Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently asked questions

Below are some frequently asked questions and answers, that may help you during the loss of a loved one:

How do I know if the death has occurred?

Look for movement in the chest. Can you feel a pulse? Does a mirror mist over if held to the mouth? Does the person respond to a pain stimulus?

If you are at all unsure then immediately ring 999 for an ambulance.

Does the body need to be moved by a funeral director?
No. A body may be safely kept at home in cool conditions for a few days. You may want to call for reassurance or technical advice from a funeral director, but you can close the eyes, put a small towel rolled under the chin for a few hours to keep the mouth closed (teeth in!), keep the room as cool as possible without a fan or windows open. Wrapped frozen camper packs will help cool the body quicker, so it can stay in the room for longer.
Where is the body kept once it has been moved?
The body will be kept in a mortuary, which uses refrigeration to help preserve the body. This is where it will remain until the funeral. You may, of course, visit the body by arrangement with the funeral director.
What do I do next?
You will need to collect the medical death certificate that the doctor has signed – usually at the doctors’ surgery or hospital bereavement office.

Call the registrars’ office in the area where the death occurred and make an appointment, and make sure you take this medical certificate with you.

If you are unable to visit the registrar in the area where the death occurred, ask for a registration ‘By Declaration’. This relies on the Royal Mail or courier so allow extra time for this to take place.

How many copies of the death certificate will I need?

The Registrar will issue you with one copy. You will need another 3-5 copies to be able to send one each to the bank, solicitors etc. , more if the estate is complicated. They cost £4 each…… £7 afterwards.

How long do I have to register?

Deaths in England and Wales or Northern Ireland should be registered within 5 days – if this is not going to be possible, you should at least have made the appointment and informed the Registrar.

How soon can the funeral take place?

It is best to allow between 7 to 10 days for a cremation. 5 days is quite keen, but can be done. In particular circumstances with a burial, the funeral can take place within 24 hours of the death, though 4-10 days is more usual.

What is a chapel of rest?

This is a viewing room which allows families to privately visit and spend time with the person’s body.

What will the body look like?

Obviously it depends – but it is often said that the person ‘looks very peaceful’. We will have washed and dressed the person in clothes you will have provided. Often this visit is recalled as an important part of the process of finding some peace in accepting that a person has actually died, and is no longer ‘here’.

Can I assist with the dressing?

Yes, we welcome any family members that may want to assist.

Am I able to put personal items into the coffin?

Yes. However due to cremation regulations no metal, glass, plastic, or PVC items. For these reasons we recommend leaving off most shoes.

What is embalming?

It is a temporary preservation technique that involves introducing a chemical preservative through the vascular system. It is sometimes extremely useful, but is invasive, and we only suggest this option when a body is to be kept for more than 3 weeks, exported by air or – occasionally – if the coffin is to remain open during a church service. We will only  embalm someone for a very good reason, and will always seek your permission.

If you’d like to know more about this you can visit this site: British Institute of Embalmers

Burial or Cremation? Some facts:

In the UK almost three quarters of funerals involve cremation. Cremation is generally cheaper, as it does not involve a headstone. Cremations are carried out one at a time and the ashes (sometimes called ‘cremated remains’ and consist of crushed carbonised bone fragments) are completely collected before the next coffin is introduced into the cremator.

Any crematoria  requires a minimum of 4 hours to complete the process before the ashes can be collected; they will require advance notice if you want the ashes back the same day. You – or the funeral director – can collect the urn.  Alternatively cremated remains can be scattered in the Garden of Remembrance, buried loose or in an urn or casket in a grave at the crematorium, or churchyard/cemetery.

You can choose from a wide variety of  urns by clicking on the link.

Do I have to have a religious ceremony?

Most funerals in the UK follow traditional religious practices with a typical service in a crematorium chapel taking approximately 20 minutes. If more time is needed, a ‘double’ slot may be booked, which will extend the service to 50 minutes.

Church services are usually no more than 35 -40 minutes – though in exceptional cases they can go for an hour. It is important to arrange a special meeting with the minister to plan the service and make sure they understand your family, and how you want it to go. Ministers are required to include the liturgy of their particular faith in addition to anything else you might want. This is non negotiable!

There is also the option of a secular service, or civil ceremony. This usually includes poetry, music and an appreciation of the person’s life. We can suggest a good and suitable humanist or independent secular officiant for you to help guide and plan this.

You can find more information by visiting the sites below:

Institute of Civil Funerals
Humanist Funerals and Memorials
Funeral Information from The Catholic Church
Funeral Information from The Church of England
Funeral Information from The Methodist Church
Funeral Information from The Baptist Church
Funeral Information for Sikhs
Funeral Information for Buddhists
Funeral Information for Muslims
Funeral Information for the Jewish Community

Can members of the family and funeral carry the coffin?

Most definitely – women as well, of course. We would give a quick briefing to ensure that all are prepared, and will be on hand to help at all times. It is generally considered an honour to be asked to carry the coffin as a last act of service to the person who has died.

It is important to all keep in step, and we suggest all ‘bearers’ starting off on the outside foot.

Is there any other mode of transportation apart from the hearse to carry the coffin?

We can organise horse-drawn carriages, a horse and wagon, a motorcycle trailer or sidecar hearse, or a vintage lorry. We have access to a vintage Daimler 420, a LWB Landrover hearse fleet, and a classic VW campervan fleet. You can also use our own Audi 6 estate car – or your own family estate vehicle. We can accommodate most requests. We have towed a coffin to the crematorium in a sailing dingy (with the flags flying!).

See also Hearses

Is the coffin cremated with the deceased?

Yes. Once the coffin has left the funeral directors the deceased cannot be removed from it. And, yes, the handles stay on too – contrary to a popular myth.

How do I know that the cremated remains I receive back are those of my loved ones?

Absolutely, yes. The cremation process is governed by strict rules and regulations. They know this is a widespread concern, so the crematorium authorities take great care to ensure that every individual cremation is kept completely separate. You can always arrange to visit a local crematorium to see exactly what they do.

How much will the funeral cost?

Generally, a simple funeral through Family Tree in 2015 will cost about £3,000 – £3,350. There are several factors that determine the cost of a funeral – particularly the choice of coffin/newspapers/requirements for flowers, limousines, etc. We will always discuss costs with you, and provide an itemised estimate in advance of the funeral. We ask for the ‘disbursements’ – those costs we pay on your behalf – to be paid in advance, and this is standard practice in the trade.

A 2010 survey by Ipsos MORI showed the UK average funeral to cost £2,648, though costs were consistently higher for the large funeral groups – with two thirds of Dignity funerals averaging £2,801 – £3,200. Here is the link to the full survey,

How do I pay for the funeral?

We request (approximately) 50% deposit to cover the disbursements (i.e. clergy, cemetery, crematorium fees, newspapers). An invoice is sent out the week after the funeral – for the balance to be settled within two weeks of the date of the invoice.

The banks will freeze a person’s account at death. However, any costs associated with the funeral can be paid from the deceased’s current or savings account on submission of an invoice by the executor/next of kin.

What if I cannot pay?

If you are having trouble paying for a funeral that you have to arrange, it is very important to discuss this with us in advance: we will try and work out a payment plan with you.

You may be able to get a Social Fund Funeral Payment to help you with some of the cost; however, it is not a set figure, each case is looked at individually, and any payment only covers a portion of the total cost.

Department for Works and Pensions – Funeral Payments

Is it worth paying for my funeral in advance?

Given that funeral costs have increased by almost 10% p.a, and return on savings rate is below 3%, it would seem a good idea – despite the £185 ‘administrative fee’ to cover the Funeral Plan company’s initial set-up costs.

You decide the kind of funeral you would like. We cost it up at today’s rates. The rates paid hold good until the funeral – whenever it happens, although there may be a small top up if the costs of the ‘disbursements’ increase by more than the Retail Price Index.

A great advantage of Family Tree’s funeral plan supplier (Golden Leaves Funeral Plans) is that they will allow for a completely personal and ‘bespoke’ funeral plan, rather than your needing to buy into the ‘Westminster’, the ‘Salisbury’, the ‘Windsor’ – or even ‘The Highgrove’ type packaged plans on offer by other providers.

We are also very happy to come and talk with you in advance of the need for a funeral, if you do not want to pay in advance.

What to do when someone dies


We will tell you exactly what to do, and help and guide you through each of the different stages.

Click here for more details.

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