Arranging a funeral

The person who makes the arrangements with the funeral director may be considered to have entered into a binding contract, and become responsible for the cost, even if they are not related to the deceased.

The funeral director

When someone dies at home and the person is to be buried, the funeral director can be called to take the body to a chapel of rest as soon as a doctor has certified the death. If someone dies in hospital, they may rest in the hospital mortuary, or the funeral director will arrange for the body to be taken to the chapel of rest.Sometimes this can be a considerable expense if the person died some way from where the family wish them to be buried. Before the funeral can take place the funeral director must have the burial or cremation certificates.

It is important to check whether the dead person left any instructions with the Will about the funeral, or wished the body to be given for medical research, or organs to be donated for transplantation. If there is a Will, the executor has the right to decide whether it
will be a burial or a cremation, whether the Will expresses a particular wish or not. If there is no Will, the next of kin should decide. It is important to check whether the deceased has already made arrangements for their own funeral, or carried funeral insurance.

Funeral directors accept that relatives will seek quotations before they decide which company to use – information can be found in Yellow Pages Directories under the heading ‘funeral directors’. If relatives cannot afford to pay for the funeral they should seek assistance from the local social security office (formally known as the Benefits Agency).

The National Association of Funeral Directors has a code of practice for funeral directors which it encourages its members to display. It can be seen at Citizens Advice Bureaux, or at funeral directors who are members of the Association. The Association also operates a complaints procedure.

Members of the Association offer a basic funeral which can be requested. This consists of the Funeral Director’s services, provision of all necessary staff, a coffin suitable for the purpose of cremation or of burial, transfer of the deceased from the place of death (at least ten running miles allowed) in normal working hours, care of the deceased prior to the funeral and provision of a hearse to the nearest crematorium or cemetery. The specification excludes embalming, viewing of the deceased, limousines and any fees or disbursements payable on the client’s behalf. They will also attend to all necessary arrangements and papers. If not all these services are required, the bill should be reduced. Work done outside normal hours means extra costs. The funeral director will discuss varying costs of a funeral and cremation, including additional costs of burial, and should have a price list with all types of coffin, casket and services provided. A written itemised estimate of costs will be given. Additional costs of flowers, crematorium and cemetery fees, doctors and clergy often exceed the actual costs of the funeral, and the funeral director will also advise on these.

The funeral director will usually offer to pay costs to the hospital, crematorium, or burial ground, and minister of religion, but these can be handled direct. Many funeral directors will submit the bill, and offer a discount for payment within a certain time. Where the dead person had a bank account, the bill can be submitted to the bank. The Department of National Savings (form SB4 obtainable at Post Offices) and building societies may pay out amounts up to £5,000 on the evidence of the death certificate, although they are not bound to until the grant of probate or letters of administration have been issued. The funeral director will understand if the bill cannot be paid until then, but the circumstances should be explained when planning the funeral.