Arranging a funeral
A funeral can be either by burial or by cremation. You can organise it with or without the help of a funeral director and personalise it as much as you wish. In some cases the deceased may have planned their own funeral.
All deaths in Northern Ireland must be registered. A death should be registered within five days to allow funeral arrangements to be made, except deaths which have been referred to the coroner. Find out more at the following page:
Using a funeral director
Many people choose to use a professional funeral director. Funeral directors can help during what is generally a stressful time, and should see that the remains of the deceased are dealt with in a dignified way.
Friends, family, clergy or your doctor may be able to recommend local funeral directors. Most funeral directors are members of one of two trade associations:
- National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD)
- Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF)
Member firms must give you a price list and cannot exceed any written estimate they give you without your permission.
If the funeral director is a member of NAFD or SAIF, you can also use their conciliation services.
Arranging a funeral without a funeral director
You can arrange a funeral without the help of a funeral director. If you wish to do this, contact the Cemeteries and Crematorium Department of your local council for advice and guidance.
You can also get help and information from The Natural Death Centre
There are two crematoriums in Northern Ireland - the City of Belfast Crematorium and Antrim and Newtownabbey Crematorium.
People may ask a funeral director immediately after a death to arrange a cremation.
The funeral director will make sure the chosen crematorium receives the necessary forms, These include an application for cremation and certificates for registered medical practitioners to fill in.
You can find out more and access the cremation forms at the following links:
Following a death, you may need to get authority from the High Court to deal with the deceased’s estate - assets, house, and money. This is called probate.
Paying for a funeral
If you arrange a funeral, you will be responsible for paying the bill, so first check where the money will come from and that there will be enough.
Most funeral directors need payment before probate (the official proof that a will is valid) is granted. So, it's worth considering how you would pay for a funeral, whether that amount of money will be readily available and the various ways the costs can be covered.
Costs to consider
Funeral and burial fees can vary, from the cost of using a chapel for a service to the cost of burying the deceased.
The costs for extra services, such as a coffin and care of the deceased person before the funeral, are payable to the funeral director. These costs can vary from one funeral director to another, so it is useful to get more than one quote and compare costs and services. Funeral directors should be able to give detailed price lists for you to take away.
The 'disbursement' fees that funeral directors refer to are charges they make on behalf of others - for example, for doctor's certificates, a minister, newspaper announcements, flowers, or the crematorium. You can ask the funeral director for a written quotation explaining all of these fees.
How to pay
Funeral costs can be paid in different ways, including:
- with money from the deceased's estate
- by any funeral scheme the deceased was paying into, or their pre-paid funeral plan - you'll need to check their paperwork to see if a plan exists
- with any pay out from a life insurance policy or pension scheme
The bank account of the person who has died will be frozen (unless it is a joint account). In some cases, the bank or building society may agree to release funds to pay for funeral costs, although they are not obliged to do this until probate is granted. If they don't release funds, you or the executor may need to pay and then recover the money from the estate later.
Help with funeral costs
If you're on a low income and need help to pay for a funeral you're arranging, you may be able to get a Funeral Expenses Payment. You might have to repay some or all of it from the estate of the person who died.
If no one is able or willing to arrange and pay for the funeral, the local council (or in some cases the health authority) may do so, but only where the funeral has not already been arranged. The local council may also make a claim on the deceased's estate to pay for the funeral.
For the death of a child under the age of 18, or stillborn after week 24 of pregnancy the Child Funeral Fund is available regardless of the income of the claimant but is dependent on certain criteria. The fund is available as a one-off lump sum payment to cover the expense of a funeral.
There is no right to the Child Funeral Fund where a payment has already been made for the expenses associated with the cost of the funeral by any other government funeral expenses or bereavement schemes.
Arranging a funeral outside of Northern Ireland
If the Coroner is told that a body is to be taken out of Northern Ireland for burial or cremation, even if there has been an inquest, and the Coroner is satisfied that the cause of death is known, then a Coroner’s certificate will be issued, usually to an undertaker. This allows the body to be removed.
Deaths outside Northern Ireland
If a death occurs outside Northern Ireland, it will be necessary to get authorisation for the body to be removed and brought back to Northern Ireland from the country where the death occurred. The British or Irish Embassy or Consulate will be able to offer advice on this. Find out more on the following page: