In England and Wales death must be certified by a doctor or coroner, registered with a Registrar of Births, Marriages and Deaths and the body either buried or cremated.
You do not have to have a funeral ceremony, religious minister or funeral director.
The ceremony does not have to take place in a crematorium or place of worship. Woodland burial and other green options are available.
The majority of people choose to make arrangements through a funeral director. 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 can also get information from the Natural Death Centre. Some funeral directors are willing to help with such funerals.
The following factors may influence your choice:
• Location and the range of services provided
• The way you are treated by the staff
• Cost and value for money
• Recommendation of those who have used the service
• Ownership (small family business or large company)
Check if the funeral director you choose belongs to a trade association. This requires them to provide full information about their services and prices and ensures they follow a strict Code of Practice.
Costs may vary considerably from one funeral director to another. You may wish to get more than one quote to compare costs.
The funeral director should make all the necessary arrangements and provide the following services as a minimum:
• appropriate staff, including someone to conduct the funeral
• a suitable coffin
• transfer of the deceased from the place of death to the funeral director's premises
• care for the deceased prior to the funeral
• a hearse to the nearest cemetery or crematorium
• arrange for burial or cremation
Embalming, viewing of the deceased or providing a limousine for mourners may incur extra costs.
'Disbursements' are additional fees that may be charged e.g. crematorium costs, minister, cremation certificate, newspaper announcements and flowers etc. The funeral director has to provide a written estimation showing all the fees including disbursements. The person who arranges the funeral is responsible for paying the bill.
Funeral payments are normally recoverable from the deceased's estate.
If you are finding it difficult to pay for a funeral 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 benefit
• Job Seeker's Allowance (Income based)
• Disabled person's tax credit
• Working family's tax credit
Contact your local Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) for more information.
Most funerals are conducted well. If however, you have a complaint, you should first speak to your funeral director.
If you are not satisfied with the response, you can complain to the trade associations your funeral director belongs to:
• The National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD)
• The National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF)
The Funeral Arbitration Scheme deals with complaints that cannot be resolved at trade association level. It does not deal with complaints relating to members of NAFD, which has its own independent client redress scheme.
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 & Independent Funeral Directors
SAIF Business Centre, 3 Bullfields
Hertfordshire, CM21 9DB
Tel: 0845 230 6777
The Natural Death Centre
6 Blackstock Mews, Blackstock Road
London, N4 2BT
Tel: 0871 288 2098
A consumer's Guide to Funerals: http://www.oft.gov.uk
What to do after a death - free booklet (D49) from Benefits Agency
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