The legal side of funeral planning
The majority of funerals are arranged by the deceased’s closest relatives, typically their partner who tends to be the personal representative as well. However, if there are no relatives, anyone close to the person can arrange the funeral instead. The arranger of the funeral is responsible for the payment of the funeral. It can be paid for by the deceased’s estate, life insurance, pension scheme or some kind of pre-paid funeral plan. Funeral directors often require payment before probate, however. The arranger of a funeral may need to borrow money until the deceased’s estate is sorted in some cases.
Sometimes the deceased does not leave enough funds to pay for even the most basic of funerals. In this case the funeral arranger (and anyone willing to contribute) will be required to pay. If the arranger receives a means tested social security benefit it is possible to get a ‘funeral payment’ from the social fund. This may not cover the cost of even a basic funeral however, and the difference will have to be paid for by the funeral arranger. If there are no friends or relatives to arrange a funeral, the local authorities will arrange a basic one. The public authority that arranges the funeral will then try to recover the cost from the deceased’s estate.
Advance funeral wishes
The deceased may have certain wishes about their funeral specified in their Will. There may be instructions in their Will on what form they would like their funeral to take and whether they would like to buried or cremated. You must make sure that you know if the deceased had already purchased a burial place.
Sometimes the deceased may have specified that they want the funeral to take place in another country. The rules in this scenario are quite complicated, and permission from a coroner is required. There is, however, no legal obligation for the arranger of the funeral to follow these instructions.
Help from funeral directors
Most people decide to use a funeral director, as delegating to somebody else can greatly lighten the load at an emotional and stressful time. It is worth finding a funeral director who belongs to a professional association like the Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors for peace of mind, as they have complaints procedures and codes of practice. If the service you receive is unsatisfactory and the complaint is not dealt with to your satisfaction, legal action will be required if the funeral director is not a member of a professional organisation. This is a manifestation of the consumer rights you enjoy when you use a funeral director, just as with any other service. The funeral director should always give a written estimate of the cost of the funeral, but you must be aware that the final expense may be higher. The bill should cover all the fees for funeral service, the services of the funeral director and the burial or cremation. The arranger must also factor in additional expenses like cars, flowers and notices of the deceased’s death.
There are certain restrictions when it comes to burying the deceased. A burial can take place in the local authority cemetery, a private cemetery or in a church graveyard. The deceased also has the right to be buried in a local parish graveyard, assuming they lived within the parish and there is space. In the case of a local authority cemetery, as long as the deceased lived within the authority's area, they have the right to burial there.
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