Arranging a funeral
As an executor, next of kin or close friend or confidant of someone who has died you may have to arrange their funeral. See below for more information on how to arrange a funeral.
Step 1: Register the death
If you have not already done so, you should register the death with the Registrar of the local authority in which your loved one passed away. You have 5 days after death to do this if your loved one passed away in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, or 8 days for Scotland.
You can register the death if you are a relative, were present at the death, or if you are arranging the funeral. An appointment can be made (usually by telephone) by contacting the Registrar via the local authority’s website.
For more information, you can read our guide to registering a death here.
Step 2: Find out if your loved one left any funeral wishes
Before arranging the funeral, you should check to see if your loved one included any funeral wishes in their Will. They may also have left a note of their wishes with their papers at home, which will give you an idea of the type of funeral they would like.
If you are unsure of the type of funeral which your loved one would have wanted, you may find it helpful to have a chat with other friends and family members, as they may have had these conversations with your loved one during their lifetime.
Your loved one may also have left a funeral plan, which may have included some wishes about the funeral.
Step 3: Choosing and contacting a funeral director
Your loved one may have already discussed their chosen funeral director with you or other friends and family. You may also find funeral wishes included in their Will, a funeral plan or letter of wishes.
Choosing a good funeral director will help ease the burden of the stress which often comes with arranging a funeral, and can help greatly with the grieving process. A search online or receiving recommendations from those around you may prove useful in making your decision.
Funeral directors must, by law, advertise their fees on their website and in their windows. It is important that you understand the fees involved so that you can ensure that the estate can afford it. It may be that any funeral plan which your loved one has already covers some or all of these fees.
Step 4: Choosing the right type of funeral and arranging the service and wake
You are free to arrange whatever type of funeral you believe your loved one would have wanted. Your loved one may have discussed with you what type of service they would want, where this is to take place, and any arrangements for the wake. You should also consider the location for burial or cremation, as well as where to scatter or inter any ashes.
Your chosen funeral director will discuss the options for different types of funeral, from something simple and affordable, to something more traditional and personalised to your loved one.
Find an accredited funeral director with the National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD) here: www.funeral-directory.co.uk
If you wish to arrange a burial of your loved one, let the funeral director know if there is already a burial plot in place. You should decide whether there is to be a service before the burial, and whether this will be a traditional religious ceremony, or a non-religious one.
A burial can take place at a churchyard, a cemetery, or at a green burial location, such as a woodland. The funeral director will be able to let you know where your nearest woodland burial locations are.
You may decide not to have any ceremony, and that a direct burial would be more appropriate. This is where funeral directors arrange the burial of your loved one, without any ceremony or other people present. They are simple and affordable, and you may still wish to hold a wake afterwards for friends and family to gather and remember your loved one.
You can discuss with the funeral director whether your loved one had any wishes as to where a cremation is to take place, or if they wish their ashes to be interred or scattered anywhere in particular. The funeral director will let you know what options you have for keeping, interring or scattering the ashes.
Just like with a burial, you also have the option of a direct cremation, where the funeral director arranges for the cremation at a crematorium without any other persons present.
Water cremation / Resomation
Also known as Resomation or aquamation, this is a more environmentally friendly and sustainable way of reducing a human body to ash, and is growing in popularity in the UK.
Water cremation is the process of slowly returning the body to ashes using a mixture of water and an alkaline solution. The body is placed in a shroud made from biodegradable materials or a coffin before then being placed into a water cremator.
Once the process is complete, you will receive the ashes to do with as you wish, as you would with a traditional cremation.
Burial at sea
This process allows a body to be committed to sea as its final resting place, and is available for anybody. Usually, you may hold the service either on the waterfront so that more people can attend. Alternatively, you can hold a more private service on the boat itself once you are at sea.
You will need to seek special permission from the Marine Management Organisation. Sea burials require you to meet certain criteria, including the type of coffin used, and the preparation of the body. There are currently only three locations in England where a sea burial can take place.
If you are wanting to arrange a burial at sea, you should discuss this with your funeral director. They may be able to guide you through the process and advise of the likely fees.
Step 5: Arranging payment of costs
If your loved one did not have a funeral plan in place, funerals can be expensive to arrange, with the average cost in the UK now exceeding £4,000. You should discuss with the funeral director how to pay their fees, and for any wake, flowers, or catering etc. Because the estate will usually pay any costs, you can claim these back from the estate funds. You can usually arrange to pay costs directly from your loved one’s bank account. Alternatively, you may find insurance cover which your loved one set up to pay these costs.
Sometimes, there is not enough money in the estate for you to pay the fees. If you are struggling to arrange payment, you should contact the local authority to discuss your options. Some charities are also there to help you with covering costs, which you can search online.
Step 6: Letting people know
Once you have set a date, you can let friends and family know where the service and any wake is to be held. The service is usually held anywhere between one week to several weeks after the death. You will find that this depends on the crematorium or cemetery which you wish to use.