The simple answer to this question is yes you can arrange a burial or cremation without using a funeral director. However not very many people choose to do this so there have to be good reasons why they don’t.

Please click on the question below you are interested in to go to that answer.

What are my reasons for not wanting to use a funeral director?
What paperwork do I need to arrange a funeral with our a funeral director?
What practical tasks do I need to arrange a funeral without a funeral director?
How can you use a funeral director for some of the funeral arrangements?

 

What are my reasons for not wanting to use a funeral director?

There can be a variety of reasons why people choose to take complete responsibility for arranging a funeral without using a funeral director. These are some of them:

  1. The person who has died didn’t want a funeral so we just need to get the forms done and get the deceased person to the crematorium or cemetery. We will find our own way of remembering them separately.
  2. We cannot afford to use any of the local funeral directors.
  3. We have always been a family who take full responsibility for organising family events – we don’t see why a funeral should be any different.
  4. We don’t trust/have heard bad reports of the local funeral directors.
  5. It is important to me/us to complete our care of the person who died ourselves.

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What paperwork do I need to arrange a funeral with our a funeral director?

Release

Many hospitals use a document called a release form. It usually has to be signed by the person who the hospital knew as the next of kin or the executor. This names the funeral director or other person who is collecting the deceased person from the hospital.

This form also often states that it is then the responsibility of the next-of-kin or executor to ensure that the deceased person is buried or cremated in a legal manner.

Authority

This is the ‘green’ form issued by the registrar of deaths which permits burial or cremation or the authority for burial or cremation issued by a coroner. You cannot legally proceed without one or other of these documents. At a crematorium only the person who completed this form can give instructions about the ashes unless they specifically nominate someone else to do this.3r

Application

Both cemeteries and crematoria have their own forms in which the next-of-kin or executor formally apply to have the deceased person buried or cremated.

Cremation medical forms

This is effectively one form in several sections. The first part is usually completed by the doctor who also completed the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death. The next section has to be filled in by a doctor who did not look after the person who has died. They must see the deceased person, talk to the first doctor and another person who was involved in the care of the person. This person might be a family member especially if the person who has died was cared for at home.

If you are arranging the cremation yourself, the crematorium can give you a copy of the forms, but many hospitals and doctors have blank forms. You do need to let them know that the forms need to be completed. There is a standard fee for these forms which usually goes to the doctor or in some cases to the hospital. The crematorium will tell you when they need the form by, where it is checked by another independent doctor who will authorise the cremation to go ahead. These forms are not needed if the coroner has investigated the death.

If you are using a funeral director, they will sort these forms for you and pay the money on your behalf and it will appear under ‘disbursements’ on the invoice.

Deeds to a plot (grave or for Ashes)

When you arrange a burial, you are buying a small piece of land. If the grave is for more than one person, you will need the permission of the person who owns the grave, i.e. whose name is on the deeds when you arrange a further burial in that plot. Talk to the funeral director or the cemetery manager if the deeds are lost or you cannot trace the owner of the deeds as soon as possible as you will need to go through a legal procedure to be able to arrange the burial in that plot.
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What practical tasks do I need to arrange a funeral without a funeral director?

Storage of the deceased person

If the person died in hospital or a hospice with a mortuary this should not give any difficulty. Let the bereavement office or the mortuary manager know that you are making your own arrangements. Some mortuary staff (but not all) will lend you a trolley to help move the coffin (if used) from the hospital to your chosen vehicle and also at the other end of the journey at the cemetery or crematorium. Some will also help you place the deceased person in a coffin if you bring the coffin to the hospital. Make sure you contact the hospital well in advance to find out what help they can give you and to arrange the best time for you to collect the deceased person. Some mortuaries only have professional staff on a part-time basis and so have restricted opening hours.

If the person has died in a care home or somewhere without a mortuary, you will be expected to arrange for a funeral director to collect the deceased person quite soon after the death. This can put you under more pressure than you want to choose a professional when you would prefer not to do so. Many care and nursing homes will not have experience of families collecting a deceased person themselves so may be anxious about this or state that this cannot be done because they are not familiar with the law.

If you are keeping someone at home, the room should be kept as cool as possible. Some funeral directors and hospitals have special cooling devices that you can place under or over a deceased person (a little like an electric blanket but cold rather than hot). This is as effective as keeping someone in a mortuary fridge.

It is impossible to say how long you can keep someone at home before there is significant deterioration that might cause visible discolouration of the deceased person or an unpleasant odour as it will depend in part on the size/build of the person who has died and the cause of their death. If there is to be more than a week before the funeral, especially in warmer months, you may want to talk with a funeral director about having the person embalmed and then brought home.

A container for the deceased person

A coffin is a container for the deceased person that has a lid constructed in one piece. If the coffin is open the whole body can be seen in whatever clothing has been chosen for them unless the person is covered with a blanket or similar cover. A casket has a hinged lid so the top portion can be opened to enable people to see the person who has died while the lower portion of the lid is closed. On the whole caskets tend to be more elaborate in their decoration and are more expensive.

There is a bewildering choice of substances from which a coffin can be made and most are made by professional coffin manufacturers rather than being made by a local builder or carpenter. The most commonly used coffins are still made from mdf veneered with wood or sold wood. However there are woven coffins which can be made from a variety of fibres such as rattan, willow, water hyacinth, banana leaf and others. The cost varies enormously and so also does the weight. This may be significant if you are thinking that family members and friends will act as bearers.

People seldom use solid wood coffins for cremation and if you are planning cremation, please check with the crematorium if they have any restrictions about what coffin you use. It is important that a coffin does not ignite so quickly that there is a risk to the person operating the crematorium. Natural burial grounds also often have restrictions on what coffins can be used as they must biodegrade.

Cardboard coffins are often not the cheapest. You can have a coffin that you decorate yourselves, have one with images on it appropriate to the life story of the deceased person, or some companies will apply your own image – either a painting or a photograph.

You can also now purchase a coffin covered in natural wool.

It is also possible to have what is called a shroud burial. A crematorium may also accept a shroud provided the base is strong and rigid. Check with the crematorium management.

If you have the ability, you can also make the coffin yourselves.

A coffin usually needs to be lined with a moisture resistant material.

There also needs to be handles or straps so the coffin can be moved safely. Obviously any coffin fittings must be combustible if the person is to be cremated.

What can go in the coffin?

Please check with the funeral director, or crematorium or cemetery manager what their regulations will permit. Items that will not burn or which might explode are not allowed if a coffin is to be cremated. You cannot put in a bottle of Scotland’s finest if someone is to be cremated because of how glass reacts. Many synthetic items including clothing produce gases that break anti-pollution laws.

Transport of the deceased person

You may be able to borrow a trolley for moving a coffin from a hospital or funeral director, However these may not be suitable for the type of ground at a natural burial ground. A crematorium may have a trolley you can use in their premises.

If you are going to have family and friends to act as bearers, think about whether it is worth them practicing together before they move the coffin in public. Just placing the coffin on shoulders without using one hand against the coffin is probably best left for the professionals. Practice raising and lowering the coffin too. Over rough ground it will be best to carry the coffin using the handles.

You can use any vehicle provided it is large enough. However a hearse has the advantage of runners which make sliding the coffin in and out a smoother procedure.
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How can you use a funeral director for some of the funeral arrangements?

A good funeral director will want you to be involved in making decisions and should support you if you want to become involved in the practical aspects of the funeral. If they advise against something you want to do – ask them why. If they come up with a good reason, listen to them and ask if they have a solution to what they think is the problem. If they can’t give you a good reason and you feel they just don’t want to help you, it may be to change to a different funeral director.

Some families feel they cannot cope with looking after the deceased person at home or sorting out their transport, so will take complete control of everything relating to the ceremony. They may ask the funeral director to store and transport the deceased person and possibly also to supply the coffin. If you are making or buying a coffin yourselves, check with the funeral director before making the purchase. If the funeral director feels the coffin is not strong enough to be safe, they may reasonably refuse to allow their staff to carry it. They would also refuse to move a coffin that was not lined with a waterproof or at least water resistant lining.

A funeral director could store the deceased person for you until you ask them to bring it to you at home before the funeral, after which you use a vehicle of your choice.
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