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Arranging a funeral

This advice applies to Scotland

Coronavirus – registering a death, cremations and funerals

Local Registrars' offices are making special arrangements to register deaths by email or phone.  

Check your local council website for details. Find your local council on mygov.scot.  

Cremations and funerals

Cremations, burials and funeral services can go ahead in Scotland. You can also hold a wake in a regulated venue, like a hotel. 

How many people can attend depends on what protection level applies to the area. You should check the protection level using the Scottish government postcode checker. This will tell you what rules and guidance to follow. 

The maximum number of people at a funeral or wake should be:

  • 50 in level 0
  • 20 in levels 1, 2, 3 or 4. 

This number includes children but not the celebrant, venue staff or funeral director. 

Funeral directors and crematoriums will take extra steps to stop the spread of coronavirus and protect you and their staff. This means different households should stay two metres apart and you must wear a face covering indoors. 

There's guidance for funeral services on the Scottish government website. 

Some of the rules on arranging a cremation have changed. For example, another relative can arrange the cremation if the closest relative can't. The crematorium or funeral director can explain what to do. 

Bereavement advice and support

Resources and support for bereavement are available from the Good Grief Trust. 

PETAL Support offers free counselling for people over 12 years old who have experienced bereavement due to COVID-19.

PETAL Support (Scotland)
8 Barrack Street
Hamilton
ML3 0DG

Tel: 01698 324502 (Monday to Thursday from 9.00am to 5.00pm; Friday from 9.00am to 4.00pm)
Website: www.petalsupport.com

No one wants to have to arrange a funeral at what is already a difficult time. If you do, having an understanding of what is involved and how to deal with problems will help.

The person named by the deceased in a will or declaration should arrange the funeral. If they don’t want to, or there’s no named person, there’s a hierarchy of people who can arrange it, starting with the nearest relative. If there is no one, the local authority will arrange a simple funeral. 

The person may have left instructions about the type of funeral and burial they wanted.  There is no legal obligation for these instructions to be followed, but they usually are.

Read about how funerals are arranged, what services you can expect to get from a funeral director and how to get help with paying.

Planning your own funeral in Scotland

The Scottish Government has produced a booklet called 'Planning Your Own Funeral', which you can use to note down your wishes. This is available at www.gov.scot

How funerals are arranged

Most funerals are arranged through a funeral director. Find one who belongs to one of the professional associations, such as the National Association of Funeral Directors - NAFD or the Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors – SAIF. These associations have codes of practice and complaints procedures. Some local authorities also run their own funeral services by arrangement with a local firm of funeral directors.

The Scottish Government has produced guidance on arranging a funeral. It is available on www.mygov.scot.

There is also information about funerals in Scotland in the Scottish Government guide on what to do after a death.

The deceased person may have left a written note of their wishes, sometimes with their will. The Scottish Government has produced a booklet called 'Planning Your Own Funeral', which the deceased person may have used to note down their wishes. This is available at www.gov.scot

Arranging a funeral without a funeral director

You can arrange a funeral without a funeral director. If you want to do this, the Natural Death Centre or Cemeteries and Crematorium department of your local authority can offer help and guidance.

Dealing with funeral costs

If you arrange the funeral with a funeral director, you're responsible for the costs. You should ask to see a price list before choosing a funeral, or explain how much you have to spend and see what services are possible.

The person who died might have paid for their funeral already. This is called a funeral plan. If you don’t know if there’s a funeral plan, you can:

  • check the will
  • ask the person’s close friends and relatives
  • ask local funeral directors

You might be able to get help paying for the funeral if you're on benefits. Check if you can get a Funeral Support Payment

Getting a written estimate

Once you've chosen the funeral, you should be given a written estimate giving a breakdown of all of the costs involved. Ask for one if it's not provided.

If you want to compare costs, you can contact other funeral directors, or ask someone else to help you with this.

Services provided by funeral directors

A basic funeral is likely to include:

  • a plain, lined coffin
  • transport of the body of the person who has died to the funeral director's premises, usually up to ten miles from wherever the death occurred
  • the care of the person who has died until the funeral. This will include washing and dressing the person who has died and laying the body out, but will not include embalming
  • providing a hearse to take the body to the nearest crematorium or burial ground
  • providing the necessary people to carry the coffin
  • making all other necessary arrangements, for example, getting the required forms.

Other services funeral directors could provide, or which you may want to sort out elsewhere are:

  • flowers
  • a more expensive coffin and fittings
  • press notices
  • a medical certificate required for cremation, and any doctor's fees for signing this
  • an organist
  • fees for religious services
  • a burial or crematorium fee. The burial fee will usually include the costs of preparing the grave
  • extra cars
  • embalming
  • extra services by the funeral director, for example, use of the Chapel of Rest, transport from the mortuary, or special viewing arrangements
  • the cost of journeys of more than ten miles to the funeral director's premises
  • a memorial
  • catering arrangements
  • stationery.

Signing a contract

You may need to sign a contract with the funeral director. Make sure you read it carefully and ask the funeral director about anything you don’t understand.

Paying for the funeral

Some funeral directors might ask for a deposit before making the funeral arrangements.  

You may be offered a discount to pay for the funeral before or soon after it takes place. If you know the money will be released at a later date to cover the cost, you might want to consider a bank loan or overdraft to pay early.

Money may be released later, if the person who has died made arrangements to pay for their funeral through an insurance or other policy, or if money is released after their estate has been dealt with.  

If there is a legal claim for negligence against someone for the death, the cost of the funeral can be claimed as compensation.

Otherwise, you may agree payment by instalment, or pay after the legal process of dealing with the person’s estate has been settled.  

Next steps

More about what to do after a death

More about what to do if you need help with the cost of a funeral on GOV.UK.

If you need more help you can contact Advice Direct Scotland's consumer service or your local Citizens Advice bureau

Advice Direct Scotland's Consumer Service 

Freephone: 0808 164 6000
Website: www.consumeradvice.scot

Other useful information

National Association of Funeral Directors

618 Warwick Road
Solihull
West Midlands
B91 1AA

Tel: 0121 711 1343
Fax: 0121 711 1351
E-mail: info@nafd.org.uk
Website: www.nafd.org.uk

National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors

3 Bullfields
Sawbridgeworth
Hertfordshire
CM21 9DB

Tel: 0845 230 6777
Fax: 01279 726300
E-mail: info@saif.org.uk
Website: www.saif.org.uk

Natural Death Centre

In The Hill House
Watley Lane
Twyford
Winchester
SO21 1QX

Tel: 0871 288 2098
E-mail: contact@naturaldeath.org.uk
Website: www.naturaldeath.org.uk

Funeral Directors Register

You can search for funeral directors on the Funeral Directors Register - a service run by the National Federation of Funeral Directors.

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