When somebody dies it is most likely to be the people closest to them, such as their immediate family and friends, who have to deal with the task of making the arrangements. There are many things that will need taking care of, which perhaps will not immediately spring to mind, so we hope that this guide will provide you with some practical advice about what to do and where to find help at this most difficult of times.
For many of us, the first experience of this is following the death of a parent when we are suffering the most shock, grief and perhaps even emotions such as regret, anger or guilt. Even when using the services of a Funeral Director it is still a good idea to have considered all of the options, as some of these may differ from the beliefs and opinions of the hired Funeral Director. Below is an outline of things to consider when, or before, someone dies. Please also take a look at - https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/articles/what-to-do-when-someone-dies
Call the Doctor or Ambulance
This is essential if the death occurs at home. The Doctor will issue a medical certificate of Cause of Death in due course. If the death is accidental or in any way unexpected then or if the deceased has not seen a Doctor within the previous 14 days then the Coroner must be informed. The procedure for doing this can be ascertained by calling the Police.
Telling Family and Friends
You may want to notify close family and friends immediately. Some people may wish to visit the person who has died one last time. You may decide to wait until further arrangements are in place before you contact other family or friends, the choice is entirely personal and there is no right or wrong way.
There will be a lot to organise under very difficult emotional circumstances. If you are happy for people to help, then let them. Perhaps write a list of things to do to include the points mentioned but also to cover consideration of practical issues, such as making dinner, walking the dog, shopping, driving, listing flowers, cards or donations received, to name but a few. When people offer to help, choose something from the list for them to do and tick it off.
The need to call an Undertaker or Funeral Director (FD) is optional.
Their services and expertise are a comfort and convenience to many but don’t forget that this comes at a cost. As with the purchase of any service, feel free to ring around. Don’t feel pressurised into accepting the offer of assistance from the first one that you speak to. Ask for a thorough explanation of services offered and the attached costs involved. Some will expect payment upfront whilst others are happy to offer payment options. The FD will arrange to remove the deceased from the home should you choose.
If the death does not need to be referred to the Coroner and if you do not wish to use a FD, you can care for the deceased at home. You can lay them out in a cool space, ideally for under a week, while you arrange the points to follow.
Here at Memotrees we work closely with Funereal Directors and together, we can ensure you and your fellow mourners are able to say your final goodbyes in the most appropriate way for your loved one. Click here for a list of our local Funeral Directors.
Register the Death
This must be done at the Registrar’s Office in the district where the death occurred and within 5 days of the passing. This is 8 days in Scotland. You will often have to book an appointment to do this. Sometimes this can be done in the hospital. It is useful to have some or all of the following information available, if applicable, at the time of your appointment:
- Cause of Death Certificate from the Doctor
- National Insurance Number
- NHS Number
- Birth Certificate or date and place of birth
- Marriage Certificate or date and place of marriage
- Child Benefit Number
- Organ Donor Card
If the Police or Coroner are involved then they will register the death themselves. Once the Registrar has recorded all of the details they will supply certified copies of the Death Certificate and record the official entry into the Register of Deaths. This is formally known as a Certificate of Registration of Death (form BD8)
Certificate for Burial or Cremation
In addition to the Death Certificate mentioned above, the Registrar will provide a green form called a Certificate for Burial or Cremation. This form is necessary for the interment or cremation to take place and must be handed to the Burial Ground or Crematorium Manager before or at the time of the funeral. We will need this form here at Memotrees before a burial can take place.
Contact the Solicitor of the Deceased.
It is advisable to contact the solicitor before beginning to arrange a funeral as often there may be a Letter of Wishes left with their Will that perhaps they may have not previously discussed with family or friends. This letter might include instructions regarding their preference to be buried or cremated, hymns, music or readings that they would like. They may have even made their final arrangements right down to the finer details, the exact location of their interment and their choice of tree here at Memotrees, for example.
Arranging the Funeral
Our first and most important piece of advice when it comes to organising a funeral is that there is no rush. Allow yourself time to come to terms with what has happened before making any decisions. It is a good idea to find out what funds you have access to and how the funeral will be paid for before you start planning. As mentioned above, contact their solicitor as there may be a funeral plan in place which may cover a proportion of the costs. Do not feel pressured into making decisions. Take your time because funerals can wait weeks if you would rather, (unless of course you have the deceased at home). There are no legal requirements to have a funeral within a certain number of days but you may be guided by the circumstances and your beliefs.
It is quite possible for the family to arrange a funeral themselves without any professional help – there is a myriad of free, extremely useful information to be found here - https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/articles/arranging-a-funeral-yourself
Either way, you will need to give consideration to the following:
- Laying out the body – by FD or at home. Please remember we do not accept the use of embalming here at Memotrees
- Burial or Cremation - Over 70% of people choose cremation for a number of reasons. Natural burial is considered a far more environmentally sound practice than cremation but it is purely a personal preference. See our other pages for further information. If somebody dies in hospital, you will need to inform the hospital of your preference almost immediately in order for them to complete the correct certificate. If you are unsure of the FD you will be using, if at all, you simply inform the hospital that you are yet to decide and let them know once the decision has been made. If the hospital is short on space, a FD can collect and store the deceased but again, you are under no obligation to use this company for the funeral itself.
- Ceremony or not? Religious or not? Type of Ceremony – in church, the crematorium, at the graveside, elsewhere? Will it be a burial followed by a memorial service or a service followed by the burial? Think about the logistics of the mourners moving from one place to the next. Who do you want to lead the funeral? We can suggest options on our resources page but again, there is no legal requirement here and many families decide to do this themselves. There are no preconceptions and you can be as formal or informal as you like, it is entirely your choice to decide what you feel is most suitable.
- Date and time of funeral – check with your FD or discuss it with us here at Memotrees to make sure it is convenient for everybody. We never want you to feel rushed, pressured or slotted in. As mentioned above, you can generally take your time to ensure you are satisfied with your final goodbye. You can visit us or call us as often as you need to discuss your plans or ask any questions you may have. Do you wish to announce the death and arrangements in the newspaper or perhaps use social media?
- Coffins, casket, shroud, urn or box? We only accept biodegradable. Check out our resources page here
- Transport of the deceased – hearse, FD estate car, horse & carriage, family member estate car or van?
- Arrangements for the day. Try not to let other persuade you that you must do things in a certain way. Perhaps talk to your loved ones family, friends or colleagues to find fitting ways to celebrate their life and contributions such as memories, highlights, favourite songs or music. Many people find themselves surprised by what they learn about their loved ones when planning a funeral, especially regarding their early life, working life or experiences. Using a crematorium often means a tight schedule of no more than half an hour from arrival to departure so it can be a good idea to hold a longer service either before or after the cremation. This service can of course be held here at Memotrees without any time restrains at all. At Memotrees you can celebrate a life that has been lived as well as mourn the life that has been lost. It is your choice whether children will be invited to attend. Natural burial grounds are not like traditional ceremonies and it does not matter if children want to play and be themselves so long as you look out for their safety and bear in mind the feelings of other mourners.
- Coffin bearers. You’ll usually need 6 family or friends for an adult. They can be hired from your FD if necessary.
- Wake? Refreshments after the funeral? Again, an entirely personal choice. Nothing is obligatory.
- Memorials. There are many ways to remember your loved one and the choice is entirely yours. Some people choose complete simplicity but we also have many fitting tributes available to remember their life. Our natural slate plaques are totally maintenance free so will never fall into disrepair. See our resources page and shop for further information.