News and views on the latest health issues



Arranging a funeral

Publish date: 01/04/2014

Arranging the funeral

Before starting to make any funeral arrangements it’s important to make sure that the death doesn’t need to be reported to the coroner, as this could determine the date after which the funeral can take place.

If you’re unsure as to what sort of funeral arrangements the person wanted it’s worth checking to see if there is a will within which they have expressed these wishes.

Before arranging the funeral you need to check where the funds to pay for this will be coming from, because as the organiser you will be responsible for paying the bill.

There are some legal requirements to follow after somebody has died. The death must be registered and the funeral should  be either  burial or cremation.

It may be necessary to organise the funeral to comply with the practices of the deceased person’s religious beliefs. A minister for that religion or religious organisation would be able to provide advice in relation to these.

Arranging the funeral without a funeral director

Most commonly people choose to organise the funeral via a professional funeral director. This makes life easier at what is a stressful time.

It’s possible to organise a funeral without the involvement of a funeral director. If you wish to do this you should contact the cemeteries and crematorium department of your local council for some advice.

Choosing a funeral director

Someone you know and trust may be able to personally recommend a local funeral director for you. If not local companies will be listed in the Yellow Pages or via an internet search. It may be worth contacting more than one firm as costs can vary widely between companies.

There are two trade associations which funeral directors can choose to belong to. You may wish to check if a particular company has chosen to do this before deciding whether you wish to use them.

National Association of Funeral Directors:

Tel: 0845 230 1343

National Society of Allied & Independent Funeral Directors:

Tel: 0845 230 6777

Both organisations have codes of practice which their members are obliged to follow. Members are required to give you a price list when you ask for one and they will not increase any costs without your prior permission.

You will need to pass on the registrar’s certificate for burial or cremation (the green form) to the funeral director, or an order for burial, or a certificate for cremation which gives permission for a burial or to apply for a cremation. A funeral will not be able to go ahead without this happening.

Deciding about cremation or burial

If you’re unsure whether the person wanted to be buried or cremated, the will may have directions on this. It’s generally up to the executor of the will or the next of kin to decide what sort of funeral to have. The executor does not have to follow the instructions that have been left in the will.

The funeral director will support you in making decisions such as when and where the funeral should take place.

If there is going to be a ceremony or service held then you should get in touch with an appropriate person relevant to the religion or belief of the person who has died. If you need guidance in this area the funeral director should be able to assist you with this.


A cremation cannot take place until the cause of death is fully established.

The crematorium (or funeral director) requires the following prior to the cremation going ahead:

  • an application form signed by the executor or next of kin
  • 2 cremation certificates ( the first must be signed by the treating doctor and the other should be signed by a doctor who has not been involved in the treatment of the person who has died),


  • a cremation form that has been signed by the coroner.

You have to pay for the 2 cremation certificates that have been signed for by the doctors. However, if the death is referred to the coroner these forms will not be required. The coroner will instead provide you with a certificate for cremation, which you will not be charged for.

A ‘medical referee’ is the person who is able to authorise any cremation that is carried out in the crematorium. They are appointed by the Secretary of State.

If all the forms have been completed and the crematorium is satisfied that the cause of death has been confirmed, the medical referee will sign a form to authorise the cremation. The medical referee has got the power to refuse the cremation if they wish to make further enquiries, however they must provide a reason for doing so.

If the person died outside England or Wales please see 'if someone dies abroad' section. 

You’ll need to make the funeral directors or crematorium aware of what you want them to do with the ashes after the body has been cremated. If this hasn’t been made clear to them they will need to make contact with you to find out your wishes.

There are various things that you might choose to do with the ashes. They can be scattered in the dead person’s favourite place or in a garden of remembrance. Alternatively you may wish to bury them in a churchyard or cemetery. Some people choose simply to keep the ashes.

If a baby or young child has been cremated it is possible that there may not be any ashes. If this is the case you may be able to arrange to have a memorial plaque in their name. You may have to pay for this.


You must have a death certificate signed by a doctor and a certificate for burial from the registrar of births and deaths before someone can be buried.

By checking their will or by looking through their papers you should be able to find out if the person has arranged a burial plot in a churchyard, cemetery or elsewhere. If a burial plot in a cemetery has been paid for there will be a ‘deed of grant’ to show this. Cemeteries are owned by local authorities or private companies and their fees can vary. Most cemeteries are open to all faiths and so most types of service or ceremony can be held there. However, some churchyards or cemeteries no longer have the space for any new graves.

If you would like the person to be buried in a churchyard you can approach the priest or minister to find out if there are any spaces available and who has the right to be buried there.  

back to top

Private medical insurance

Private health insurance

Our private health insurance can offer you:

  • Speedy access to diagnosis
  • Choice of hospital and specialists
  • Enhanced heart and cancer cover and care

Sign up to our monthly Better Health newsletter to receive updates on our latest health and wellbeing updates.

Sign up to newsletter

Ask the expert

Got a question?
Our team of medical experts are ready to help.