Being clear about our preferences means that when we die, those people close to us know what type of funeral we want. This can spare our family and friends the stress, and sometimes arguments, of having to make difficult decisions.
Would you want to be buried or cremated? Where do you want your funeral to be held? Do you want a religious funeral? Do you want music played?
The cost of funerals has increased significantly during the last five years. Paying in advance and spreading the cost over months or years can ensure that your family is not burdened with expense and stress.
Making our wishes known ▾
There are different ways to do this. The most important thing to do is to record your wishes in writing and inform people close to you what they are and where you keep copies of your wishes. This may not be easy. Family and friends may have different views about funerals. Should a funeral remember the person who has died, comfort the bereaved or a combination of both these things? For example:
Bob has often said that he didn’t want much fuss when he died. However, he realised that his family and friends would seek comfort by being able to take part in a funeral service.
The Talk to Loved Ones section may help you find ways of talking about your funeral with those people close to you.
The my funeral wishes form ▾
Dying Matters and the National Association of Funeral Directors have produced My Funeral Wishes. It's a simple form that lets you create a personal funeral plan that reflects your wishes.
The form can be printed, shared with family and friends and kept in a safe place.
In addition it can be sent to the National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD). Your funeral wishes will be logged and passed to your preferred funeral director, if you have specified one on the form. If you haven't specified a funeral director, NAFD will nominate your nearest NAFD member firm. If you choose to do this, please make sure you sign the form before you return it to the NAFD.
A copy of the completed form will be sent back to you for safekeeping, along with a certificate detailing your funeral director.
Paying for a funeral ▾
There are different ways of covering the cost of a funeral including:
- Buying a pre-paid funeral plan
- Paying for insurance to cover funeral costs
- Setting up a savings scheme
The Money Advice Service explain how funeral plans work, how they are regulated and what questions you should ask.
The Age UK Guaranteed Funeral Plan covers the costs of a funeral and arrangements in advance. It is easy to understand and to arrange.
Making preparations now means you can pay ahead with pre-paid funeral plans and you beat inflation by fixing funeral costs at today's prices.
What to do following death ▾
Three things we must do legally
- Obtain a cause of death certificate
- Register the death
- Bury or cremate the body unless it's being donated to science
Death must be certified by a doctor who will give the family a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death to take to the local council's Registrar's Office to register the death.
If a death happens in hospital, nursing staff will advise the next of kin about how to obtain the death certificate.
If a death happens at home, next of kin should phone the family GP (or 999 if you don’t know who the GP is) so a doctor can visit to certify the death.
If the death is sudden, suspicious or unusual, a post-mortem (or autopsy) may be needed to determine the cause of death. No family permission is needed for this and the coroner will issue the medical certificate after the post-mortem. There is no cost to the family.
If the cause of death isn’t clear but not suspicious, the doctor or the family can ask for a post-mortem. In this case, relatives will be asked to sign a permission form.
The attendance by the police at sudden or unexpected deaths is routine practice. Understandably, this can sometimes come as a shock to family and friends.
For more information see Age UK’s Planning for a funeral factsheet
Funeral options ▾
Most people use a funeral director to arrange a funeral. It can take away much of the stress associated with planning a funeral and can give you the time you need to deal with your grief. When looking for a funeral director, choose one from either:
- The National Association of Funeral Directors
- The National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors
You can arrange a funeral yourself without a funeral director, or make some of the arrangements yourself.
To find out more about arranging a funeral without a funeral director and other ways of saving money on the Natural Death Centre website.
For more information on the costs of a funeral go to the Money Advice Service website.
Types of funeral services
Everyone living in England is entitled to a funeral led by the Church of England, regardless of the person’s religious background. Any person can contact the local parish priest to inquire about a funeral, either out of general interest, or in a time of need. The Church of England Funeral Service follows a basic format, and is personalised according to the wishes of those planning the funeral with the support of the priest or officiating minister. The service can take place in church, at the crematorium or at the graveside. Often families choose to have the main part of the funeral service in the church building to allow for more time for celebrating the life of the deceased, then follow on to the crematorium or cemetery for a brief Committal. The priest or other members of the local church congregation often provide support to the families after the funeral. More information about a Church of England funeral, contact your local parish priest or click here.
Other Christian denominations and other faith communities also conduct funerals, though may require some affiliation. As with the Church of England, it is best to approach the local minister to inquire about funerals and their arrangements.
A secular funeral service can take place almost anywhere a person wishes, except for a religious building. A secular service can have a spiritual element and can include religious music. Someone who is not a member of the clergy called a Funeral Celebrant usually conducts it.
Humanist service focuses on the celebration of life with no mention of religion, faith, spiritual views and the afterlife.
A ‘DIY funeral’ is organised and carried out by friends and family instead of a funeral director. There is no legal reason why people cannot conduct a funeral.
Burials and cremations
A person can be buried in their garden or other private ground. The Environment Agency says that no laws prevent people being buried in their own garden, but an authorisation form must be filled in, since decomposing corpses can pose a health risk.
A garden grave must be situated more than 10 metres from standing water, at least 50 metres away from a drinking water source, and be deep enough to prevent foxes from digging up the body. It's also necessary to record the whereabouts of the grave and include this in the deeds of the property.
Find out more from the Natural Death Centre.
There is nothing explicit in the legislation to restrict people in disposing of cremated ashes. While this may be true, the difficulty may come in gaining permission to scatter or bury ashes on someone else’s land. This is often the case with sports stadia. You can scatter or bury ashes in your garden if you wish.
Find out more from www.scattering-ashes.co.uk