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Before Arranging a Funeral
Before arranging a funeral it is important to check if the deceased left any instructions in their Will regarding their wishes. They may have wished to donate organs for transplantation or their body for medical research. They may have indicated their choice between burial and cremation or provided some specific instructions concerning the funeral ceremony itself. Funeral arrangements may have already been made using a pre-payment plan, or Deeds set aside to indicate their ownership of a grave.
If there is a Will, the executor has the right to decide whether the deceased should be buried or cremated (even if the Will expresses a particular wish). If there is no Will the next of kin should decide.
Please see the FAQs on this page for information to consider.
Public Health Funerals
Bristol City Council is responsible for making funeral arrangements for anybody who dies within their boundary where no other arrangements are being or are likely to be made., e.g. when the deceased has no family and they haven’t left a will. This responsibility is placed on the Council by S46 of the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984.
We frequently receive Freedom of Information requests in relation to public health funerals, and so we have prepared the Frequently asked questions about Public Health Funerals (pdf, 199 KB)(opens new window) which addresses a number of the questions which frequently arise.
Registering a Death
By law, a death must be registered. This is done by the Registrar of Births and Deaths, usually in the county or borough in which death occurred, although it is possible to register the death in another area by arrangement.
Special arrangements are available for families who, for religious reasons, need to bury the deceased within 24 hours of death.
Please see our page on registering a death for detailed information.
Arranging a Funeral
Although the death must be registered and the necessary forms obtained before any burial or cremation can take place, funeral arrangements can begin straight away (if the deceased hasn't already made these arrangements).
Additional Advice and Support
In addition to the information on these pages, various organisations offer bereavement advice and support in the Bristol area.
What should I do if the death occurs at home?
The nearest relative and family doctor should be informed. The doctor will complete a certificate stating the cause of death and this certificate must be taken to the registrar in the registration sub-district where the death occurred, to register the death, normally within 5 days.
You will need to advise the doctor if a cremation is desired, so that two doctor's may complete the certificates required.
What should I do if the death occurs in hospital?
A certificate will be issued stating the cause of death unless the hospital wish to carry out a post mortem examination of the deceased. Before this occurs, consent must be obtained from the nearest relative.
What should I do if the death occurs suddenly?
If the death was sudden, and the doctor had not seen the patient within 14 days of death, the coroner must be informed. The coroner will decide if it is necessary to carry out a post mortem examination. If it is decided that death occurred from a natural cause, the coroner will issue notification to the effect that an inquest is not required. Alternatively, the coroner may decide that an inquest should take place in order to establish the cause of death. Please refer to the coroners office for further information relating to its role in the case of a sudden death.
Which is the most expensive, burial or cremation?
This depends upon whether there is a need to purchase a new grave for burial. Where a new grave is required, the cost of burial will be much higher than the fee charged for cremation. In addition to the cost of grave purchase and interment, the future expense of a memorial and maintenance may be incurred.
Cremation usually necessitates the production of medical certificates for which fees are payable to the doctors concerned. These certificates are not required when the death has been referred to and investigated by a Coroner (Procurator Fiscal in Scotland).
How much will the funeral cost?
The cost of a funeral will be determined by the requirements of the person making the arrangements. If the selected Funeral Director is a member of The National Association of Funeral Directors (N.A.F.D) he is bound by a Code of Practice, which has been drawn up in consultation with the Office of Fair Trading. Under this code he will be required to give you a written estimate of the cost of the funeral before arrangements are finalised.
Do I need a Minister of Religion?
No, but it is usual to follow the deceased's religious beliefs.
How do I move a deceased into England or Wales?
Most Funeral Directors should be able to give you advice on how to repatriate the body back to the UK for cremation or burial and there are several firms who specialise in this. Where the deceased had a valid travel insurance policy, repatriation and its cost may be arranged and met by the Insurers if specified in the cover document.
You will need the Death Certificate from the place where the person died, and an authorisation for the removal of the body from the country of death from the Coroner or relevant authority.
Once the body has been repatriated you will need the following:
- An authenticated translation of a foreign death certificate or a death certificate issued in Scotland or Northern Ireland. These must show the cause of death.
- A Certificate of No Liability to Register from the Registrar in England or Wales in whose sub-district it is intended to bury or cremate the body. The certificate is not required if a Coroner has issued a Certificate to Cremate (Cremation 6) or an Order for Burial.
To arrange the cremation in England or Wales of a person whose death occurred abroad (outside England and Wales) you will need a cremation order from the Home Office or a Certificate for Cremation (Cremation 6) from the Coroner. Either of these dispenses with the need for the two doctors' certificates for cremation, forms 4 and 5. If the death occurred in Scotland, Northern Ireland, or the Channel Islands the local equivalents of cremation forms 4 & 5 may be acceptable.
If death was from natural causes, the Home Office will issue an Order on production of the Application for Cremation (Cremation 1) and original documents (which must clearly state the cause of death) from the country where the death occurred. The Home Office may require authorised translations of documents in some foreign languages.
How do I move a deceased out of England or Wales?
If someone dies away from home or away from the place in which they wished to be buried or cremated you may wish to arrange for the body to be moved. There are special regulations concerning moving a body over the borders between England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands or abroad.
Only a coroner is authorised to permit the body to be moved out of England or Wales. Notice to the coroner should be given at least 4 working days before the body is to be moved so that any necessary enquiries can be made. Afterwards you will be given a removal notice (form 104), part of which is sent to the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages.
The procedure applies to all cases where the body is to moved out of England and Wales - not just when the death was reported to the coroner.