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15 October, 2015
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A helpful Guide to Planning a Funeral  
Funeral Choices  
What to do when a loved one dies  

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Planning a Funeral

 

Coping practically when someone dies
There is no right or wrong way to feel when someone close to you dies. It is a time of sadness for everyone involved. It can be very hard to clear your head to think about the practical things you need to do. It can be very painful but there are several things that have to be done quite soon. This page is about those practical things. Hopefully it will help make those early days after the death as easy as possible.

If you are looking for information about coping emotionally with the death of someone close to you we have information in another question and answer called coping with death.

This page has information on

What you need to do very soon after someone dies
Registering the death
Arranging the funeral
Unusual situations such as hospital postmortems, coroners, or burial abroad
Donation of body parts for transplants or medical research
Wills
Letting people know about your loved ones death
The information below is aimed at people whose loved one dies in hospital. Although the general issues are the same for someone who dies at home, there are slight differences, which we briefly outline.

What you need to do very soon after the death
If your relative or friend dies in hospital, you may find after you leave the hospital that you would like to see them again. If you wish, you can arrange to visit by contacting the ward staff, who will arrange for you to view the body in the mortuary. There are rooms in the mortuary specifically for this. You will be in a small private room and be able to spend some time alone with your loved one. If you have certain religious needs, most hospital mortuaries will be able to accommodate these.

If your loved one dies at home you will have as much time as you want to be with them after they die. They can stay at home until the funeral if you wish. But if the body is taken away and you feel you want to see them again before the funeral, you can arrange this with the funeral directors.

You will most likely need to return to the ward where your loved one died to collect their personal belongings. Most people find this hard but the ward staff will be very aware of your feelings. If your loved one had any valuables such as jewellery or money in the ward safe, just check that the nurses have remembered to include these in their belongings. Or if there are certain items you want to remain on or with your loved one for the funeral, you will need to make sure you organise this.

Soon after the death, the next of kin needs to make an appointment with the Patient Affairs Officer. At this appointment you will collect the medical certificate with the cause of death written on it. Doctors call this a ‘death certificate’.

If someone dies at home you will need to contact the GP to come and certify the death. They may give it to you there and then or you may need to collect it from the surgery the next day.

Registering the death
It is a legal requirement to register all deaths within 5 days. You don’t have to pay for this service. You won’t be able to complete the funeral arrangements until you do register the death. The hospital or your GP will let you know where the nearest registry office is. You must register the death in the district where the person died.

Practically this procedure is usually pretty straightforward. But it can be very upsetting, so go with someone close to you for support. If there are special situations registering a death may involve more paperwork, so takes a bit longer.

A relative is the best person to register the death. If this isn’t possible, someone else can do it but you will need to discuss this with the registry office.

You will need to take with you

The person’s death certificate
The full name, address, date and place of birth and the occupation of the deceased person
Information about the deceased person’s pension or other income from public funds
If the person was married you will need to give the full name and date of birth of the surviving partner
Once they complete these details the Registrar will give you a certificate for burial or cremation, depending on what you decide to do. You will need to give this certificate to the funeral director so they can complete the funeral arrangements. This certificate is free of charge but you will need to pay a small fee for a certified copy. You will need this copy for any bank or insurance issues or if you want to bury your loved one abroad.

If the deceased was receiving state benefits the Registrar will also give you a form. This will either be a BD8 or 344. You will need to give this to their Benefits Agency.

Arranging the funeral
Arranging your loved one’s funeral can be overwhelming. You need to think about many things such as

Choosing a funeral director
Choosing the type of funeral you want
The cost of the funeral
If your loved one was able to discuss their funeral before they died they may have left specific instructions on how they would like it to be. They may have already organised their funeral before they died or left instructions in their will. If they did, then you must include them in your plans.

This may include whether they want to have

A burial or cremation
A private or public funeral or
Flowers or donations
Donation of their body or organs for medical research
If they didn’t let you know, making these decisions can be difficult. Discuss them with other relatives and try to think what your loved one may have wanted. But don’t agonise too much over this - you can only do what you think is right.

For some people religious and cultural reasons mean they must organise the funeral as quickly as possible. But if this is not the case you don’t have to organise things in a hurry. Take all the time you need to make the funeral exactly how you want it to be.

Choosing a funeral director
If you have never had to organise a funeral before, knowing which funeral director to choose can be hard. Understandably you will want to make sure the one you go with will respect all your wishes. Most funeral directors will. It is in their best interests to make this time as easy as possible for you. Friends or relatives who have had to arrange a funeral may be able to suggest someone. If not, then you can contact the National Association of Funeral Directors. They have a code of practice which they encourage all members to make available.

When you make your choice, you will need to give the funeral director the certificate of burial or cremation. They will contact the hospital and organise for your loved one to be taken to their chapel of rest.

Choosing the type of funeral
You can have the funeral at your local church or at the local cemetery. If you have the funeral at the cemetery, you can have a minister of religion take the service, have a humanist ceremony or organise your own order of service. Your funeral director will be able to put you in touch with whoever you need. Choosing a coffin will depend on how much you want to spend. Prices vary greatly. You will also need to decide whether you want your loved one to be buried in a separate grave or in a ‘shared grave’. A shared grave means they will have their own coffin but they will share the grave with several other people. This is much cheaper. With a shared grave you may not be able to put up a headstone in memory of your loved one. But you may be able to place a small stone on the grave to acknowledge the person buried there.

For a cremation you can choose what you do with the ashes. They can either be buried, scattered in a cemetery or somewhere meaningful to you and the person who died. Some people choose to keep the ashes in their home. This is a personal choice and not everyone wants to do this.

Your funeral director will be able to help you make some of these decisions. For some people, the cost will help decide. A cremation is usually much cheaper. It may be upsetting if you can’t afford to do things exactly how you would like. Try not to worry too much. Focus on the things you can do, such as choosing a special song to play or poem to be read at the funeral. These are the things that you will remember more, not how much you could spend on a coffin.

There are two types of bereavement benefits available to the next of kin. They are

Bereavement Payment – this is a one off payment
Bereavement Allowance – this is a weekly payment for 1 year after the date of your loved one’s death
They are based on your loved one’s National Insurance contributions. To find out if you are able to get either of these benefits contact your local benefits agency or look on the Department for Work and Pensions’ website for details.

If you, as the next of kin, are receiving certain benefits such as unemployment or sickness benefits, you may be able to get help with paying for the funeral. This would only cover the cost of a very simple funeral. You will not be able to claim money for the cost of a private burial space in the cemetery or a memorial headstone. Ask your specific Benefits Agency or the Citizens Advice Bureau for information on this.

Having a private or public funeral
This means whether or not you want the funeral to be open to anyone who knew your loved one. Or whether you would prefer to have only close family and friends present. Do what you feel is right for you or what your loved one has requested.

Flowers or donations
Many families now choose to have friends and relatives make a donation, instead of giving flowers in memory of someone close to them who has died. The donations usually go to a charity or to the hospital or ward where their loved one died. They may choose to buy a piece of equipment for the ward in memory of their loved one. The piece of equipment you buy will usually have a plaque saying ‘in memory of’ and your loved one’s name.

Unusual situations
This includes the need for

A coroner
Hospital postmortem and
A burial abroad
A coroner is an official who is responsible for investigating violent, sudden, or suspicious deaths. Or a death of unknown cause. If your loved one has been ill with cancer for sometime before their death, it is highly unlikely that you will need to deal with this. But if the doctor cannot issue a death certificate because they are unsure of the exact cause of death, then they must contact the Coroner. The Coroner will arrange to do a postmortem to help decide the cause of death. They don’t need any consent from the next of kin to do this. But you can choose a doctor to represent you at the procedure.

Hospital postmortem
This is not the same as the Coroner’s postmortem. This happens when your loved one’s doctor asks for permission to do a postmortem. They hope it will help them understand the cause of death and improve the way they treat others with a similar illness in the future. It is uncommon for a doctor to ask for this, especially when someone dies of cancer. If they do, they will discuss the procedure in depth with you. Don’t feel under any pressure to say yes to this procedure. Some people find it helps them better understand the death of their loved one, but not everyone. A doctor can only arrange do a hospital postmortem with written consent from the next of kin.

Burial abroad
If you want to bury your loved one out of England, which includes Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland (Eire), ask your funeral director for help with this. You will need to buy two or more copies of the death certificate when you register the death. Your funeral director will need these to get you an ‘Out of England Certificate’.

The National Association of Funeral Directors has a section on arranging a funeral, which you may find useful.

Donation of body parts for transplants or medical research
Recent media coverage of hospitals keeping body parts after post mortem for medical use, without the consent of the next of kin, has understandably made people very wary about these issues. Discuss this in detail with your loved one’s doctor before making any decisions.

Even if your friend or relative had an organ donor card, they may not be able to donate their organs for transplant because they had cancer. This is because many of their internal organs may have been damaged by their illness. Some people may be able to donate parts of their eyes. If this is possible you need to talk about this before the person dies, as the eye will need to be removed very soon after death.

Donating your body for medical research or education is sometimes possible. Medical students may be able to use the body of someone who has died from cancer for learning purposes during their training. If you think this is something your loved one would have wanted you will need to contact the professor of anatomy at the nearest medical school or

Human Tissue Authority
Finlaison House
15-17 Furnival Street
London
EC4A 1AB
Telephone: 020-7211 3400
Email: enquiries@hta.gov.uk
http://www.hta.gov.uk/

If your loved one’s body is accepted for medical research or education purposes, the next of kin will need to fill out several forms. These forms will give details on how long the body can be used for (which can be up to 3 years). You may want to have the body back for a private funeral or you can organise to have a memorial service after the death. Most funeral directors will be able to help you with this. Alternatively, the medical school receiving the body can arrange for a cremation, which the next of kin are able to attend.

Every year in May there is a general thanksgiving service held at Southwark Cathedral in London in memory of all people who have donated their body to medical research in the previous year. All next of kin are invited to this service.

Wills
A will is a legal document or a letter signed by the person who died. It gives instructions on what they want to do with any money and assets they leave behind. Hopefully you will have been able to discuss this with your loved one before they died. But if not then you will need to find this document. You will most likely need to seek the advice of a lawyer about the will.

If there is no will, contact the The Probate and Inheritance Tax Helpline on 0845 30 20 900 and they will tell you what to do. You can also contact the Probate Registry for further information.

Principal Registry
(Probate Dept)
First Avenue House
42-49 High Holborn
London WC1V 6NP
Telephone: 020-7947 6000

Letting people know about your loved ones death
Telling people about your loved one’s death can be difficult and also emotionally tiring. But it is important that you tell people who knew your loved one personally or did business with them. If you don’t feel like doing this yourself, ask a friend or another family member to help you. With so much on your mind it is easy to miss someone. This list may help remind you of all those who may need to be told about your loved one’s death

Family and friends
Neighbours
Work colleagues and employer
Sporting clubs – cancel any memberships at golf, tennis or bowls club, gym
Place of worship
Family doctor
Bank
Credit card companies
DVLA – you must return the deceased’s driving licence
Local library if they were a member (you may need to return books etc)
Mortgage and insurance companies
Council Tax office
Utility companies – gas, electricity, telephone, water
Landlord
Passport office
Accountant and solicitors
Cancel any social services that they might have been having such as meals on wheels, transport assistance or home help

 

 

 

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