Community and Living
We offer a flexible approach in order to incorporate as many of the bereaved's wishes as possible, while still upholding the ethical and legal requirement as laid down by the Local Authorities Cemeteries Order 1977, the Code of Cremation Practice and the Charter for the Bereaved.
The remainder of this web page has been produced to provide information and to answer questions that people ask about the services which the cemeteries and crematorium department provide. It will also assist you in dealing with the practical steps which are involved in making the necessary arrangements after the death of a loved one.
Losing a loved one is a difficult time. Death in itself is distressing and unfortunately, the administrative procedures which must be followed can be an additional unwelcome burden. These pages are designed to provide some useful help and advice with the arrangements for dealing with a death.
If the Death Occurs in Hospital
Staff will contact the person named by the deceased as next of kin. This may be, but need not be a relative. you may, if you wish, request to see the hospital chaplain. The hospital will keep the body in the hospital mortuary until the executor arranges for it to be taken away. Most funeral directors have a chapel of rest in which the deceased will be held pending the funeral. The hospital will arrange for the nearest relative to collect the deceased's possessions.
If the Death Occurs Elsewhere - Expected Death
If the death was expected, contact the doctor who attended the deceased during their final illness. If the doctor can certify the cause of death he or she will give you the following:
- a Medical Certificate that shows the cause of death (this is free of charge and will be in a sealed envelope addressed to the registrar)
- a Formal Notice that states that the doctor has signed the Medical Certificate and tells you how to get the death registered.
You may wish to contact the deceased's minister of religion if you have not already done so. Arrangements for the funeral may be made by a funeral director.
If the death followed illness from HIV or AIDS there may be special rules about handling the body. The following organisations can advise on funeral arrangements:
- FACTS Health Centre
- Terence Higgins Trust
If you discover a body or the death is sudden or unexpected, you should contact the following people:
- the family doctor (if known)
- the deceased's nearest relative
- the deceased's minister of religion
- the police, who will help find the people listed above if necessary.
If there is any reason to suspect that the death was not due to natural causes, do not touch or remove anything from the room. The death may be referred to the coroner. The doctor may ask the relatives for permission to carry out a post-mortem examination. This is a medical examination of the body which can find out more about the cause of the death and should not delay the funeral.
Reporting a Death to a Coroner
In any of the following circumstances the doctor may report the death to the coroner:
- an accident or injury
- an industrial disease
- during a surgical operation
- before recovery from an anaesthetic
- if the cause of death is unknown
- the death was sudden and unexplained, for instance, a sudden infant death (cot death).
You will be advised if the death has to be reported to the Coroner, in which case the death cannot be registered nor the funeral take place, without the Coroner's Authorisation. Where a death is reported to the Coroner, the Coroner's Office will contact the relatives.
A Coroner can order a post-mortem examination without getting the relative's permission. This examination will ascertain the cause of death. He may also wish to hold an investigation into circumstances leading up to a death. (This is called an inquest). When an inquest is called, the Coroner's Office will contact the relatives. This should not cause undue distress as it is a legal formality.
In such cases the Death Certificate will be issued direct to you from the Coroner's Office and the relatives must then go to the Registrar to register the death. When an inquest is to be held, the death cannot be registered until the conclusion of the inquest, but a certificate will normally be issued at the opening of the inquest to allow the funeral to take place.
For more information on the Coroner click here to visit the website of the Home Office
Registering a Death
The death must be registered in the District Register Office where it occurred.
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, a death should be registered within five days of its happening. Registration can be delayed for a further nine days provided the Registrar receives, in writing, confirmation that a medical certificate of the cause of death has been signed by the doctor.
Who can Register the Death?
People with legal responsibility to register include:
- A relative of the deceased
- A person present at the death
- A person arranging the funeral - This does NOT mean the funeral director.
In certain circumstances others, such as the administrator of an elderly persons home, can register a death, for advice please contact the Register Office.
What is needed to Register the Death?
The Registrar will interview you in private and will need to know the following information:
- The date and place of death
- The full name and surname, and maiden surname if the person who has died was a married woman
- The date and place of birth
- The occupation and, if the deceased person was a married woman or widow the full name and occupation of her husband
- The usual address
- If the person who has died was married, the date of birth of the surviving spouse
- Whether the person who has died was receiving a pension from public funds.
You will need to take:
- The medical certificate of cause of death issued by the doctor treating the person who has died. This is essential - the Registrar can do nothing without it. If the death has been referred to the Coroner, the Coroner's Office will advise you what to do.
- If the deceased received a pension or allowance from public funds, eg. Civil Service or Army Pensions, please inform the Registrar.
The Registrar will enter all these details into a computer system and will then give you the opportunity to check they are correct. The information will then be written into a register. This is the "original" legal record and you should check it through very carefully before signing it, as any mistakes discovered later on may be difficult to correct.
What Documents will I receive?
- A 'Green Form' which enables you to arrange the funeral (If the Coroner is involved different procedures may apply)
- You will also be given a form for Social Security purposes.
Both of these documents are issued free of charge.
A death certificate can also be purchased from the Registrar.
When the death certificate has been issued by the Registrar, you will also be given a certificate authorising the funeral.
The choice of a firm of funeral directors is important as you should feel comfortable and confident with them. They may be known to you personally, may be recommended by a friend, your GP or religious adviser or may just have a good reputation in your area.
The Funeral Standards Council
National Association of Funeral Directors
Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors
All have a code of practice and should give you an estimate of costs - their own and those fees they will pay on your behalf and add to the account. You can ask for this estimate in advance and it's a good idea to ask different firms to quote so that you can compare costs.
Your funeral director can make all the arrangements for the funeral, burial or cremation, religious or secular service. The funeral director can also advise on all the procedures and documents needed to register the death.
If you are considering a headstone most cemeteries will advise to wait for a period of approximately six months before placing it. However, we suggest you contact your preferred choice of monumental mason as soon as possible to avoid any unnecessary delay after this waiting period.
There is no requirement to have a religious ceremony, or any kind of ceremony at all at a funeral. People that regard religion to be unimportant or have made a decision to live their lives without it may prefer a Humanist Ceremony.
This type of ceremony is not intended to oppose a religious funeral, but to provide a dignified and respectful celebration of the death that has occurred.
At this type of funeral the services of an officiant, on the lines of a minister or celebrant are commonly employed. They will conduct the proceedings which can involve readings of appropriate prose, tributes by attendees or the officiant and the playing of appropriate music.
The British Humanist Association website offers advice on all aspects of humanist ceremonies and produce a booklet Funerals Without God: A Practical Guide to Non-religious Funerals which can be purchased for £5 (including postage and packing).
Celebrants are trained professionals who can officiate at funerals, weddings, namings or any other rite of passage. For more information on celebrancy visit The International Federation of Celebrants website.
If you don't want a ceremony at all, members of the family or close friends can attend the committal, which can be in silence or with some music being played.
Non-Church of England Funerals
If you have to arrange a funeral for someone who is of a faith different from your own, it is important to contact the equivalent of the local priest of the demonination to find out what needs to be done.
Non-Christian and Minority Group Funerals
A brief word on the practices of other faiths is included below:
Most Muslim communities appoint one person who is responsible for making funeral arrangements. It will be their job to advise of the rules and to select a suitable funeral director.
Jewish funerals are usually arranged by a dedicated Jewish Funeral Agency, or the local community may have a contract with a Gentile funeral service, which will be carried out under strict rabbinical control.
The Jewish Bereavement Counselling Service offers support and can be contacted on 020 8349 0839.
If you have any difficulty in dealing with the deceased's property, possessions or guardianship of their children, get advice from a solicitor or Citizens Advice Bureau website (see Offsite Links to the right of this page) as soon as possible.
From the CAB (or their website) you can get the leaflets Legal Aid Guide and Getting Legal Help from a Citizens Advice Bureau, public library, police station or a court, to find out if you can get legal aid.
These places also hold a list of local solicitors which shows whether they take legal aid cases and if they specialise in probate work. Again you can search for local solicitors using the On-line Yellow Pages website (see Offsite Links to the right of this page)
The Legal Services Commission Website (see Offsite Links to the right of this page) also contains leaflets and other useful information.
Many solicitors are prepared to offer upto half an hour of legal advice for a small fee, some even offer a free initial consultation to discuss your situation.
What is Probate and Do I Need It?
The word 'probate' is often misunderstood. It conjures up images of months of difficulty and delay. This is not inevitable and many simple probates are finished quite easily in a month or so.
What is it?
Putting it simply, a probate is a piece of paper, nothing more. It is a document issued by the Probate Registry confirming that an executor has the right to wind up an estate of the person who has died. The "estate" is the house, money and savings left by someone when they pass away. The 'executor' is the person chosen in the Will to sort out the estate and make sure it goes to the people named in the Will.
Do I have to have it?
This depends upon the size of the estate. Quite often, when the estate is very small no probate is needed.
How do I get it?
By filling in some forms. If the estate is small the forms do not have to give full details of it. The important form is the 'Executors Oath'. This is not usually available from stationery shops but can be found in books about probate. It has to be sworn as being true.
For more information on Probate, including application forms, fees etc, visit the website of the Court Service (see Offsite Links to the right of this page)
Do I have to use a solicitor?
No, but it helps. You can also apply direct to the Probate Registry yourself. Most solicitors offer probate services and their fees depend upon the amount of work necessary and the size of the estate. Always ask them first.
In order for a will to be valid, it must be:
- made by a person who is 18 years old or over; and
- made voluntarily and without pressure from any other person; and
- made by a person who is of sound mind. This means that she/he is fully aware of the nature of the document s/he is writing or signing and aware of her/his property and the identify of the people who may inherit; and in writing; and
- signed by the person making the will in the presence of two witnesses; and
- signed by the two witnesses, in the presence of the person making the will, after s/he has signed. A witness or the married partner of a witness cannot benefit from a will. If a witness is a beneficiary (or the married partner of a beneficiary), the will is still valid but the beneficiary will not be able to inherit under the will.
Although it will be legally valid even if it is not dated, it is advisable to ensure that the will also includes the date on which it is signed.
As soon as the will is signed and witnessed, it is complete.
What if there is no Will?
Speak to a solicitor - it is safer in the long run because various laws affect who is entitled to wind up the estate and receive the money.
If the person who died was paying tax on income from investments or as a self employed person or as an employee, tell the tax office about the death as soon as possible. This will enable the deceased's tax affairs to be settled. Depending on circumstances, this may involve some more tax or claiming a repayment.
The particular tax office to contact will depend upon the deceased's circumstances.
- if the deceased was an employee or had a pension from a former employer, the pay section of the employer or pension organisation will know the deceased's tax office.
- if the deceased was self-employed, contact he tax office nearest to the place of business.
- if the deceased was unemployed, or retired without pension from a former employer, contact the tax office nearest to the home address.
Inland Revenue leaflet IR45 What to do about tax when someone dies gives more information. Alternatively, further information, and copies of IR45 leaflet are available at the Inland Revenues's Website(see External Links to the right of this page)
Independent Financial Advice. Professional advice on financial matters can be obtained from a variety of sources:
- Your bank or Building Society may be able to offer you assistance regarding investments etc., however, they will generally only be able to recommend their own policies and investment opportunities.
- An Independent Financial Advisor will be able to search around for the best investments, savings, life assurance, mortgages etc,. to suit your individual needs. It makes sense to contact an Independent Financial Advisor so that you can make comparisons on all the different options that are available.