Funeral in the UK

How to Organise a Funeral in the UK

Tuesday 05th Mar 2024 |

Losing a loved one is an incredibly difficult time. On top of the emotional turmoil, you may also be faced with the task of planning their funeral. Although nothing can prepare you for the grief, having an understanding of what needs to be done can help make the process a little easier to manage. This guide will take you through the step-by-step process for organising a funeral in the UK.

Registering the Death

The first thing you’ll need to do when someone passes away is legally register the death. This should be done within 5 days in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. In Scotland, deaths must be registered within 8 days.

Who can register the death?

The death can be registered by:

  • A relative of the deceased
  • Someone present at the death
  • The person making the funeral arrangements (the funeral director can do this)
  • The administrator from the hospital (if the person died there)

Where do I register the death?

Deaths are registered at the local register office for the district where the death took place. You can find your local office by searching the gov.uk website. Some register offices allow you to book an appointment before attending. Check the website of your local office to see if this is required.

What information do I need to register the death?

To register a death, the registrar will need:

  • The person’s full name at the time of death
  • Any former names they may have used (e.g. maiden name)
  • Their date and place of birth
  • Their last occupation
  • The full name, birth date and occupation of any surviving spouse or civil partner
  • The full name, sex and occupation of the person registering the death

It will also help if you know:

  • The person’s home address
  • Their NHS number
  • The name of their GP
  • Details of any government benefits they were receiving

The registrar will also ask to see the medical certificate showing the cause of death. This is completed by the deceased’s doctor.

Documents you will receive

Once the death is registered, you’ll be issued documentation including:

  • A Certificate of Registration of Death – this gives permission for burial or cremation to take place. Some outdoor or alternative funeral providers may also request this.
  • A Certificate for Burial or Cremation – known as the ‘green form’. This must be given to the funeral director so the funeral can go ahead. Extra copies can be purchased for around £11 if needed.
  • Notification of Death registration – to be sent to the Department for Work and Pensions to cancel any benefits and entitlements.
  • A death certificate – you will need to pay for any death certificates you require (around £11 each). These may be needed for the will, solicitors, banks, insurance companies etc. Request a few extra copies.

Choosing a Funeral Service

Once registered, the next step is to choose which type of funeral service you would like. There are a few options:

  • Burial – The body is interred underground in a cemetery or churchyard. This is traditionally the most common choice. Burial plots can be purchased or reused if your loved one already owned one.
  • Cremation – The body is cremated at high temperature in a crematorium. The ashes are then given to the family afterwards. Cremation is now chosen over burial by around 75% of UK families.
  • Natural/woodland burial – The body is buried in an eco-friendly woodland site, often without a coffin or headstone. This is a more environmentally friendly option.
  • Humanist/non-religious – A ceremony led by a humanist officiant, without any religious aspects. Focuses on the person’s life.
  • Religious service – A service aligned with the deceased’s faith, led by a relevant religious officiant. Common for Christian, Muslim, Jewish or Hindu funerals.

Think about what your loved one may have wanted when making your decision. Check if they left any preferences in their will. Cremation is generally cheaper than burial – discuss options with your funeral director.

Hiring a Funeral Director

A funeral director will help you arrange all aspects of the funeral and offer advice on the processes involved. They can be hired through a private funeral home or larger company.

What does a funeral director do?

  • Transport the deceased from the place of death
  • Complete necessary paperwork
  • Register the death if you want them to
  • Advise on the legal processes
  • Guide you through funeral service options
  • Arrange the funeral date and time with the crematorium/burial site
  • Prepare and care for the deceased, including dressing them
  • Provide a hearse and other transport on the day
  • Oversee the funeral proceedings
  • Help arrange things like flowers, venues, catering etc

How do I choose a funeral director?

  • Get recommendations from friends and family if possible
  • Research options online – check reviews and testimonials
  • Consider location – is there a good local funeral home?
  • Meet with a few funeral directors and compare prices/services
  • Think about the type of funeral you want and find a director suited to this – e.g. natural burial experts
  • Choose someone you feel comfortable with and can easily communicate with
  • Ask questions – a good funeral director will explain costs/options clearly without pressure

Don’t be afraid to negotiate to get the right package for your budget. Be wary of high-pressure sales tactics. Simple Send-offs in Wirral offer an affordable, no hassle alternative.

Funeral Costs and Paying for It

Funeral costs in the UK average around £4,000-£5,000. There are ways to reduce expenses if needed:

  • Choose cremation – typically cheaper than burial
  • Opt for a direct cremation – no service or mourners
  • Avoid lavish coffins, flowers and transport
  • Hold a small, intimate service
  • Access financial help available from the government, charities or employer benefits

Breakdown of typical funeral costs:

  • Funeral director fees – £2,000-£4,000
  • Cremation costs – £700-£999+
  • Burial plot – £200-£4000+
  • Minister/officiant – £199-£250
  • Flowers – £100-£300+
  • Death notices – £100-£150
  • Venue hire – £300-£500
  • Catering/refreshments – £3-£15 per head

There are several options for paying for a funeral:

  • The deceased person’s bank account – If there are sufficient funds available. You’ll need to show the bank the death certificate and will/probate paperwork.
  • Pre-paid funeral plan – Check if your loved one paid for a funeral plan in advance. The costs are fixed at the time it was taken out.
  • State assistance – You may be eligible for a Funeral Payment from the DWP if on certain benefits. This contributes around £1,000-£2,000.
  • Life insurance payout – Check policies. Some include an amount for funeral costs.
  • Money from the person’s estate – If there wasn’t a pre-paid plan. The executor can access money from the estate.
  • Your own funds – Unfortunately you may need to pay yourself and claim the money back from the estate. Keep receipts.

See if there are any small pots of money available to put towards it – subscriptions/memberships etc that can be cancelled for a refund. Every bit helps.

Cremation or Burial Paperwork

If you’ve chosen cremation or burial, there is some paperwork needed to allow this:

For cremation:

  • Cremation Forms 1, 3, 4 and 5 – Completed by you, your doctor and the coroner if applicable. Gives permission for cremation.
  • Certificate of Registration of Death (the ‘green form’) – Issued when you registered the death. Given to the funeral director.

For burial:

  • Certificate of Registration of Death (the ‘green form’)
  • Grave ownership paperwork – If using an existing family plot. Permission may be needed from the owner.

Your funeral director will assist with completing and submitting the necessary paperwork. Cremation cannot take place without the relevant forms.

Writing an Obituary

An obituary is a notice announcing a person’s death, celebrating their life and listing funeral details. Obituaries are optional but can be a nice way to pay tribute.

Where to publish it:

  • Local or national newspapers – There is usually a charge for these based on length.
  • Funeral service programme – Many families compile a programme with poems/readings etc. The obituary can go in here.
  • Online – There are free sites where you can post obituaries if you don’t want to pay newspaper fees.

What to include:

  • Full name of the deceased, including maiden name if applicable, age and place of death.
  • Key details about their life – Place of birth, education, career, family, achievements, interests etc. ‘John Smith was born in Chester in 1960. He attended…He worked as a teacher…John loved fishing and gardening. He will be remembered for…’
  • Date and time of the funeral ceremony. Details of venue, reception location. Charity donation preferences instead of flowers.

Keep it factual and positive. Focus on celebrating their life. Avoid controversies or unhappy times – remember it’s a public announcement. Ask someone close to them to help you compile it if needed.

Arranging the Funeral Ceremony

The funeral ceremony is a chance for loved ones to come together and commemorate the deceased’s life. Depending on the type of service, there are various aspects to consider:

Ceremony venue – Crematorium chapels, church, mosque, non-religious venue etc. Your funeral director can advise.

Officiant – A priest, minister, humanist, imam etc to lead the service. They will work with you on the format and rituals.

Transport – A hearse to convey the coffin/casket and limousines for family and close friends.

Flowers – Floral tributes to place on/near the coffin. Choose displays to suit the venue.

Order of service – A programme outlining details of the funeral and indicating participation cues for mourners.

Eulogy – A speech celebrating the deceased’s life. Decide who will deliver it and help them prepare.

Readings/music/hymns – Appropriate for the religion/beliefs of the deceased. Popular funeral music includes ‘Time to Say Goodbye’ and ‘My Way’.

Dress code – Traditionally formal dark clothing, but not compulsory. Avoid casual clothing like jeans/trainers if possible.

Go through the format in detail with your officiant. Visit the venue to check logistics. Your funeral director will be able to provide guidance and samples of order of service templates.

Arranging the Wake

It is customary to hold a wake after the funeral ceremony for people to gather and remember the deceased. This could be at a private home, pub, restaurant or hired venue.

Things to plan:

  • Catering – Hot and cold buffet food, tea/coffee, alcohol and soft drinks. Caterers can provide staff too.
  • Numbers – Estimate based on the funeral attendance. The venue must be suitable in size.
  • Venue – Could be the same ceremony venue if it has a room, or somewhere like a community centre, hotel or the deceased’s local pub.
  • RSVP – Include wake details on the funeral invitations so people can RSVP. Gives you an idea of catering quantities.
  • Timing – Usually 1-2 hours after the ceremony concludes. Check how long you can have the venue.
  • Entertainment – Could include things like photos/videos displayed, music playlists etc.
  • Costs – Venue hire, catering, drinks etc. Set a budget and keep receipts for the estate.

The wake provides a less formal chance for people to share stories about your loved one and support each other through the grief.

Administering the Estate

Once the funeral has taken place, the administrative tasks begin for the executor(s) of the will. This involves assets, possessions and liabilities.

Notifying organisations:

  • Financial institutions – banks, mortgage/loan and credit card providers
  • Utility companies – gas, electricity, water, phone etc. Cancel any direct debits.
  • Insurance providers – life, health, car, home etc
  • Government departments – HMRC, DWP for state pension, benefits, tax etc
  • Investment/pension companies
  • Passport office – return passport
  • Social media sites – memorialise or close accounts

Provide a certified copy of the death certificate when you notify them. Redirect post if necessary. Keep thorough records of notifications made.

Property, possessions and pets:

  • Arrange care for any pets. Identify new owners if needed.
  • Clear and secure the deceased’s home. Redirect post, dispose of perishable items etc.
  • Value possessions and distribute keepsakes according to the will.
  • Sell major assets like property, vehicles, valuables etc if stipulated in the will.

Financial matters:

  • Establish the value of assets in accounts – savings, investments, pensions etc.
  • Apply for probate if necessary – the legal right to distribute the estate.
  • Pay any debts – loans, utilities, taxes etc.
  • Distribute financial bequests from the will.
  • Apply for inheritance tax exemption if relevant.

An executor can seek professional assistance from solicitors, accountants and probate specialists if they require it. Utilise support from family where possible too.

Support Services and Grief Resources

The death of a loved one is intensely painful. Be kind to yourself during the grieving process and utilise support services if you need them:

  • Religious support – Speak to a priest, vicar, rabbi etc for spiritual guidance from your faith community.
  • Counselling – Bereavement counsellors and therapists help you work through grief. NHS, charities and private counsellors are available.
  • Bereavement groups – Sharing experiences with others facing loss can bring comfort. Local face-to-face or online groups provide mutual support.
  • Helplines – Confidential listening services like Cruse Bereavement Support. Available by phone, email or live chat.
  • Online forums – Connect with bereaved people coping with similar situations as you. Sites like Grief Healing provide anonymous peer support.
  • Books/resources – Information on the grieving process and managing emotions. Reading about others’ experiences can validate what you are feeling.
  • Support for children – Books, professional counselling, school support etc specifically tailored for young people. Explain death in an age-appropriate way.
  • Financial assistance – Government benefits or charities may provide help if money is an added concern. Citizens Advice can advise what you may be eligible for.

Don’t feel under pressure to grieve in a certain way or time frame. Everyone processes loss differently. Let friends and family know what you need – meals, help with errands etc. Take things one step at a time.

Finalising Administrative Details

After the funeral and initial estate admin is complete, you’ll need to finalise some details:

Headstone/memorial

If buried, organise any memorial plaque or gravestone you wish to have. Choose an inscription. Memorials can also be created for ashes scattering/storage sites.

Probate

When everything is distributed, apply to formally close probate if applicable. This completes the legal duties of an executor.

Accounts

Notify banks of account closures once distribution is done. If jointly owned they can be transferred to the surviving owner’s name.

Thank you notes

Send thank you cards to those who helped – pallbearers, caterers, florists etc. Also to anyone who made a charitable donation.

Keepsakes

Decide on distributing small personal possessions not specified in the will – photographs, jewellery etc. Give items like clothing to charity if unwanted.

Review

Make a note of funeral companies, songs, readings etc you would recommend to others based on your experience. This can help another family someday.

Take time for reflection and self-care. It may be comforting to arrange living memorials like planting a tree, creating an album or making donations/volunteering for a cause your loved one cared about. Their impact lives on through you.

Summary

Losing someone close to you is devastating. While nothing can make it easy, understanding the processes involved allows you to navigate all the arrangements smoothly.

Break it down step-by-step. Register the death, and select funeral options. Hire a funeral director to guide you. Sort paperwork. Write an obituary, and plan details of the ceremony and wake. Notify organisations and administer the estate. Call on family and friends if you don’t want to handle it alone. Discuss any wishes the deceased had for their funeral.

Finance the costs through savings, prepaid plans or government assistance. Consider bereavement support, counselling or group resources if struggling with grief. Help and funding is available. Attend to final admin once the estate is settled.

It may feel overwhelming initially, but take things one day at a time. With support, patience and care for yourself, you will get through this difficult period. Focus on the positive memories. Your loved one’s spirit lives on.