Arranging a funeral for the first time can be one of the most difficult things a person can do? Walking through the doors of a funeral home can be terrifying and daunting. A lot of questions lie ahead, difficult conversations need to be had and decisions need to be taken. In this sectiopn I hope to answer many of those questions. Dispell a few of the myths and guide you through what can be a very difficult process.
From Church services to crematorium services I will let you know what has to be done legally and what is entirley your choice. Thankfully in the UK there is not a great deal of legal paperwork and red tape involved in the funeral arranging process but what there is I will guide you through it.
A lot of the modern funeral is more about personal choice and is more for the living than the dead. But ut is important to remeber that the wishes of the deaceased shouldn't be and must not be ignored.
Arranging a funeral (Cremation)
I will give you a scenario that is a common one up and down the country. Your elderly relative has died in hospital. The cause of death is natural causes due to frailty of old age. Their body has been taken to the mortuary. You have contacted a local funeral director to make the funeral arrangements. You have decided to go to the funeral home although a funeral director can visit you in your own home if requested?
As soon as you call the funeral home some basic details will have been taken. Thise would be:
* The name and age of the deceased.
* Where they have died.
* Whether at this stage you are thinking of burial or cremation?
* Your name will be taken and of course a telephone number. Also a time and date will be set when a funeral director can come and see you or when is convinient for you to come to the funeral home.
When someone dies you will have to register the death. As this death has occured in hospital you can register at the hospital. You will need to speak to the PALS (Patient Affairs Liason Service) office they will talk you through the resitration process. Once this has been completed they you will be given a GREEN form. You will need to bring this to the funeral home. A funeral cannot take place without this form. You will also be given a certified copy of an entry form. This is commonly called thecdeath certificate. You will need this to shut down the deceaseds bank accounts etc. The PALS office will also arrange for cremation forms to be completed by the doctors. When a person is cremated two doctors have to verify that death has occured natuarally and that no foul play has taken place. One docotr will be the GP of the deceased or the last doctor to treat them before death. The second doctor will be another doctor from another practice who wiuld not have known the deceased. As thsi death has occured in hospital the hospital will doctors will take care of this.
When you sit down with the funeral director the basic information would have already been taken upon the intitial conversation so all that is left to do is to go over the finer details. Now most funeral homes sell what I call funeral packages. This is where you will be presented with certain options. For example if you require one hearse, a limousine, a plain coffin and chapel of rest visits then you will be given a package that has all of those options. All arrangements can be tailor made to your own requirments. The more cars you have, the fancier the coffin the more the funeral will cost. Funeral directors professional charges cover: removing the decased from the place of death, making all the necessary arrangements, supply of a coffin and transport on the day of the funeral. The only costs that are NOT included in the funeral directors charges are the dispersments.
Dispersments are costs paid to third parties. These third parties include, clergy or celebrant, crematorium fees, doctors fees, florist fees, church fees and any other service you require outside of the funeral directors charges. Some funeral homes require these charges to be paid befre the funeral can take place? Some simply take a deposit which could be a percentage of the funeral cost? That is something you will need to clarify with the funeral director. Some will give you a break down of the costs including dispersments then is done in the form of an estimate. The final account will usually come one month after the funeral has taken place. Like I saud each funeral hope operates differently in this respect so yiu need to clarify this BEFORE you sign any paperwork.
Once formal arrangments have been made then all that is left to do is wait for the day of the funeral. Obviously if you have arranged to see touyr relative in the chapel of rest at the funeral home then you will be advised as and when you can go and pay uoiur last respects. preparation of the deceased for chapel visitation may include embalming. This is not a legal requirmewnt and you do not have to have it done to have a viewing. However as I have said before each funeral home operates differently so you will need to ask what is invloved.
This all seems very daunting especially of you have never done it before. but please lean on your funeral director for support. That is what we are here for. Please do not be afraid to ask questions and of course remember that you can make the funeral as plain or as elaborate as you want. The options availible now are plentiful and there is no right or wrong way to do this there is just your way.
Arranging a Funeral (Burial)
When a family chooses to bury their loved one as apposed to cremating them this makes the funeral arranging process a little more easier from a paperwork point of view. Firstly you still have to register in the same way and you still need the GREEN form in order for the funeral to take place.
There are no doctors forms to complete like there where during the cremation process. A doctor still does need to certify the death though. The reason for the lack of paperwork with a burial is simple but a bit crude. Once you have cremated a body then that is it! So if someone decides to say that fould play was involved then it is to late! This is why the two doctors have to be present to complete the paperwork. And this is why the two doctors need to physically see the deceased and make an external examination. With a burial then there is still a body. So if someone elledges foul play then there is a body to exhume and examine. However I am pleased to say that this is very, very rare! With the cremation costs now not an issue then the funeral costs are reduced. However what you have saved on cremation costs you now have to spend in burial costs!
Depending on where you are in the country will depend on how much you have to pay for a burial plot? Some new graves can cost as much as £1,000 just for the grave! However if the grave is a re-open then the costs may be reduced to just the grave digging costs and possibly a headstone removal fee? These are also classed as dispersments which some funeral homes may ask for up front?
Church's and municipal cemeteries are so different. The Church has strict codes of practice they have to abide by especially where headstones are concerned. Council run cemeteries are a little more relaxed than church run cemeteries or churchyards? Again costs may vary? Depending on what part of the parish you live in will determine whether you pay an additional cost to the municipal cemetery or not? Your funeral director will be the best person to advise you on all of these things when you make the funeral arrangments. If you asre wanting a Church burial then speak to your parish priest about this and they will talk you through the process.
Unlike the United States the funeral indistry in the UK is not wrapped up in red tape and legal paperwork. Let me give you a few pointers to start off with.
* Firstly embalming IS NOT a legal requirment in this country. You can view your loved one in the chapel of rest perfectly well without this having been done. However depending on the circumstances of death and the length of time since death has occured then embalming may be necessary to make the expirience of viewing the deceased that bit more pleasant. Some funeral homes will embalm withut telling you and add that to the bill. Watch out for that. But it is an additional coast that is not required. Speak to your funeral director he or she will be the best person to advise accordingly regarding this issue.
* Cremation paperwork by doctors legally needs to be done in order for a cremation to take place. This is when two doctors externally examine the deceased to make sure no foul play has occured. The first doctor will be the deceaseds GP or the last doctor to treat them before death. The second doctor will be another doctor from another surgery. They will not have known the deceased. This is done to back up what the first doctor has written on the cremation form. Both doctors need to see the deceased for them to complete the paperwork. There is a CHARGE for this paperwork. This will be classed as a DISPERSMENT on your funeral bill.
* The GREEN form is the only ESSENTIAL part of the paperwork that you yourself will need to deal with in order for the funeral to take place. This will be given to you upon registering the death. This can be done either at a hospital where a person has died or at the local town registry office. If this is the case then speak to the doctor who certified eath if the death occured at home they will be able to tell you where you should go to register. You MUST however present the GREEN for to the funeral director.
* If the coroner has become involved then that cancels out the doctors paperwork as the coroner will issue their own cremation paperwork to the funeral director. You do not have to worry about that as the coroner will liase with the funeral home so that the process can go through as quickly and as efficiently as possible so that the funeral can take place.
* If a deah has happened in hospital after registering the death at the hospital as well as the GREEN form which is the 'registras order for burial or cremation' you will also be given a 'Certified copy of an entry.' This is commonly called the death certificate. You will need this to shut down any bank accounts or pension funds the deceased may have? The first copy is free but there is a charge for additional copies. You will need this document so make sure you do not loose it as banks will not close accounts without it! If a death has occured at home then providing that the coroner has not become invlolved then the doctor will write out a death certificate. This is the actual death certificate that you will need to present at the registry office in order to register the death. The doctors surgery will be best place to advise on where you need to go to register.
* The only other bit of legal paperwork is the application for cremation which will be presented to you at the funeral home upon arranging the funeral. The questions are pretty basic and are nothing to worry about. Once all the paperwork has been completed then the funeral director will arrange to have that taken to the crematorium.
The Embalming Process.
One question you will be asked when you arrange a funeral is whether or not you want to see your loved one for the last time in the chapel of rest at the funeral home? If you say yes you would then the funeral home make want to carry out embalming on your loved one? Often refered to as 'hygenic treatment' it is a process that takes about an hopur to complete and in some cases makes viewing the deceased a little more pleasant.
but what is embalming? Wel I can tell you what it isn't. It isn't what the anchient Egyptians used to do to their dead. Nowadays it is alot less invasive and more medically and scientifically peromed art. When people ask me what embalming is I simply tell them it is a bit like a blood transfusion, where all of the bodily fluids are replaceds with preservative chemicals most of which are Formaldehyde based. Embalming is usally carried out by skilled, trained professionals who have been educated in the history, theory and practice of embalming. however it is not a legal requirment for practionaers of embalming in this coun try to have undergone this course of education. You should also know that embalming is NOT a legal requirment and you should not feel pressured into having it done. It does put an additiponal cost onto your funeral bill but you CAN view your loved one without having it done.
Please speak to your funeral director about this before making any final decisions. Most funeral homes are happy to accomodate your wishes regarding this process and will allow you to view without having your loved one embalmed. it is only a legal requirment if you are planning to habe your loved ones body moved out of the country and over seas.