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Funerals

What are the legal requirements?

Please note: There is no legal requirement to have any kind of funeral ceremony at all.

Legally:

  • The death has to be certified by a doctor or coroner
  • The death must be registered with a registrar of births, marriages and deaths
  • The body should either be cremated or buried

What choices do you have for the funeral?

A funeral can be either by burial or by cremation. You can organise it with or without the help of a funeral director.

There are many different types of funeral, so it's useful to remember that:

  • you can choose how a ceremony is run
  • you can use a funeral director if you wish
  • you can choose a religious, humanist or civil funeral ceremony 
  • you don't have to use a clergyman, unless you want a religious service
  • you can choose a ceremony that follows any religious beliefs or traditions
  • the ceremony doesn't need to be in a licensed building - it can be held at home
  • burials can take place on private land if there are no restrictions. You must tell the planning office and environmental health department at your local district or borough council.

Documents needed to arrange a funeral

Burials

You will need a Green Certificate for Burial (Form 9) from the Register Office.

If the coroner was involved, you will need an Order for Burial (Form 101). The coroner will send this directly to the Funeral Director.

Cremation

You will need an Application for Cremation (Cremation 1 - this has replaced Form A) signed by the next of kin or executor.

If the coroner was involved a Green Certificate for Burial (Form 9), or Order for Cremation (Form E) will be issued. The coroner will send this to the Funeral Director.

Medical forms (Cremation 4, 5 and 10) are completed by doctors who dealt with the deceased. The Funeral Director will deal with this.

Planning a funeral

Check the deceased's will for wishes about their funeral before making decisions on the following:

  • where the body should rest before the funeral
  • time and place of the funeral
  • type of service and who will conduct it
  • how much to spend on the funeral
  • whether to have flowers or donate to charity instead
  • where to donate flowers afterwards
  • sending out invitations
  • placing a notice in the newspapers

Please note: a funeral director will help with these decisions, but you do not have to use one.

Paying for a funeral

A funeral can be paid for:

  • from a financial plan, insurance policy or pension scheme the person had.
  • by you, or other family members and friends
  • from the deceased's estate - find out about getting access to an estate on Gov.uk
  • by using financial help if you have difficulty paying

If you are using a funeral director choose one who is a member of the National Association of Funeral Directors or Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors.

What if I am not happy with the funeral?

If you have a complaint about a ceremony you should discuss your concerns with your funeral director. Most funeral directors belong to a trade association and you can contact them with any complaints you may have: 

The National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD)
The National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors

You can also get advice from the Citizens Advice consumer helpline: 08454 040506.

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