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What next? ~ A Guide for the bereaved

If the death occurs in hospital, the hospital staff will contact the person named by the deceased as next of kin. This may be, but need not be, a relative. The hospital will advise whether it is possible for a doctor to issue the medical certificate, and when this will be available for collection. If a doctor who has treated the deceased is unable to issue a death certificate the death will be reported to HM Coroner for that district.

Please note that hospital bereavement offices are usually only open during normal working weekdays. For advice please do not hesitate to contact us.

If the death was expected, contact the doctor who attended the deceased during their final illness, if the death occurred at a Nursing Home the staff will contact the doctor. If the doctor can certify the cause of death you will be given:

  • A Medical Certificate that shows the cause of death (this will be in a sealed envelope, addressed to the registrar);
  • A Formal Notice which states that the doctor has signed the Medical Certificate and tells you how to register the death.

Our service to you starts from the moment you contact us. Should you wish to do so, you can contact us prior to registering the death, we will offer you guidance and advice on your next steps.

All deaths in England and Wales have to be registered within 5 days of the date of death and in the district that the death took place. In order to register you must be in possession of a medical certificate that states the cause of death.

When someone dies at home or in a residential/nursing home, the doctor who was treating the deceased will issue a medical certificate stating the cause of death.
This medical certificate will be available for the relatives to collect normally from the deceased's General Practitioner. The person who will be registering the death must take this certificate to the registrar's office within the district of the death. If a death occurs in hospital, the ward staff will inform you which office will be dealing with the death certificate and their contact number to arrange collection. Occasionally, if the death was sudden or the doctor treating the deceased is unavailable, it may not be possible for a medical certificate of cause of death to be issued. If this happens, the death will have to be reported to the coroner, which may lead to a delay in registering the death.

The majority of deaths are registered by a relative of the deceased. The registrar will allow other people to register the death only if there were no relatives available and these are noted below:

  • If the death takes place in a house or nursing/residential home:
  • A relative of the deceased
  • Someone present at the death
  • The occupier of the house or hospital if he or she knew of the death
  • Another person living at the house if he or she knew of the death
  • The person making the arrangements with the funeral directors

  • Death occurring elsewhere:
  • A relative of the deceased
  • Someone present at the death
  • Someone who found the body
  • A person in charge of the body
  • The person making the arrangements with the funeral directors

The following list contains the information that must be given to the registrar for the registration:

  • Date and place of death
  • Name and surname of the deceased
  • Maiden surname, if the deceased was a woman who had married
  • Date and place of birth
  • Occupation
  • Name and occupation of husband, where the deceased was a married woman or widow
  • Usual address
  • Whether the deceased was in receipt of a pension or allowance from public funds
  • If the deceased was married, the date of birth of the surviving widow or widower

The deceased's medical card, birth certificate and marriage certificate (if available), should also be taken to the registrar. It is extremely important that the information recorded in the death register is accurate. Mistakes are sometimes difficult to correct and it is the registering person's responsibility to get them corrected. The person registering the death should check the information in the register very carefully before the entryis signed.

Death certificate
Registration is free. A certified copy of the entry in the Register of Deaths "a Death Certificate" can be obtained for £3.50 (February 2006). You may require one or more copies for private pension and financial matters.

Certificate for burial or cremation
The registrar will issue a certificate for the burial or cremation of the body, which is normally passed to the funeral director by the relative who is making the arrangements. A funeral cannot proceed until this certificate is given to the burial authority or the crematorium. If there is a delay to the registration of the death, it is possible for a certificate for the burial of the deceased's body to be issued before registration provided the death does not need to be reported to the coroner.

A certificate for cremation cannot be issued before the registration of the death. If a death has been reported to the coroner, he or she may issue a certificate for burial or cremation where possible.

Certificate for applicable Social Security benefits

A certificate for sending to the Department of Social Security will also be issued by the registrar to the person registering the death or other applicant. The form serves a dual purpose; details of the deceased are given on one side and the other side is the claim form for applicable benefits.

A small number of deaths have to be reported to the coroner before they can be registered and before the document allowing the funeral to go ahead can be issued.
The following are the deaths that, if not already reported to the coroner by someone else, will be reported by the registrar:

  • Where there is no doctor who can issue a medical certificate of cause of death.
  • Where the deceased was not seen by the doctor issuing the medical certificate after death nor within 14 days before death.
  • Where the cause of death is unknown.
  • Where the cause of death is believed to be unnatural or suspicious.
  • Where the death occurred during an operation or before recovery from an anaesthetic, or
  • Where the death is due to industrial disease or industrial poisoning.

Once a death has been reported to the coroner, the registrar cannot go ahead with the registration until the coroner has decided whether any further investigation into the death is necessary. In the vast majority of cases no further investigation is necessary and the registration can be completed straightaway. When a death is referred to the Coroner you will need to telephone the Coroner's Officer who will give you further advice and guidance on what to do next.

Our responsibility is to take care of the practical arrangements for you. This means advising you of the options and choices for the funeral and seeing the arrangements are made in accordance with your wishes, and with the wishes of the person who has died.

  • Will it be burial or cremation, if burial do you have a grave, and if so where is it and what is the grave number? If it is to be a cremation which crematorium would you like it to be at?
  • Would you like a church service, if so where, or would you prefer a service at the crematorium/cemetery chapel, or a non-religious service?
  • Do you know of an officiant you would like to take the service, or would you like us to arrange someone for you?
  • Do you have a preference on the day, date and time of the funeral?

If there is already a family grave available, we will require details of it's location and the grave deed and number. However, if you require a new grave we will need to know from you the type of the grave you wish to be purchased (i.e. single depth, double or more) and where you wish this to be.

You will need to choose which Crematorium you wish the service to be held at. Most crematoria have a chapel in which a service may be held. You may wish to use this if you do not require a service in church (or other venue). You may also use the crematorium for a committal only (no service). The Crematorium also provides a music facility either in the form of an organist or a cassette or CD player on which music of your choice can be played. For longer services additional time may be booked at the Crematorium Chapels, at an extra cost.

We can collect these from the crematorium on your behalf and hold onto them safely. You can arrange to collect these from ourselves, in most cases we require 3 working days notice. Ashes can be scattered in the grounds of the crematorium, on a family grave, at a place with fond memories - in fact most places. However permission may be required from the appropriate authorities - we can advise you on all aspects of this. Ashes can also be buried within a garden of remembrance or in a grave. Again permission must be obtained from the appropriate authority - we can advise you on all aspects of this. You may prefer to keep the ashes in a specially designed casket or keepsake - again we can advise you on this.

We can arrange floral tributes for you. Selection books are available for you to make your choice and also a selection of cards for your personal messages. Instead of flowers you may wish to ask mourners to make donations to a charity of your choice or of their choice. These donations can be dealt with by ourselves, we will record them and forward them on to the charity on your behalf. Don't forget Gift Aid - Charities can reclaim, from the Inland Revenue, 28p for every £1 donated. Simply complete our gift aid form which is available from our offices or forward a letter (including your address) with your donation asking the charity to reclaim the tax.

We can arrange to place announcements in a local and/or national newspaper for you and we can assist you with the wording. We are also able to arrange acknowledgement notices, thanking the people who have supported you, again we are able to assist with the wording if you wish.

As each funeral is unique we regret that we are unable to provide you with an 'online' estimate. Please telephone us and one of our funeral directors will be able to discuss your requirements with you prior to an estimate being provided.

Common Questions Answered

No. In many areas the Coroners Office use the services of one or more local Funeral Directors. The Funeral Directors concerned are only employed to remove the deceased and transfer them in compliance with the Coroners request. You are not obliged to use their services nor is there any charge made to you for the work they have done.

Most of the year this question should not apply. During the winter period, particularly after the Christmas and New Year holidays, the demand on cemeteries and crematoriums is at its greatest. If you feel the delay is too long contact other Funeral Directors in the area. It may be that your chosen Funeral Director does not have the capacity to cope with the funeral at an earlier time but times may still be available at the cemetery or crematorium.

No. There is no legal requirement for a religious service or indeed to hold a service at all. A funeral service can be taken by anyone prepared to accept the responsibility; this could be a relative or a family friend. If you do not want a religious service but would like someone to lead the ceremony ask your Funeral Director to contact The British Humanist Association. The B.H.A. is a registered charity which provides officiants to conduct non-religious services for both weddings and funerals.

The Funeral Director is there to help and guide you through the choice of funerals and make the necessary arrangements on your behalf.

  • The Funeral Director will:
  • Discuss with you your requirements for the funeral
  • Arrange the removal of the deceased to their premises
  • Liase with the Church, Cemetery or Crematorium and arrange the appropriate timing of the service
  • Contact the local Clergy and arrange a Minister to conduct the service
  • Arrange the purchase of a new grave, or in the case of an existing grave, arrange for any memorials to be removed and the grave reopened
  • Complete all the necessary documentation and ensure this is delivered to the appropriate authorities
  • Provide advice on the choice of suitable music and hymns
  • Place obituary notices in the local press
  • Arrange the printing of service sheets and attendance cards
  • Administer charitable donations
  • Arrange for the scattering or burial of cremated remains

The payments for necessary fees such as Doctors, Ministers, Cemetery and Crematorium etc. will be made by the Funeral Director on your behalf.
If you do not want to attend the Funeral Directors offices, most will visit you at home either during the day or evening.

In accordance with guidelines set down by The Office of Fair Trading all Funeral Directors should provide a 'basic' funeral. This should include:

  • Removal of the deceased from the local area during normal working hours
  • Care of the deceased prior to the funeral
  • Attending to all necessary arrangements
  • A coffin suitable for burial or cremation
  • Provision of a hearse to the cemetery or crematorium
  • All necessary staff

The 'basic' funeral generally excludes embalming or viewing of the deceased and does not include any fees or disbursements paid out on your behalf.

Yes. Though all Funeral Directors will provide the 'bearers' to carry the coffin family and friends can help if they wish, indeed in certain cultures it is considered an honour to carry the coffin. The only limitation you may find is in the case of burial some cemeteries do not allow the family bearers to carry the coffin onto the grave or they may ask the family to sign a disclaimer in the event of an accident.

Essentially as a safeguard. If at a future date doubt was cast upon perhaps the cause of death it is possible to exhume the body where burial has taken place. The is obviously not the case with cremations, therefore, a doctor who treated the patient must complete the appropriate form and a second independent doctor must check the answers given by the first doctor and carry out an external examination of the deceased.

Yes. Crematorium times differ from half to three quarters of an hour. If you are expecting a very large attendance or simply need more time for a longer service ask your Funeral Director to book additional time. There is an additional charge

No. The only item removed from the coffin before cremation takes place are any flowers or floral displays placed on the coffin itself.

The remains are removed from the cremators after each cremation has taken place. The labeling and identification of cremated remains is very carefully controlled.

Yes but facilities are limited. Chilterns Crematorium offer cremation services on Saturdays and West Herts Crematorium also offer services on Saturdays and Sundays. Surcharges apply for weekend funerals.