the person has passed away, they can then start the process of gaining probate
- If there is no will then decide who will apply to sort out the deceased affairs, contact the probate office asking for letters of administration https://www.gov.uk/applying-for-probate
If relevant, complete form BD8 given to you when you register the death and send to the local Jobcentre Plus or Social Security.
If the person who has died was receiving any benefits or tax credits, advise the offices that were making the payments – if you can’t find relevant correspondence, use the links below to the tax credit helpline and Jobcentre plus.
Who to tell about a death
Relatives and friends
- the relevant tax office – this needs to be done as soon as possible
- National Insurance contributions office if they were self-employed (to cancel payments) Find your local Tax Office
- Child Benefit office (at latest within eight weeks) Child Benefit online services
- local authority if they paid council tax, had a parking permit, were issued with a blue badge for disabled parking, or received social services help, attended day care or similar Find a local authority
- UK Identity and Passport Service, to return and cancel a passport, Returning a deceased person’s passport
- DVLA, to return any driving licence, cancel car tax or return
- car registration documents/change ownership
There is a useful “Tell Us Once” government website where much of this can be achieved in one go. Once a death is registered the Registrar will send code if they are in the scheme which can then be entered into this system: https://www.gov.uk/after-a-death/organisations-you-need-to-contact-and-tell-us-once. (Not available in NI.)
- If applicable contact the deceased Financial Adviser and Accountant, they may well be able to deal with some of the following items on your behalf
- general insurance companies – contents, car, travel, medical etc.
- any other company with which the deceased may have had rental, hire purchase or loan agreements
- if the deceased was the first named on an insurance policy, make contact as early as possible to check that you are still insured
- pension providers/life insurance companies
- banks and building societies
- mortgage provider
- hire purchase or loan companies
- credit card providers/store cards
Utilities and household contacts
- landlord or local authority if they rented a property Find a local authority
- any private organisation/agency providing home help
- utility companies if accounts were in the deceased’s name
- Royal Mail, if mail needs re-directing Royal Mail redirection service
- TV/internet companies with which the deceased had subscriptions
Other useful contacts
- Bereavement Register and Deceased Preference Service to remove the deceased’s name from mailing lists and databases
- clubs, trade unions, associations with seasonal membership for cancellation and refunds
- church/regular place of worship
- social groups to which the deceased belonged
- creditors – anyone to whom the deceased owed money
- debtors – anyone who owed the deceased money
This list was taken from: http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Governmentcitizensandrights/Death/WhatToDoAfterADeath/DG_10029808