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Arranging a Funeral

Your rights and options 

The main requirements in England and Wales are that the death is certified by a doctor or coroner, registered with a Registrar of Births, Marriages and Deaths, and the body either buried or cremated. 

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  • You do not have to have a funeral ceremony.
  • You do not have to use a religious minister. 
  • You do not have to use a funeral director. 
  • A ceremony does not have to take place in a crematorium or place of worship.

There are more options concerning the content of a funeral ceremony and its duration than many people realise. Woodland burial and other green options are increasingly available.

The majority of people choose to make their arrangements through a funeral director however, some people see 'do-it-yourself' funerals as more personal and less expensive. If this approach appeals, and you have time to research and prepare, enquire at the cemeteries and crematorium department of your local authority for guidance. You could also get information from the Natural Death Centre. Some funeral directors are willing to help with such funerals.

Funeral directors will manage funeral arrangements and give advice and support. Check if the funeral director you choose belongs to a trade association. This requires them to provide full information about their services and prices.

These factors may influence your choice: 

  • Location of the firm's premises. 
  • Range of services provided. 
  • The way you are treated by the staff. 
  • Cost.
  • Recommendation of those who have used the service. 
  • Ownership (small family business or large firm).

Most people would probably require the funeral director to provide the following services as a minimum:

  • Make all the necessary arrangements.
  • Provide appropriate staff. 
  • Provide a suitable coffin.
  • Transfer the deceased from the place of death to the funeral director's premises. 
  • Care for the deceased prior to the funeral.
  • Provide a hearse to the nearest cemetery or crematorium. 
  • Arrange for burial or cremation as appropriate.

Embalming, viewing of the deceased, or providing a limousine for mourners are optional extras.

Costs for the same services may vary considerably from one funeral director to another. You may wish to get more than one quote to compare costs. 'Disbursements' are fees paid to others, eg for crematorium, minister, doctors' certificates, newspaper announcements, flowers etc. Ask the funeral director for a written quotation detailing all these fees.

  • Funeral payments are normally recoverable from the deceased's estate.
  • Remember the cheapest service is not necessarily the best value.

If you arrange a funeral you are responsible for paying the bill, so check where the money will come from first. 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 providing you or your partner receive one of the following:

  • Income support.
  • Housing benefit.
  • Council tax support
  • Job seeker's allowance (income based). 
  • Disabled person's tax credit.
  • Working family's tax credit.

Information on Destitute Funerals can be found on the Environmental Protection section of the website.

Most funerals are conducted well. But if you have a justified complaint, you should contact your funeral director. If you are not satisfied with the response, you can complain to whichever of the trade associations listed below your funeral director belongs to: 

Advice may also be obtained from your local trading standards department.

  • National Association of Funeral Directors 618 Warwick Road Solihull West Midlands B91 1AA Tel 0121 711 1343
  • The National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors 3 Bullfields Sawbridgeworth Hertfordshire CM21 9DB Tel 01279 726777
  • Natural Death Centre 20 Heber Road London NW2 6AA Tel 020 8203 2853
  • National Funerals College 
    3 Priory Road 
    BS8 1TX 
    Tel: 0117 954 5558
  • A Consumer's Guide to Funerals
  • What to do after a death in England or Wales - Free booklet (DWP1027) from Department of Works And Pensions

This text is taken from a leaflet compiled by the National Funerals College