Burials - useful links, contacts and information
Click on the following links (or telephone number) to find out more information:
- What to do after someone dies
- Commonwealth War Graves Commission
- The Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management
- Age Concern
- Citizens Advice Bureau
- Compassionate Friend (Support & friendship by those similarly bereaved)
- Cruse Bereavement Care (Bereavement Counselling)
- Foundation for the study of Infant Deaths (Tel: 020 7 2228001)
- 24 hours Cot Death helpline (Tel: 020 7 2332090)
- National Association of Widows (Tel: 024 7663 4848)
- Stillbirth & Neonatal Death Society (SANDS) 0207 4367940
- Child Death Helpline 0800 282986
- The Counselling Directory
Other useful information:
Frequently Asked Questions
Who is responsible for the provision of the Council's burial services?
The burial service is managed by:
- Bereavement Services Section, Allerdale House, Workington, Cumbria CA14 3YJ
- Telephone: 01900 702620 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
What services do the Council provide?
- Facilities exist for adult and infant burials in both purchased and public graves.
- The cemeteries are open to the public at all times.
- A number of leaflets describing the services offered and burial provisions provided by the Council are available from the Bereavement Services Office.
For funeral bookings and further information, please contact the bereavement services office.
What about other Churchyards in the area?
A number of small Churchyards operate within the Borough. These are managed by the local churches.
Who can I contact for information?
For Cemetery Provisions, Funeral Bookings and further information please contact the Bereavement Services Office.
Must I use a Funeral Director to arrange a funeral?
No, Bereavement Services staff will be pleased to advise those wishing to organise a funeral themselves.
For those who wish to use a funeral director a list of local funeral directors can be obtained from the Bereavement Services Office.
How can I arrange an environmentally friendly funeral?
The Bereavement Services Section publish informative leaflets which include differing formats for burial, including: coffins and alternatives, meadow burial and burial in private land. Copies are available from the office.
What is the Charter for the Bereaved?
Promoted by the Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management, and by the Confederation of Burial Authorities, the Charter sets out 35 rights or standards of service against which burial and cremation can be judged.
A reference copy of the Charter is available to view at the Bereavement Services office but an appointment must be made in advance.
Can I find Family History Information?
A record of all interments is held and maintained in the bereavement services office. During normal working hours bereavement staff will assist visitors to locate graves but an appointment must be made in advance.
Why are graves dug so deep?
Graves have to be dug to a sufficient depth to allow for future burials to take place. Therefore the grave needs to be deep enough to allow not only for the depth of coffins/caskets that will be buried but also to accommodate legal requirements of undisturbed earth to be between each coffin and the amount of earth that must cover the last interment.
I have a lawn grave. Why can't I put a full memorial over the surface of the grave?
The lawn grave was designed on the war grave principle (to have only a memorial of limited size at the head of the grave with the rest of the grave laid to lawn). In this manner the limited area available for burial is best utilised. In addition maintenance is easier to accomplish with large mowing machinery being used to keep the area in a neat condition. These grave rights are sold on the understanding that only lawn style memorials are erected. Full memorials are only permitted on traditional graves and some border graves.
Care must be taken when selecting the type of grave. If you would prefer a larger, more traditional type memorial you should not opt for a lawn grave.
Are graves filled in straight after a funeral or are they left to the next day?
Graves are prepared for burial at least one full day before the funeral and are covered overnight. The ICCM Guiding Principles for Burial Services states that immediately after the mourners have departed the graveside, the grave shall be entirely backfilled and made tidy. This work is completed on the day of the burial and coffins should not be left uncovered overnight.
I understand that some people wait while the grave is filled in. Why is this?
Some cultures require that the grave is filled in while the family watch or they may wish to undertake the backfilling of the grave themselves. When families want this it is essential that the cemetery is made aware of their requirements when the burial is first arranged. This will ensure that the family's wishes are met and that their safety is protected during the backfilling process.
I've got a lawn grave. When will I be able to put a memorial onto it?
Where individual foundations are provided for lawn memorials, these are situated on un-dug ground at the head end of the grave. Some memorials can be erected at any point in time.
Why have I only been sold the grave for a set period of time? - I want the grave forever!
The law stipulates that graves cannot be sold for ever and authorities cannot go against that law. However, the law does permit grant of ownership to be renewed at the end of the current lease. In this manner, the grave can stay in the family for as long as they wish, though ownership will never be issued for more than the number of years specified within the authority’s fees and charges.
I own the grave - can anyone else be buried in it if I don't want them to?
No. Graves cannot be opened without the permission in writing of the registered owner of the grave. The only exception to this is where the burial is to be that of the registered owner in which case no written authority is required. The law protects your rights as registered owner of the grave.
I am told the grave is for two people - there is only one person in the grave and I now want two more burials to take place in the grave.
When a grave is purchased to take two full body burials, the depth to which the grave is excavated for the first burial must take into account the need for the second burial. There are legal requirements as to how much earth must be left on top of the last coffin, and it is therefore not physically possible to put an extra coffin into the grave without breaking the law. However, after the grave is full for coffined burial cremated remains caskets or urns may still be buried within the grave.
What happens when the lease expires?
When you buy a grave right you purchase the exclusive Rights of Burial in that grave for a set period of time. At the end of the period you should be given the option of renewing the Rights for a further period. It is vitally important that you keep the bereavement services office fully informed should you change address otherwise you may not receive a notice of renewal at the appropriate time.
Also at the end of the lease period, your rights to erect and maintain a memorial cease. Should you not wish to renew the lease or you cannot be contacted the cemetery staff can lawfully remove any memorial after giving a set period of notice for you to remove the memorial yourself. If you decide to renew the lease this may be on condition that the memorial receives a full inspection and stability test and any defects found are repaired.
Who is responsible for the memorial?
Bereavement services staff carry out routine inspections of memorials in the cemetery and when one is identified as being unstable and likely to fall and injure someone it might be cordoned off or laid flat. You will receive a letter in these circumstances and it will be your responsibility to arrange suitable repair. Should your memorial still be under guarantee the memorial mason will be responsible to carry out repair at no extra cost to yourself. Should you ignore the notice sent to you your memorial may well be laid flat and when the lease expires you will not be allowed to renew it until repairs are made. Should no repairs be carried out and after further notification the memorial may be lawfully removed from the cemetery.
Your memorial mason also has a responsibility to provide a memorial of merchantable quality and to erect it in a safe manner. All local memorial masons must be registered with BRAMM (British Register of Accredited Monumental Masons.)
What happens if / when all the owners have died?
Ownership of the exclusive Right of Burial in a grave can be transferred from a deceased owner via that owner's estate. There is a set procedure to follow to transfer the rights and each case must be looked at individually. If you need to transfer ownership when all owners are deceased you will need to contact the bereavement services office where staff will arrange for a transfer to take place with due compliance with law.
Why can't I have what I want on the grave?
When a new grave is purchased it is not the ownership of the land itself that is purchased, but the rights to have burials take place in that grave. These rights are sold, or to be more correct, 'granted' together with the rights to erect a memorial on the grave in accordance with the rules and regulations of the cemetery. It is important that you select the cemetery that will provide you with the type of memorial that you require as regulations differ from area to area. This can be checked out by contacting the bereavement services office and making enquiries about the choices and options available.
Why is a permit needed?
Prior to a memorial being erected on a grave space, the written authority of the owner of the grave must be given on a permit / application form, authorising the proposed erection of the memorial. Memorials need to conform to cemetery regulations with regard to size and fixings, and the memorial also needs to be checked for stability under health and safety regulations. The bereavement services staff need to check that the memorial conforms to regulations and will be erected in a safe manner. To a certain extent this helps protect your interests although you will remain responsible for the maintenance of the memorial in the future. You may ask your memorial mason for a workmanship guarantee or in fact details of insurance.
Some authorities will issue a separate Right to Erect and Maintain a Memorial and the purchase of this right will be made on submission of the application to erect a memorial. Other authorities may combine the Memorial Rights with the Burial Rights.
The loss of a loved one can be a difficult time. The last thing anyone wants to worry about at this time is the cost. A number of people who have anticipated the costs and have not wanted to burden their family or friends have a pre-paid funeral plan.
For whatever reasons, sometimes money is an issue. The state believes that all people, no matter what creed, colour, sex or financial situation, are entitled to a minimum of a simple, decent and respectful funeral. The help available is:-
- Cost of the disposal will be met by the state (for a simple burial or cremation) Included for a burial, the gravediggers fees & the grave cost, or for a cremation, the cremation itself and the medical fee. It does not include provision of flowers, obituaries or any ceremony costs (religious or not).
- Up to £700 of funeral expenses (includes the coffin, the hearse, care of the deceased and the funeral directors expenses)
Who can get help?
To qualify, you or your partner (for the purposes of this grant, partner is defined as spouse, or someone you live with as if you are married to them) MUST be receiving one of the following benefits or tax credits.
- Income Support
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Working Families’ Tax Credit
- Housing Benefit
- Council Tax Benefit
- Disabled Person’s Tax Credit
If you receive any of these benefits, you can claim help with the funeral through the Social Fund of the Jobcentre Plus (claim pack SF200). Please remember that the financial help you get is limited.
In addition, it must be reasonable for you to have taken responsibility for the funeral expenses. This would usually mean that you were the partner of the deceased; If they had no partner, then close relative or very close friend. The DWP will ask about the circumstances of the close relatives of the deceased.
Circumstances that may lead to ineligibility
The DWP want to target this payment to the people who most need it. Thus, under these situations the payment may be reduced, or not granted. The following will be deducted from an award:-
- Any assets of the deceased available to you or your partner
- Any lump sum which is due on the death of deceased for funeral costs
- If any of the closest kin do not qualify for the payment
- Any funeral grant, where the deceased was a war pensioner
- Any contribution for the funeral from a charity or relative (of both yourself or the deceased)
- Any savings you have over £500 (£1000 if you are 60 or over). The savings may be in your name, or your partner’s name.
This list is not an exhaustive list, but a guide to some of the circumstances that may be a barrier to financial help.
Recovering the costs from the deceased person’s estate
As the funeral costs are the first claim against someone’s estate when they die, the DWP are allowed to recover the funeral expenses if they had any assets, saving any insurance policies. Where the deceased had a surviving partner, the value of the home in which they lived is ignored and the personal possessions left to relatives do not normally count.
How to claim
You can claim a funeral payment from the date of death, and up to three months after the date of the funeral. Funeral Payments are sent to you, and usually made by giro cheque in the funeral director’s name. To claim, contact your local Jobcentre Plus office for form SF200 or to the Gov.UK website. This form should also be available from your local library or from post offices.
The deceased must have been ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom at the date of death, and the funeral must normally take place in the UK. However, in certain circumstances, a funeral payment may be made for a funeral which takes place elsewhere within the European Economic Area. The amount awarded will be restricted to the amount which would have been paid if the funeral had taken place in the area where the deceased had lived within the UK.
If you need any explanation of the above, or you would like further information, or some of the data is unhelpful then please contact the Bereavement Services Office (01900 702620) and we will assist in any way we can.
Several cemeteries within the Borough have had certain areas designated for “Natural Burials”. These areas will not take on the neat and tidy look of the rest of the cemetery, but will adopt a more “back to nature” look with the planting and subsequent growth of many species of wild flowers. The cemeteries identified are located at Cockermouth, Harrington Road, Workington and Maryport.
The graves are recorded on plans and are individually numbered. This is to ensure a correct record is kept and the grave can always be found.
The burials for a double grave would, in this case, be side by side and not a double depth as in a more traditional cemetery grave.
Coffins and Containers
The burials must take place in a biodegradable (natural wood / non-veneered / cardboard / bamboo / wicker) coffin, shroud or other suitable container.
The natural wood coffins should be made of wood from a managed tree forest.
There would be provision for the strewing or burial of cremated remains.
The strewing would involve lifting the turf and pouring the remains into a pre prepared excavation.
Burial of cremated remains would involve interment in a biodegradable vessel such as Casket, urn etc.
The option of meadow/green funerals are not reserved for specific religions in certain areas. It would be the families of, or relatives who decide on whether a religious, secular or no service would be needed.
The personal completion of a funeral can often help the bereaved in coming to terms with the death of a relative or friend. This can help the grieving process, particularly where the wishes of the bereaved person are being fulfilled.
There are no memorials (headstones, vases, crosses etc.) allowed in these areas. However, we do encourage the planting of native bulbs and wild flowers or the scattering of native wild flower seeds.
To encourage the growth of the wild flowers it is necessary to impose restrictions. People walking to individual graves would create paths and trample the wildflowers, destroying the living memorial we propose to create. Care must be taken when visiting these areas. You may be able to plant a tree as a memorial. Please contact Bereavement Services for further information.
A natural burial is not for those who prefer a neat and tidy grave with a headstone, but for those who love wildlife and wish to create environmental benefits for future generations.
Several cemeteries within the Borough have had certain areas designated for “Natural Burials”. These areas will not take on the neat and tidy look of the rest of the cemetery, but will adopt a more “back to nature” look with the planting and subsequent growth of many species of wild flowers. The cemeteries identified are located at Cockermouth, Harrington Road, Workington and Maryport.
Allerdale Borough Council’s cemeteries are operated in accordance with the following rules and regulations. These also impose certain restrictions and requirements on users of the cemeteries which we expect users to observe.
If you need any help interpreting the rules and regulations, please do not hesitate to contact staff at the bereavement services office on 01900 702620 or email email@example.com
Grave Right / Deed
Please keep the grave deed safe as it is evidence of your ownership of the right. You have purchased a right of burial, which ensures that any further burial must be of the grave owner, or a burial authorised by the owner.
It is important to note that you have bought a ‘right’, and not the land, which still remains in the ownership of Allerdale Borough Council.
All new graves are purchased for a period of 50 years unless otherwise stated on the deed.
Transfer of deed Ownership
Where the current grave owner is still alive and wishes to transfer ownership to another person a form of Assignment must be properly completed and returned to the bereavement services office. A form of Assignment is available upon request from the bereavement services office.
Transfer of Ownership of a grave may take place where the registered grave owner is deceased by submitting a completed statutory declaration form, available from the bereavement services office. This form must be signed by a solicitor or a commissioner of oaths then returned with the appropriate fee to the bereavement services office where a new deed will be issued with the amended information.
Graves – General Information
Nothing identifying the grave, fences, enclosures, trenches, kerb surrounds, border stones or memorials will be permitted on any meadow grave space.
The council has a right to remove from any grave any items that may interfere with the grounds maintenance of that area after serving notice to the registered owner. Any items seen to be causing an immediate hazard or danger will be removed immediately without notice. The council has the right to remove and dispose of any floral tributes, flowers, plants etc. that have withered or died or have become unsightly on any grave. Bulbs may be planted around the area of the grave.
Native trees are encouraged within meadow burial areas; please ring the Bereavement Services office for details.
The cutting of the grass on any meadow grave space will not be permitted.
After burial all graves will be tidied up and left in an acceptable condition by the cemetery staff. The levelling of graves during the period of settlement will be carried out by the cemetery staff on a regular basis after the burial.
We only treat frozen roads and paths to imminent funerals. As anniversaries occur every day of the year we never close the cemeteries even though snow and ice exist, please exercise extreme care during visits throughout the winter months.
Dogs in Cemeteries
Dogs are allowed in cemeteries but must be kept on a lead at all times. Owners are responsible for cleaning up any fouling caused by their dog(s).
Cemeteries are included in the Dogs (Fouling of Land) Act 1996 and under this act owners who fail to clean up after their dogs can be prosecuted. In addition, the council employ environmental wardens to enforce the Act.
The Local Authorities Cemeteries Order 1977
Attention is drawn to the above act and any amendments thereto.
This order provides that no person shall:-
- Wilfully create any disturbance or commit any nuisance in a cemetery
- Wilfully interfere with any burial taking place
- Wilfully interfere with any grave or vault, any tombstone or other such memorial, or any flowers or plants on any such matter
- Play any sport or game
The order provides that every person who contravenes any prohibition specified above together with any prohibition specified in Article 19 of the order shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine.
Fees and Charges
The fees and charges payable to the Council in respect of grave spaces and other matters in connection with the Cemeteries are approved by the Council. Copies of such fees and charges are available on request from the bereavement services office.
No memorials are allowed on meadow graves. We encourage the planting of native wild flowers and bulbs. Native trees are allowed with prior consent from the Bereavement Service office. Please note depending on the position of the grave and the ground conditions it may not be possible to plant a tree on the grave itself.
Many people wish to place a memorial on the grave of their loved one. Memorials allow them to mark the grave and to add a personalised tribute. We have a few simple rules to make sure that memorials are safe, well maintained and in keeping with the character of the cemeteries.
What is a memorial?
A memorial is anything above the level of the ground that is placed on the grave as a tribute to those buried there. Headstones, vases and plaques are the most common memorials. Some people choose more unusual memorials, such as pieces of sculpture.
Can I place a memorial on a grave?
If you want to place a memorial on a grave you must hold or purchase memorial rights for that grave. If you do not own the grave, you must also obtain the permission of the grave owner, if there is one, or contact us to discuss whether you can purchase the rights.
Memorial rights are granted for the lease period. This may be extended at the end of the period.
What kind of memorial can I have?
You may apply to us to have any kind of memorial. Memorials are generally approved as long as they are of a safe construction which should last for at least the period of the memorial rights. We also consider whether the memorial is in keeping with the section of the cemetery where the grave is, and whether it might be offend other cemetery users.
This does not mean that you are limited to traditional designs. We are keen to encourage unusual and individual memorials, which add to the character and interest of the cemetery.
If we refuse permission you will be given a full written explanation.
Please note, kerbs around graves are permitted on the older sections in some Cemeteries with the permission of the Bereavement Services Officer. The covering of graves with chippings isn’t allowed because of health and safety issues. This is to keep grounds maintenance costs down for the bereaved.
When can a memorial be erected?
After a funeral we level the earth on the grave and put the flowers and wreaths on top. After two weeks (may be longer depending on condition of floral tributes) we remove all floral tributes and dispose of them.
You may put up a wooden cross up to 500mm (18”) high on the grave temporarily. You may leave flowers in a non-breakable container – please do not use glass, ceramic or thin plastic until a memorial can be installed. Please do not plant anything directly into the soil.
A permanent memorial may be erected six months after a full interment. This allows time for the ground to settle. However you do not have to wait six months to apply.
A memorial for a cremation plot may be erected any time following the interment of ashes.
Must I use a stonemason?
Fixed memorials must be fitted by a stonemason who is a member of the British Register of Accredited Memorial Masons (BRAMM). This is to ensure that the memorial is securely fixed and safe.
You may wish to commission a memorial from a sculptor or memorial artist who is not BRAMM registered. You may do this as long as the memorial is fixed by a BRAMM registered stonemason.
The stonemason will advise you what is available and then submit an application on your behalf.
Our Approved Contractors leaflet lists local BRAMM registered contractors and memorial artists. You may use a stonemason who is not on the leaflet as long as the fixer is BRAMM registered. Contact details for BRAMM are at the end of this leaflet.
Restoration and cleaning
Restoration and cleaning must be carried out by a BRAMM registered stonemason. You should apply to us for permission before the work is carried out.
Occasionally we may need access to a grave next to yours for an interment. If so we will erect a cover over your memorial to protect it and may place soil on the cover. This will last no more than a few days. On very rare occasions we may have to remove your memorial for safety reasons so we can access the grave. If we do so we will be fully responsible for restoring your memorial in a safe and clean state after the funeral.
We have a legal obligation to test memorials for safety. This ensures that the cemetery is a safe environment for staff and visitors to the cemetery. If your memorial is found to be unstable, and is deemed to be dangerous and liable to cause injury we will lay it down to eliminate the risk. If possible we will contact you to explain that repairs are needed and it is ultimately your responsibility to make good any remedial works. If we are unable to contact a present owner we will deal with the problem by laying down.
Unfortunately vandalism does happen occasionally in cemeteries. We will prosecute anyone caught causing vandalism but we cannot be held liable for any damage caused by the irresponsible actions of others.
We strongly recommend that grave owners take out insurance to protect their memorials. Your stonemason can advise you about this.
The Council has an approved list of Memorial Masons
A list is available on request.
Other types of memorial
We also offer the opportunity to purchase memorial trees, benches and plaques on benches in the cemetery grounds. Please contact us for more information.
Burial at sea is an alternative method to burial on land or cremation.
This type of burial is recognised, not only within the sailing community, but also as a tradition that permeates all communities. This tradition however, has to be balanced against a number of concerns, including our obligation to protect the marine environment, the living resources that it supports, human health and an increased use of the sea.
A free licence is required and available from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). However, there are less than 50 burials at sea a year and are only allowed at the following locations: -
• Near Newhaven, Sussex
• The Needles Spoil Ground, to the west of the Isle of Wight
• In the Tynemouth off the Northumberland coast
DEFRA does not encourage burial at sea, as there have been occasions where bodies buried off the coast have been washed up on shore. Also, there are concerns about fishing vessels trawling the bodies back up. Naturally, this can cause considerable distress to relatives; friends of the deceased and all concerned.
To avoid this risk, DEFRA recommends the scattering of cremation ashes at sea. This can be undertaken without a Food & Environment Protection Act (FEPA) licence.
To conduct a burial at sea you can arrange it through a funeral director or apply for the licence yourself. The costs for this type of burial, through funeral directors and local companies offering this service can vary greatly. (The FEPA licence is free of any charge).
The following are the considerations DEFRA keep in mind when considering a FEPA licence application for burial at sea: -
• The death needs to be registered with the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages
• Prepare the correct documentation
• Obtain a FEPA Licence for burial at sea
• Prepare the body
• Obtain the correct coffin or shroud
• Organise the burial / ceremony
The navy conducts its own burials at sea, for those veterans who wished to be buried at sea. For more detailed information contact the Base Chaplin via the place from which the deceased served.
Burial on Private Land
There is an increased trend in today’s society for maximum consumer choice. This leaflet aims to provide information on using alternative sites for burials.
Recently this form of burial has obtained media coverage and numbers have significantly increased. Much of this has been due to the Natural Death Centre, a charity formed to support a less formalised routine for funerals, as well as a better approach to death generally. They have issued a handbook and a further publication called ‘Green Burial’, which explains how to arrange these burials within the legal and planning requirements.
There are several advantages to this form of burial. It allows you to organise a very personal funeral, in which you maintain total control. You are able to reduce costs by avoiding the use of a funeral director.
Depending on the circumstances, it may be difficult to obtain the services of a funeral director to assist with this type of burial.
Most locations fall into two categories, on farmland or in a garden.
These locations are rarely overlooked and will not offend neighbours or the general public. A limited number of burials over a period of time may not constitute a ‘change of use’ and no planning approval is necessary (especially when the deceased are related to the property owners). Exceeding a ‘limited’ number of burials, or burying unrelated persons may require planning approval as this situation could be seen as a change of use or for ‘mixed use’ if farming is also to continue. The Local Authorities planning department should be consulted for advice.
This situation is complicated by the close proximity of neighbours. They may oppose or be offended by the burial. Although they may not pose legal objections, it may not be conducive to good relationships and the social implications should be considered. Otherwise, the aspects outlined under farm burials are broadly similar.
You need to consider carefully if you wish to bury / be buried on private land. Often the reason for this is to keep departed loved ones close by, but it would have a number of effects: -
• Firstly, the value of the land or property will be affected by a burial within its ground, although it is difficult to determine the actual drop in property value, it is likely that prospective buyers would not consider purchasing such a property. You are also advised to notify any individual or mortgage company that has an interest in the property.
• If you move later, then you may have to deal emotionally with the separation and access to the grave may be denied or restricted by a change of ownership. Bodies can be exhumed & moved (the licence required is free). This however, will require professional help that will have a significant cost.
The following information explains the regulations that allow you inter a body on a plot of land owned by you. There are four issues to consider: -
• Position of the burial
• Creation of a “Burial Register”
• Contacting the coroners office
• Must contact the police
• Considering memorial
It is essential that you obtain permission to complete a burial.
To comply with Environment Agency guidelines, the burial site must:-
• Be at least 250 metres away from any well, borehole or spring that supplies water for human consumption or is to be used in farm dairies
• Be at least 30 metres from any other spring or water course
• At least 10 metres from any field drain (draining to a water course)
• Have at least one metre of subsoil below the bottom of the burial cavity. Allowing a hole deep enough for at least one metre of soil to cover the burial.
• When the burial cavity is first dug, the bottom of the hole must be free of standing water.
Failure to comply with these guidelines can lead to the body being exhumed
You will need to seek legal advice from a solicitor regarding the creation of a “Burial Register”. This is a record that is kept with the property that indicates:-
• Who is buried on the site
• Where they were buried
• When the person was buried
This is a necessary record, if the land is sold, some building work enacted, or a serious land-slip occurs, then the police and whoever owns the property will need to know about the site to adjust their plans.
The body could be exhumed by any new property purchaser and reburied in a cemetery. There are legal means (restrictive covenant) by which you can ensure the grave remains untouched, but this will involve costs and other uncertainties.
Registering the Death / Coroners Office
A certificate of burial issued by the Coroner or Registrar of Birth and Deaths will have to be obtained. The detachable section of this is to be completed and returned to the registrar by the person arranging the burial. It is important to note that the details of the burial, including location, are not recorded by the Registrar. If you are burying a body on your own property, then please contact the Coroners Officer to advise the site of the burial. The Coroner keeps records of the deceased referred to them.
You may wish to erect a memorial to the person you have buried. As any memorial is considered under national planning law, you may need to seek planning permission to have the memorial erected (possibly even for small memorials). Under some circumstances planning permission may not be required. You should first contact the Council’s Planning Department for advice.
If you wish to plant a tree in memory of your loved one, then you need to check the deeds to your property. There are normally no planning issues associated with the planting of trees.
Information on Embalming
Embalming is defined as the preservation of a body from decay. Originally this was done with spices, but more recently through arterial injection of embalming fluid.
Historically this process was identified with the Egyptians and the mummification of bodies. In fact this complicated and extreme method was abandoned, although in recent centuries ways of preserving bodies has received considerable attention.
Varying levels of success were achieved but probably due to expense, they were utilised by very few people.
In the past 30 years the commercial promotion of embalming has increased and is particularly evident amongst larger commercial funeral directors in urban locations. In rural areas where small funeral directing businesses predominate embalming is rare.
The current common use of the word ‘embalming’ is misleading. The process is generally referred to as ‘cosmetic embalming’. It is used to improve the visual appearance of the body and to prevent deterioration in the period leading up to the funeral. It has no long term preservative value and cannot be compared to the Egyptian process of preserving bodies for a long period.
The decision as to the merits of embalming is very personal and must lie with the individual although a number of issues should be considered:-
Is Embalming Necessary
There is no evidence that a body poses a threat to the living, except where a death was due to a ‘notifiable disease’. However, when a person dies of a ‘notifiable disease’, embalming is not permitted.
No evidence exists of any funeral directing, cemetery or crematorium staff catching an infection from an unembalmed body. Embalmers suggest that the process thoroughly disinfects the body and removes any risk however slight, to any person who may come into contact with the body.
On the other hand, it would seem logical to assume that if a real health risk existed; embalming would be a legal requirement, which it is not.
The British Institute of Embalmers comment as follows:-
“The visual characteristics of a badly damaged body may be improved by additional specialised treatment where time is available. To be effective, it may be necessary to carry out the treatment over more than 24 hours. Effective cosmetic treatment in such cases may also decrease the trauma of sudden death, and the benefit is almost always acknowledged by the bereaved”.
It should be noted that if the person required a high intake of drugs during their terminal illness, their body can deteriorate rapidly. This can be delayed by refrigeration.
The embalming process involves removing the body fluids and replacing them with a solution of formaldehyde, often containing a pink dye. The body fluids are treated and disposed of via the sewer. One or two gallons of embalming fluid can be used and the effect of this on soil organisms and air quality following a burial or cremation needs further independent research. The chemical is used by funeral directors and embalmers who carry no responsibility for its impact on the cemetery, crematorium or community.
In some burial schemes, such as woodland burial, all chemicals may be prohibited. This restriction may apply to embalming fluid as well as to horticultural chemicals.
Viewing the Deceased
Careful consideration should be given as to whether you intend to view the deceased. If you do not intend to view the deceased then there appears no valid reason to choose embalming.
You should also appreciate that if you wish to view the body, you will be required to pay a fee for using the funeral directors Chapel of Rest or Repose.
The Quality of Embalming
The British Institute of Embalmers (BIE) offers training and certification for members to maintain an identified standard of embalming. Their members may be self employed and provide a service to funeral directors. It takes a minimum of one hour to correctly embalm a body.
Some comments by the bereaved have suggested that following embalming; the facial features of the deceased have been altered. Also, the ‘drawn’ appearance of the person prior to death has been reversed by the unnatural filling-out effect of the embalming fluid. It appears that these are the results of poor quality embalming. If this occurs, you may wish to check with your funeral director whether the embalmer is qualified.
Do you have a choice?
You should expect to be informed about the embalming process and the advantages it offers. It should only be undertaken where an effective result is judged to be achievable. Unfortunately this does not always occur.
The process of embalming may be routinely carried out as an inclusive part of the funeral ‘package’, without expressed permission. The decision is important as the process will involve an additional cost on the funeral account. In fact the BIE have issued a Code of Ethics which clearly supports the need to make a specific decision about embalming. This states: “The client’s informed consent, preferable in wring, must be obtained”.
If you are opposed to embalming, it may be advisable to expressly forbid it.
Information on using a Funeral Director
The information included in this leaflet will help you understand how funeral directing operates and will enable you to ask questions appropriate to your needs when you consider the arrangement of a funeral.
Although Charter members can advise you about funeral arrangements, they are not able to recommend a particular funeral director. You can obtain details contact details through telephone directories, newspapers, Citizens Advice Bureaux or Charter member.
Funeral directing as a profession appeared in the latter part of the 1700’s. Prior to that date, funerals were organised through individuals, such as a joiner, gravedigger and the clergy, then followed by a churchyard burial. In Victorian times the commercial involvement in death was developed and this lead to the greater use of the funeral director with the hearse, coffin and black attire. The funeral director developed the role of organiser, providing the furnishings and transport to carry out the funeral. Funerals have hardly altered in the intervening period, with petrol engines replacing the horsepower and in some instances cremation replacing burial. The predominance of men in the Victorian period remains largely unchanged with only a few women acting as funeral directors or bearers.
Most people are unaware that funeral directors can set up in business without training or qualifications and no licence is necessary. No universal standard applies and consequently, separating a good funeral director from an indifferent one is difficult. Some funeral directors are members of professional organisations, who may operate a code of conduct and complaints procedure. The National Association of Funeral Directors (NFAD) and the Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF) are examples of these.
Funeral directors have attracted criticism, and yet their role and function is rarely understood. They organise a funeral with distressed people, often people who have no expectations of a funeral and its arrangements. Funerals are a ‘crisis’ buy and unlike any other purchase. Although many practicable operations are necessary, the satisfaction relies upon the funeral meeting philosophical and other more complex needs. A casual comment, a joke or using the incorrect name, are all aspects than can destroy the quality of the funeral. If funeral directors fail to deliver their service, it can be due to the distress and crisis associated with the death. This emphasises the need for everybody to be informed and prepared for death and funerals. The completion of Wills and funeral directives empowers the bereaved and reduces their reliance on the funeral director at the critical time of death.
The funeral directors ‘package’ is briefly outlined as follows. The executor or the person arranging the funeral telephones the funeral director, who will arrange them and discuss the funeral arrangements. The funeral director will collect the body, either from home, a mortuary or a nursing home and prepare it for viewing, which may include routine embalming (a cosmetic treatment). A choice of coffins is usually offered and the deceased can be viewed, by appointment, in a Chapel of Rest. On some occasions the coffined body will be taken back to the deceased’s home, if the family so wish. The funeral director will contact the cemetery or crematorium and arrange the date and time of the funeral and will ensure that the certificates and forms are completed and taken to the cemetery or crematorium office. Details will be given about the form of service and the music, if required. The funeral director will pay the various fees involved, called disbursements. These include the cemetery or cremation fees, minister’s fee etc. The provision of floral tributes and newspaper obituaries, if required, will also be arranged. A hearse and following limousines will be provided and the funeral will take place under the guidance of the funeral director. Subsequently, an account will be sent after the funeral. The account should be itemised and should clearly define the disbursements paid on behalf of the person arranging the funeral.
Although funeral directors help, console and guide the bereaved, and are often very beneficial that does not prevent them being subject to a critical analysis. Even if the individual functions they perform are beyond reproach, the process by which they control and influence funerals has been subject to adverse criticism. Some of these issues are outlined below:
Most funerals are sold as ‘package’, and it can be difficult to obtain the actual price of each component. This creates particular difficulties should you wish to dispense with some components included in the package. The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has suggested that ‘price transparency’ should apply to funeral directing charges. This would result in a known charge being made for each component of the funeral, allowing the bereaved to select more, or less, in accordance with their needs. For example, the family could keep the body at home but purchase a coffin and use the hearse from a funeral director, completing the remainder of the arrangements themselves. Such a funeral would allow more personal involvement by the family and would be less expensive.
Funeral directors, in general do not offer price transparency and continue to promote the package funeral. To better understand this, an analogy could be drawn with a garage bill. If your car is serviced, you pay an identified price for each part, oils and other materials used. To this, they add an identifiable labour bill. In contrast, some funeral directors prefer not to charge a ‘labour’ bill for the time they put into a funeral. They cover the use of their time by apportioning it onto the cost of the coffin, use of vehicles and other components.
The coffin is the one item that carries the greatest proportion of their costs and consequently, this item can appear expensive. The unit cost of a standard chipboard coffin, fitted out for a funeral, might be £70. This would sell for £300 and sometimes much higher. As alternative suppliers are not readily available, it can be difficult to avoid this cost. These concerns are covered in the Charter item on ‘Coffins and Alternatives’. It is worth noting that funeral directors ‘direct’ funerals, which does not imply that they have to ‘supply’ the products used as part of their service. You should reasonably expect to obtain a coffin, a casket, floral tributes, memorials, etc. from a source independent of a funeral director, if you so wish.
Range of facilities
It may be assumed that all funeral directors are large, commercial concerns with an extensive range of facilities. This is not so and many funeral directors, particularly in rural areas, are small one person businesses. They may not have a Chapel of Rest or facilities to embalm and may hire the hearse and cars from other companies. You may wish to consider these differences before you approach a funeral director. For instance, if you require an informal funeral, you may prefer to replace the hearse with the estate car that many funeral directors routinely use to collect bodies from mortuaries and nursing homes. To avoid the use of limousines, you could use your own vehicles to meet at the church, cemetery or crematorium. This will contrast with the formal funeral which may be anticipated if you use the larger funeral directing concerns which provide the complete range of services, such as an expensive hearse with matching limousines etc. Some funeral directors own or have arrangements with firms that supply floral tributes and memorials. Although this may be convenient as part of a complete funeral package, it may prevent you from using independent suppliers.
Innovations of funeral directing
In many parts of the country, innovations in funeral directing are occurring. Your Charter member may be able to advise you regarding your local situation. Such innovations include the “Independent” funeral director who may offer a complete price “menu” and help you to do as little or as much of the funeral arrangement as you choose. There are also “coffin shops” and “green undertaking” firms in some localities, who offer a price menu, biodegradable coffins and may facilitate green funerals. In 1995, the first “funeral supermarket” opened in London, replicating similar services in France. The Natural Death Centre may be able to update you on these services and offer you contact details.
Ownership of firms
There has been a decline in recent years of the local family operated funeral director. Few people notice many family funeral directors throughout the country are now operated by large firms. The new owners may be disclosed on shop signs or letter heads. These firms may continue trading upon the inference of the caring qualities and local connection of the old family firm. Similarly, older people tend to reflect upon the past socialist principals of the “Co-op” funeral service, which no longer applies.
Municipal funeral services
Municipal funeral services are available in some parts of the country. They are formed by local authorities contracting the service out to an existing funeral director. They offer fixed priced funerals, but otherwise usually follow traditional patterns. As the funeral is usually sold as a package, price transparency may not be offered. Nonetheless, the cost of the package may be less expensive than with a private funeral director. As in all cases, it is essential to obtain quotations before a decision is made.
Common law recognises that a funeral consists of a sequence of tasks and events, all of which must be satisfactory. Where even a single element is performed unsatisfactory, the payment of the entire funeral account may be disputed by the person paying for the funeral. The disbursements are not part of the funeral directors charges and must be paid. In some areas, the disbursements may have to be paid in advance of the funeral.
It should be noted that whoever orders the funeral becomes liable for the funeral costs. In some cases, a friend has organised a funeral only to find that the deceased had no estate or monies. Consequently, they have found themselves liable for the whole cost of the funeral.
Paying for the funeral
You should reasonably expect to be given an itemised price list of the components of the funeral, which should include all costs.
Many people are concerned about their ability to pay for the funeral. Media reports about the high cost of funerals reinforce the perception that funerals are expensive. This worry can be reduced by considering the funeral in advance. This will enable costs to be identified and possibly reduced. The information in this will enable decisions to be made and quotations obtained in advance.
Some people alleviate the worry of paying for a funeral by purchasing a “Funeral Plan”. For these people, several options are available. They require careful consideration in view of the extensive commercial promotion that funeral plans are now receiving. You also need to consider the possibility that cheaper funeral options may arise in the future, especially if the objectives of this Charter are successful.
If a funeral plan is purchased it is necessary to choose a cremation or burial package that meets your needs. These plans need to be considered very carefully, as some of the basic options may not prove sufficient when you actually die. For instance, extra may have to be paid for viewing the body, or embalming, if these items were not included in the plan. The plan may also be restricted to the use of a named funeral director. The Office of Fair Trading investigated funeral plans in 1994 and has recommended a number of safeguards to protect money paid into such schemes. It is necessary to ensure that the funds are held in trust, with independent trustees.
Funeral plans may be paid by instalments or by lump sum payment. This enables the funeral to be paid at current prices, without further worry about escalating funeral costs in the future. Payment can be made through any participating funeral director, or direct to “Golden Charter”, “Chosen Heritage” or similar schemes.
Insurance companies offer policies to cover funeral bills, which you pay over a number of years. Also, some funeral directors will open a joint account with you, or offer other options to deposit money to pay the funeral account in the future.
If the person responsible for the funeral or their partner is receiving certain benefits, financial help to pay for the funeral may be available from the Social Fund. A priority order has been introduced to establish who should be considered "responsible" for the funeral payment. This may be one or more relatives. No commitment towards paying the funeral should be made until the responsible person(s) has been established.
Good advice on paying for the funeral and about funerals generally can be found in the publications issued by the Benefits Agency of Social Security. These include "Help when someone dies" (leaflet FB29) and "What to do after a death" (leaflet D49).
Age Concern are prominent regarding their funeral advice and offer a fact sheet called "Arranging a funeral". Other organisations offer help and the local Citizens Advice Bureau are a useful source of information.
The reduction of funeral costs by the use of "buyer" power does not appear to have been used in the U.K this assumes that large, representative groups of retired and/or aged people would prepare a funeral specification that fulfils the needs of the group members. This would be sent to funeral directors, who, based on a guaranteed number of funerals, may offer a lower, fixed price. This arrangement may appeal to the smaller, independent funeral director, who may carry lower overheads and be in a position to reduce costs. This arrangement does offer the group far more control over prices than would exist with any individual. The information in this Charter, together with the advice of the local Charter member, would facilitate the preparation of a funeral specification.
The ultimate cost of a funeral can be reduced by purchasing some elements in advance. For a burial, a grave can be purchased and a memorial placed prior to death. Although a coffin can be purchased or constructed in advance, it is necessary to ensure that it will be used by any funeral director contracted for the funeral.
Finally, when a person dies in hospital and there is nobody prepared to arrange and pay for the funeral, the Health Authority will fulfil this obligation. Similarly, local authorities have a duty to arrange the burial or cremation of any person who has died in their area. It must appear to the authority that no suitable arrangements for the disposal of the body have been or are being made otherwise than by the authority. The local authority can reclaim expenses from any estate. If there is no estate, a basic funeral will be arranged which may include the use of an unpurchased grave.
Donations at funerals
Some people are concerned at the excessive expenditure on wreaths and floral tributes at funerals. This is particularly evident in winter when the flowers may be damaged by frost or inclement weather within hours of the funeral. An alternative course is to organise a collection for a named charity, hospice or other deserving cause. This is often facilitated by requesting "family flowers" only or "no flowers by request".