We have a duty under Section 46 of the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 to take responsibility for funeral arrangements of anyone who has died in the borough if no suitable arrangements have been made.
This usually occurs where there are no friends or next of kin in a position to make the arrangements. Unfortunately we can’t help if someone else has already taken responsibility for arranging the funeral.
The police, the coroner, social workers or care home managers refer most cases to us.
What happens before the funeral?
Before we take responsibility for organising a funeral we will make reasonable enquiries to find relatives, friends or the executor of a will who may wish to make the arrangements themselves. There are many reasons why next of kin may not be in a position to make funeral arrangements. The council may ask them to confirm they are not able or willing to make arrangements before proceedings.
We may conduct a search of the deceased’s property (or room in a care home) with a view to finding details of their next of kin, a will, and details of their estate (accounts, assets etc).
We may also ask a genealogist to help us trace next of kin.
We will try and determine whether the deceased had any specific wishes or religious views that will affect the funeral arrangements and, in particular, whether they wished to be buried or cremated. We may not always be able to follow the exact wishes of the deceased but we will respect religious views and whether they wishes to be buried or cremated.
What sort of funeral does the council arrange?
Where we make arrangements for a funeral, it will be simplistic and remain dignified and will be accompanied by appropriate music.
We will normally arrange a cremation unless we are aware that the deceased wished to be buried.
We will make sure that the preparations for the funeral are carried out in a dignified and sensitive way. We will also take into consideration the deceased’s religious and cultural background.
We will try and let family, carers and friends know the date, time and place of the funeral, so they can attend if they wish.
Who pays for a public health funeral?
The cost of any funeral is met out of the estate of the deceased.
If there are insufficient funds the executor is personally liable. Reasonable costs of any funeral (including a charge for the time in arranging the funeral) arranged by the Council are reclaimed from the persons estate, where there are sufficient funds.
Details of the charge made per hour of officers time can be found on our fees and charges page.
What happens to the ashes following cremation?
Following the cremation after 28 days the ashes are usually scattered in the garden of remembrance at the crematorium.
We will consider releasing ashes to next of kin (or others with their permission). It is important that next of kin make us aware of any other wishes regarding the ashes as soon as possible.
What happens to the deceased's belongings / estate?
The Council is not responsible for administering the Estate of the deceased. The Council will recover its reasonable expenses including officer time from the estate funds or through the sale of valuable items.
Where there is no next of kin, the estate will be referred to the government legal department (subject to value of estate being in excess of £500 following all funeral costs). More information can be found on the government legal department website Treasury Solicitor’s Department.
Where the deceased lived in rented accommodation, once satisfied that there are no items of value, the landlord should take responsibility for clearing the premises at their costs. If the deceased lived in a care / nursing home, the home is accountable for the disposal of the effects.
There is a list of unclaimed estates held by the Treasury Solicitor on the gov.uk website.
We also publish a deceased person’s list showing the details of people whose funerals we have arranged, and any unclaimed estates.
If you have queries about public health funerals please email our environmental health team.
Useful information for people arranging funerals for friends or loved ones