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Do You Legally Have to Have a Funeral?

No, in the UK, you are not obliged to arrange a funeral service after the death of someone you knew in life. At Newrest Funerals, we can support direct relatives – or friends of the deceased, if no close relations survive – to deal with all of the matters that must be attended to legally following the death of someone. However, this does not need to include a funeral if one isn’t wanted or needed. Typically, people avoid staging a funeral for the following reasons.

  • The deceased said they would not want one.
  • They have left a will stating they don’t want money spent on a funeral service.
  • A funeral service would be unaffordable to those left behind.
  • It currently feels too painful to stage a funeral so a memorial service may be arranged down the line instead.
  • Arranging a funeral within a few weeks may mean some people cannot make it so it feels fairer not to have one at all.
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Of course, there are other more personal reasons why you might choose to dispense with a funeral, as well. At Newrest Funerals, our understanding team members never judge people who do not want to plan a funeral or question their motives. Our role is to support you in the decisions you wish to make. Therefore, if you choose to not hold a funeral following the death of a family member, then you can do so with confidence with our service. This will, of course, include guiding you in what you are legally obliged to do following the death of somebody close. In summary, here are the things you will need to bear in mind even if you will not be staging a funeral service.

  • You must report the death to someone medically qualified, usually your local GP, so that a medical certificate can be issued.
  • You are legally obliged to report the death to the local coroner’s office. To do so, you will need the aforementioned certificate plus some ID to prove the identity of the deceased and yourself.
  • The body will need to be stored adequately to help aid the prevention of natural decomposition and to prevent potential contagion. In practical reality, this usually means undertakers collecting them and taking them to their mortuary.
  • All bodies in the UK must be legally disposed of to certain standards. In the majority of cases, this will mean a burial or a cremation but other options, such as a burial at sea, are available.
  • Emphatically, disposing of a body to the legal standard will not constitute a funeral. Low-cost direct cremations, for example, mean the body will be processed to the required specifications, but with no mourners in attendance.
  • It is possible to bury a deceased body on private ground, such as your own garden if you own it, so long as the land meets certain criteria. Again, this doesn’t mean a service needs to be conducted if this option is taken.

Finally, it is worth noting that repatriations are allowed under UK law but the rules vary in England and Wales and Northern Ireland compared to Scotland. If you want help in this area, then we can assist you, whether or not you will then go on to arrange a funeral service overseas.