Burials and cremations

Note on COVID-19: Rules to protect people during the pandemic may affect arranging and attending a burial or cremation.

Making arrangements for a burial or cremation

Arrangements for a body to be buried or cremated, and arrangements for any funeral service or gathering in their memory, are usually overseen by a close relative. If you are the person making arrangements, consider any instructions that the person who died left in a will or elsewhere, or told anyone. You may also want to consult other people who were close to the person who died. If the person who died followed a religion, there may be religious practices to follow.

Making decisions at this time can be hard. You may find it easier to make decisions and share tasks with other close family or friends. People in the same family sometimes have different or strong views on what should be done. Discussing options and making decisions together can help.

Alternatively, you may choose to let someone else make decisions. Some people hold more than one memorial event, so everyone gets an opportunity to say goodbye in a way that has meaning to them.

You, or someone else responsible for the dead person’s estate, are responsible for ensuring the cremation or burial happens, and deciding how. This means that, as long as you choose a legal method, no-one (including friends, family, a faith leader or a funeral director) should push you to make arrangements that you are not comfortable with.

Using a funeral director

Many people arrange a burial or a cremation with the help of a funeral director.

A funeral director’s services often include, among other things, looking after the body prior to burial or cremation, arranging for you to view a loved one’s body, providing you with a choice of coffins, shrouds or urns to buy, liaising with the burial or cremation authority on your behalf if necessary, organising a funeral ceremony, and transporting the body.

If you decide to use a funeral director, and are considering which one to use, you may want to choose one who is a member of an association and follows a code of practice. The following associations provide lists of members:

localfuneral.co.uk has a directory of 1600+ independent funeral directors, all of whom are a member of at least one industry body. Find out more.

Religious services need to be discussed and arranged with a faith leader. Religious services may not need to happen in a place of worship.

Arranging a burial or cremation yourself

Some people choose not to use a funeral director because they want to manage arrangements themselves.

Some people choose to use a funeral director only for certain things, such as looking after the body or helping with the paperwork that needs to be completed after a death.

You can get advice on managing arrangements yourself from the charity the Natural Death Centre at www.naturaldeath.org.uk.

Some people choose not to use a funeral director because arrangements are being managed by a faith leader.

Paying for a funeral

You may be able to get help paying for all or some of the costs of a burial or cremation if:

  • you receive certain benefits or tax credits. Find information on www.gov.uk
  • the person who died was signed up to a scheme providing payment for such costs. This scheme could be part of an employment package, a personal pension plan, or an insurance plan
  • the person who died had paid for their own burial or cremation through a payment plan. Some credit union accounts also make a payment towards funeral costs when the account holder dies. (Some payment plans may only pay for the use of a particular funeral director.)

If you aren’t eligible for this help, still keep receipts of costs in case you can claim them back later. You may be able to do this if someone is found to have been responsible for a death as part of a claim by you for compensation.

Direct funerals or cremations

One option for reducing the cost of a funeral is a burial or cremation without any mourners present. This is sometimes called a ‘direct’ funeral or cremation.

The funeral director makes arrangements with the crematorium or burial site, collects the body, and returns ashes from the crematorium in an urn.

Many people who choose this option still have a memorial ceremony, but hold it on a different day, later on.

A funeral director should be able to advise you on ways to lower the cost of a burial or cremation.

The Natural Death Centre lists funeral directors specialising in direct funerals at www.naturaldeath.org.uk.