This blog offers a step-by-step guide to organising a cremation and cremation service.
There are many reasons why people are opting for cremation – the higher cost of burial is probably one of these. However, respect for, and the honouring of, the religious belief of their loved one is another important consideration. Members of some faith groups choose burial because that aligns with their faith (Jews and followers of Islam are examples). Others look to cremation – particularly Hindus and Sikhs, as well as those Buddhists who choose to follow the example of the Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama).
Another factor is that cremation offers families many more options to memorialise their loved one, so what follows can become a deeply personal experience. For some people, the act of scattering ashes, for example, gives them a sense that their loved one is all around them or looking down and continuing to admire the place chosen for them. Or they might choose to place the ashes in a beautiful urn at home.
Not all crematoria and cemeteries allow ash scattering. However, scattering is possible in designated areas at any GreenAcres park. Generally though, there is nothing in UK law to stop you scattering ashes in a place that was special to your loved one, or over water (including rivers), but you do need the landowner’s permission. And if you’re planning to scatter ashes on ‘controlled waters’ you should consult the Environment Agency’s recommendations. But, before any cremation, there are some legal steps to follow:
The four legal steps
Step 1 is only likely to involve you, a family member or a friend/neighbour if your loved one has died at home. In a hospital or care home, Step 1 will be carried out by staff so you won’t need to get involved.
Step 1 – Verification of death
Verification of death is the process of identifying that a person has died. It has nothing to do with providing a death certificate or identifying the cause of death.
English Law allows any competent adult, either independently or with remote support from a doctor, to verify that someone has died. It doesn’t need to be done by a doctor.
The British Medical Association (BMA) and the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) have produced a collaborative process (protocol) that can be followed by anyone present to verify death if they feel able to do so.
If you find yourself having to verify a death, either call your GP who will support you over the phone, or follow the guidelines in the protocol above.
Step 2 – Certification of death
After a death has been verified, a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death (MCCD) must
be completed and submitted to the local registrar of births, marriages and deaths by a (GMC registered and licensed) doctor. You don’t need to be involved in this step, and there’s nothing to pay.
If the doctor cannot offer a likely cause of death, the case must be submitted to the coroner to establish a cause of death.
Now, because of Covid-19 and the Coronavirus Act 2020, for a doctor to complete an MCCD without referral to the coroner, they must have seen (including via video link) the patient in the 28 days before death, or in person after death. If these conditions are met, the MCCD will be completed by the doctor and sent (by email) to the registrar who will record the death and complete the paperwork to allow burial or cremation.
Step 3 – Registration of death
The person registering the death is formally known as ‘the informant’. Only relatives or specific individuals are qualified by law to register a death. Other people include:
- The occupier of the house or an official from the public building where the death occurred
- Someone present at the death
- The person making the arrangements with the Funeral Director
The informant must register the death within five days in England, Wales or Northern Ireland and within eight days in Scotland.
However, if there’s a Coroner’s inquest (Procurator Fiscal in Scotland), registration is delayed until the inquest has been completed.
Depending on which country the deceased person lived in, the informant must register the death:
- In England and Wales at the Register Office
- In Northern Ireland at the District Registration Office
- In Scotland at the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages
Registering a death is free, but you will need to pay for copies of the death certificate in order to deal with their estate. We suggest you get multiple copies of the certificate. This means you can deal with several organisations at the same time instead of having to wait for your only copy to be returned by one organisation (say the bank) before you can deal with the next one.
Step 4 – Cremation certificate
The Coronavirus Act 2020 changed the requirements of the cremation process. During the COVID-19 emergency, Form Cremation 4 is now the only form that needs to be completed. This form must be completed by a registered doctor and sent to the relevant crematorium. (The standard requirement for sending form Cremation 5 as well has been suspended.)
Cremation 4 will then be checked by the crematorium medical referee to ensure it complies with guidance. Referees have the right (and a duty) to raise questions to ensure the safety of the system.
When you have completed the formalities, and the death has been registered, you can then think about the cremation and cremation service.
You may also find the Tell Us Once service available through GOV.UK particularly useful. It lets you report a death to most government organisations in one go. In Northern Ireland, you’ll need to visit Who to tell about a death.
Many people will already have made contact with a Funeral Director – however, although GreenAcres works with many different firms, there is no legal obligation for you to use one. For example, it is perfectly OK, once a death has been registered, for the body of a loved one to remain at home in a cool place, and ideally for no more than seven days, before later being transported to the crematorium (for the cremation itself) or to one of our parks for the cremation service in a private estate car or van.
If you would prefer to use a Funeral Director, then the Good Funeral Guide is an excellent place to start your search.
Options for a cremation service
After the cremation, you might be thinking about how you’ll mark the place where your loved one’s ashes have been scattered or interred. At Greenacres, our parks are open to anyone of any faith or none looking for the perfect place to remember and reflect on the life of a loved one.