The subject of death and bereavement is still a very private matter for most of us in Britain. It is often therefore a bewildering task to face the arrangements for a funeral. With W Sherry and Sons experience as funeral directors we know that there is no question too small to be asked, and no request that a client should consider not inquiring about.
We have compiled a list of things that we are often asked in the hope that it will answer any early questions that you wish to be answered. However, if you have any other questions please do not hesitate to call us as we are available on the phone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
How do I know if a death has occurred?
Although this may seem an odd question, it is sometimes hard to establish whether an individual has passed away. We recommend firstly looking for movement of the chest. Is there a pulse? Does a mirror mist over if held to the mouth? Does the person respond to a pain stimulus? If you are unsure immediately ring for an ambulance.
Does the body need to be moved by a funeral director?
No. Although we would recommend removal to our refrigerated mortuary for health & safety reasons, with the technical help of a funeral director a body can be kept at home for several days. We do recommend seeking advice at the earliest opportunity.
Where is the body kept once it has been moved?
The body will be kept in our mortuary which uses refrigeration to aid the preservation of the deceased and for health & safety reasons.
What do I do next?
When someone dies there are 3 things you must do in the first few days:
- Get a medical certificate - you’ll get this from a doctor (GP or at a hospital) and you need one to register the death. (not applicable for HM Coroner's cases).
- Register the death within 5 days of the death - you’ll then get the documents you need for the funeral.
- Arrange the funeral - you can use a funeral director or do it yourself if you are aware of all the procedures and documentation.
Registering a death
Registering a death
To register a death you will require the medical death certificate which you will then need to take to the registrar. You will also need to make initial contact with a funeral director.
Where do I collect the medical death certificate?
If the death has occurred at home, the GP will issue the medical death certificate. They will either give this to you directly or you may need to collect it from the surgery. If the death occurred in a hospital you will be given the certificate by the bereavement office. If the Coroner is involved the procedure is slightly different (see below).
Where do I register the death?
The death will need to be registered in the area where the death occurred, even if the death occurred a distance from home. The hospital and/or the funeral director will be able to advise you on this.
How many copies of the death certificate will I need?
The Registrar will issue you with one copy. You will need another 4-5 copies to be able to send to the bank, solicitors etc. They cost approx. £3.50 each.
When do I have to register by?
Deaths in England and Wales or Northern Ireland should be registered within 5 days - if this is not going to be possible, you should inform the Registrar. In Scotland, deaths must be registered within 8 days.
How soon can the funeral take place?
It is best to allow between 7 to 10 days to ensure all the necessary paperwork is completed, however in particular circumstances the funeral can take place sooner. W Sherry and Sons will work with the family to ensure that the date of the funeral is convenient for the family.
When a coroner is involved
If the coroner has ordered a post mortem You need a certificate from the coroner (form ‘Cremation 6’) if the person is to be cremated.
Further details about coroner's cases can be found below.
HM Coroner and Post Mortems
When a death is reported to a coroner
If the death has been reported to a coroner you cannot register the death until the coroner gives permission.
A doctor may report the death to a coroner if:
- the cause of death is unknown
- the death was violent or unnatural
- the death was sudden and unexplained
- the person who died was not visited by a medical practitioner during their final illness
- the medical certificate isn’t available
- the person who died wasn’t seen by the doctor who signed the medical certificate within 14 days before death or after they died
- the death occurred during an operation or before the person came out of anaesthetic
- the medical certificate suggests the death may have been caused by an industrial disease or industrial poisoning
The coroner may decide that the cause of death is clear. In this case:
- The doctor signs a medical certificate.
- You take the medical certificate to the registrar.
- The coroner issues a certificate to the registrar stating a post-mortem isn’t needed.
To find out how the person died, the coroner may decide a post-mortem is needed. This can be done either in a hospital or mortuary.
You cannot object to a coroner’s post-mortem - but if you’ve asked the coroner must tell you (and the person’s GP) when and where the examination will take place.
After the post-mortem
The coroner will release the body for a funeral once they have completed the post-mortem examinations and no further examinations are needed.
If the body is released with no inquest, the coroner will send a form (‘Pink Form - form 100B’) to the registrar stating the cause of death.
If the body is to be cremated, the coroner will also send a ‘Certificate of Coroner - Cremation Form 6’.
If the coroner decides to hold an inquest
A coroner must hold an inquest if the cause of death is still unknown, or if the person:
possibly died a violent or unnatural death
died in prison or police custody
You cannot register the death until after the inquest. The coroner is responsible for sending the relevant paperwork to the registrar.
The death can’t be registered until after the inquest, but the coroner can give you a certificate to prove the person is dead. When the inquest is over the coroner will tell the registrar what to put in the register.
You need to register a death if the person died abroad, both with the UK authorities and in the country where the person died.
Bringing the body home
To bring the body home you need:
- a certified English translation of the death certificate
- permission from a coroner (or equivalent) in the country where the person died to remove the body
The British Consulate can help to arrange this.
Contacting a register office in England and Wales
You need to take the death certificate to the register office in the area the funeral is taking place.
As the death has already been registered in the country the person died in, the registrar will give you a ‘Certificate of no liability to register’. You should give this to the funeral director so the funeral can go ahead.
When a coroner is involved
You need a certificate from the coroner (form ‘Cremation 6’) if the person is to be cremated.
Whether the person is to be buried or cremated, a coroner will be involved if the cause of death abroad is unknown - or if it was sudden, violent or unnatural.
Arrange the funeral
The funeral can usually only take place after the death has been registered.
Most people use a funeral director.
You should choose a funeral director who is a member of either:
National Association of Funeral Directors
Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors
Both organisations have codes of practice and have to provide a price list when asked.
Funeral costs can include:
- Funeral Directors' fees
- things the funeral director pays for on your behalf (often referred to as ‘disbursements’) - eg Minister's fees, newspaper announcements, order of service booklets etc.
- local authority burial or cremation fees
Often funeral directors list all these costs in their quote.
Paying for a funeral
The funeral can be paid:
- by you or other family members or friends
- from a financial scheme the person had - eg a pre-paid funeral plan or insurance policy
- from money from the person’s estate (eg savings) - getting access to this is called applying for a ‘grant of representation’(sometimes called ‘applying for probate’)
If you have difficulty paying for the funeral, apply for a Funeral Payment.
Moving a body out of England or Wales
You need to get permission from a coroner to move a body for a funeral abroad. Apply at least 4 days before you want the body to be moved.
How much will the funeral cost?
There are several factors that determine the funeral cost i.e. style of funeral, choice of coffin, number of limousines required, etc. However some costs are fixed (by local authorities etc.) – these are known as disbursements
W Sherry and Sons has 165 years of experience in funeral directing, and are highly respected in the community. The service a smaller company such as themselves can provide is very personal and tailored specifically to the clients requirements. It is not unusual for one member of the team to arrange, plan, and then conduct a funeral. Therefore providing a complete service from beginning to end.
How do I pay?
A deposit to cover the disbursements (i.e. clergy, cemetery, crematorium fees) is required to employ W Sherry and Sons before the funeral takes place. The balance is due within 30 days of the funeral.
What if I cannot pay?
If you are having trouble paying for a funeral that you have to arrange, you may be able to get a Social Fund Funeral Payment to help you with the cost, however it is not a set figure as each case is looked at individually.
What is probate?
When someone dies somebody has to deal with their estate (the money, property and possessions left behind) by collecting in all the money, paying any debts and distributing the estate to those entitled. The Probate Registry issues the document which is called A GRANT OF REPRESENTATION.
There are three types of grant:
- Probate issued to one or more of the executors named in the will.
- Letters of Administration (with will) issued when there is a will, but no executor named or unable to deal with the estate.
- Letters of Administration issued when the deceased has not made a will or it is not valid.
Occasionally a grant of representation is not needed if the deceased's money will be released without an organisation seeing a grant, when the amount held is small and there are no complications.
In most circumstances it is advisable to consult a probate advisor or solicitor, both to relieve you of many worries and to take control of wills, outstanding debts, grants and letters of administration. If a solicitor or probate advisor has been consulted by the deceased in the recent past it is important that you contact them without delay, as the will may contain instructions regarding the funeral arrangements.
What sort of service?
Burial or Cremation?
In the UK about 75% of funerals involve cremation.
Cremation is generally cheaper. Cremations are carried out one at a time and the ash (called cremated remains) which consists of crushed dried desiccated bone fragments is collected before the next coffin is introduced into the cremator.
The three main crematoria in our area require 4 hours to complete the process. Cremated remains can be scattered in the Garden of Remembrance at the crematorium, strewn (poured under a turf), buried loose or in an urn or casket in a grave or taken away by the family.
Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management
What sort of ceremony should we have?
We can arrange a religious, non-religious or civil service depending on your and the deceased's beliefs. A typical cemetery or crematorium service would take approx. 20-30 minutes and should reflect the deceased person's life. In some cases this may extend to an hour or more, especially if the service is to take place in church.
In all cases the service should include appreciation of the deceased’s life and can include poetry, music etc.
Humanist and Civil Funerals
There is the option of a Humanist service which would include poetry, readings, tributes, music and an appreciation of the deceased’s life. These are essentially non-religious services but may include some religious aspects. We are in touch with a number of Humanist Celebrants that we can put you in touch with.
There are also a number of Independent (Civil) Celebrants who can provide a fitting tribute to the deceased's life. We can advise you of suitable celebrants for your service.
What is a chapel of rest?
The chapel of rest is a viewing room which allows families to privately pay their respects to the deceased. W Sherry and Sons has several offices, and we can arrange for the deceased to be viewed prior to the funeral at a location which suits the familly.
Am I able to put personal items into the coffin?
Personal objects can be placed in the coffin; however we cannot allow any metal and glass items when the coffin is to be cremated.
What is embalming?
W Sherry and Sons recommends the process of embalming to clients when they wish to see the deceased before they are buried or cremated. This option is suggested when a body is to be kept for some time, exported by air or the coffin is to be opened during a church service.
Nothing can halt the deterioration process associated with death. Embalming can help to slow it down.
It is an invasive preservation technique that involves introducing a chemical preservative through the vascular system.
British Institute of Embalmers
Can members of the family and funeral bear the coffin?
Members of the family and funeral are welcome to assist with the bearing of the coffin. If this is the case please inform your funeral director as soon as you can and allow a little time at the crematorium or church for brief instructions from the funeral directors to be given.
Is there any other mode of transportation apart from the hearse to carry the coffin?
We can organise horse drawn carriages, motorcycle hearses, tractor trailers or even fire engines. We can accommodate most requests for funeral transportation as long as they are safe.
Is the coffin cremated with the deceased?
Yes. Once the coffin has left the funeral directors the deceased cannot be removed from it.
How soon can I collect the cremated remains after the funeral?
You are able to collect the cremated remains the next working day, following the funeral. It is possible to have them back on the same day of the funeral as long as the service takes place first thing in the morning.
How do I know that the cremated remains I receive back are those of my loved ones?
The cremation process is governed by strict rules and regulations. The crematorium authorities take great care to ensure that every individual cremation is kept completely separate.