The post below has been kindly prepared by Hazel Pittwood of Chester Pearce Funeral Services, a independent funeral directors in Dorset
We hope it will help you understand the different aspects of a funeral and the role a funeral director can take in that.
For information where we - probate solicitors - fit in, please see the main pages.
How much does a funeral cost?
It’s a question that gets a lot of media attention and with a Sun Life Direct report published last year stating that the average cost of funerals in the UK is now £3,456.00, it’s a question people understandably want a definitive answer to.
Unless the funeral has been paid for in advance or sufficient funds are available, families may be forced to consider the financial implications of organising the service after someone close to them has died, causing additional stress at an already difficult time.
How you can gain an understanding of funeral costs
It’s important to get a sense of which costs are essential and which services that are optional.
The answer to the question ‘how much does a funeral cost?’ is really that a funeral is the sum of its parts. The following information explains this in more detail (for the purpose of providing you with examples of costs, all fees shown relate to a hypothetical funeral service for a person aged 16 years or over with no involvement from a coroner).
Essential services/costs if cremation is wished
Doctor’s fees for documentation
Payable to the doctors or their surgery. As the law currently stands in England, Northern Ireland and Wales, two doctors are required to complete medical documentation to confirm the cause of death and enable the cremation to go ahead. This is different to the ‘Medical Certificate of Cause of Death’ which is required by the next of kin to register the death.
The registrar’s Certificate
The Registrar will provide this certificate and it is legally required for the cremation to proceed. Because it’s green in colour, it’s commonly referred to simply as ‘the green certificate’. This document serves as confirmation that the death has been registered and it is free of charge.
Is anything payable to the registration services?
After registering that a person has died, you may need to obtain copies of an entry in the register (to give its formal name) for the purpose of administration of accounts and other personal matters. In my experience, many people refer to the ‘Copy of an Entry into the Register’ as simply ‘the death certificate’. This can be obtained from the registrar and can be issued whether burial or cremation is wished. Most companies and authorities insist on having an original version of this document as opposed to a photocopy.
People often find that four copies are enough for their requirements, but if you don’t need or want them, there is no legal obligation to purchase copies of this document.
Cremation fee: The fee payable to the Crematorium authority for the cremation service. This can vary greatly from one crematorium to the next and usually increases in April each year.
Medical referee fee: This usually forms part of the cremation fee, but is sometimes shown separately. The medical referee is a qualified medical practitioner who has the role of checking all documentation appertaining to a cremation service. The medical referee checks the legitimacy of all information submitted prior to authorising the service to proceed.
Essential services/costs if burial is wished
(whether in a Cemetery, Churchyard or Woodland Burial Ground)
The ‘green’ registrar’s certificate and a coffin (or something otherwise suitable) is required, as detailed in the previous section regarding cremation services; the same information is applicable for burial services.
Burial regulations can vary hugely, but the following services and fees are usually required when a burial service is wished. You should also be aware that some Cemeteries, Churchyards and, to a lesser extent, burial grounds will charge higher fees if the person who has died was not a resident of the area. This can often be double, or even triple the fee charged for someone who was a resident.
The ‘Exclusive Right to Burial’
Most people refer to this as the ‘grave deeds’. This fee is payable to the Cemetery or Woodland Burial ground authorities if a grave needs to be newly purchased for a burial to take place. If there is an existing grave, this fee is not applicable. If there is a memorial on the grave which needs to be moved for the interment, there will be a fee payable for that too. The ‘Exclusive Right to Burial’ basically gives ownership of the grave to the deed holder for a specified period of time (which varies). You cannot purchase an exclusive right to burial for a grave in a churchyard.
The ‘Exclusive right to Burial’ fee (explained above) does not usually include the cost of a person being buried in the grave. The fee for a burial, or interment, is therefore priced separately and is applicable whether or not the family already have the deeds (ownership) for the grave.
Grave digging fees
This fee is sometimes included within the interment fee but may be shown and charged separately.
These are the only things you are obliged to pay for.
Everything else is a matter of choice, in accordance with your wishes and needs.
There are so many different services available when arranging a funeral for someone close to you, but the important thing to remember is that you have a choice and should never feel obliged to have anything that you don’t want or need.
Examples of some of the main things to consider are vehicle requirements, floral tributes, notices being placed in the newspaper, orders of service, embalming (sometimes referred to as ‘hygienic treatment’) and chapel of rest facilities.
There is also no legal requirement to use the services of a funeral director for any aspect of a funeral service.
But, aren’t you a funeral director?
Yes! However, I’ve written this article to give honest advice, which means explaining that it is entirely your decision whether to use a funeral director or not.
If a family feels they would like to do things themselves, they can. They may or may not wish to have assistance from a funeral director in carrying out their wishes. Other families may prefer to entrust a funeral director to help them with everything.
A good funeral director should be flexible and accommodating to your needs and not pressurise you in terms of their time or services. They should be caring and attentive to your requirements and you should always feel that you have freedom of choice. You should be given honest, easy to understand information and pricing and you should never feel like the funeral director is ‘taking over’.
A good funeral director will help families in such a way that even the most simple and affordable of services is given care, respect and attention. They will assist you as much or as little as you need and they will be in the profession because they want to help at what is often the most difficult time of people’s lives.
Most importantly, they will genuinely care about helping you to arrange a funeral service that is as unique as the person whose life is being remembered, in accordance with any financial considerations that you need to make.
At Chester Pearce Funeral Service care and respect is always our promise; family’s needs and wishes are our priority.