Bear in mind that you can't confirm the date for the funeral until after the death has been registered. If the death has to be reported to the coroner, the date when the funeral can be held will be affected.
Find out more about registering a death.
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 provide you with a price list and cannot exceed any written estimate they give you without your permission.
If you're unhappy with the service, or the prices you're asked to pay contact Consumerline or Advice NI for advice. 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.
Remember to check the deceased person's will or other written instructions for special wishes about their funeral or what should happen to their body. However, the executor doesn't have to follow the instructions about the funeral left in the will.
If there are no clear wishes it's generally up to the executor/administrator or nearest relative to decide whether the body is to be cremated or buried.
Whether you’re using a funeral director or not, here are some things you’ll need to think about:
- where the body should rest before the funeral
- time and place of the funeral (though this can only be finalised once the death is registered)
- type of service (religious or other) and who will conduct it/contribute to it
- how much to spend on the funeral
- whether to have flowers or instead donate money to a chosen charity
- where to donate flowers after the funeral
- notice in the newspapers
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 require 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 additional services, such as providing a coffin and care of the deceased person before the funeral, are payable to the funeral director. These costs can vary considerably 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 provide 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 payout 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 from the Social Fund. 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.
Arranging a funeral outside of Northern Ireland
If the Coroner is informed 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 provide advice on this.
A Northern Ireland Coroner has no authority to investigate a death that happens abroad.
If a death has happened on a ship, the Coroner in the place the body comes ashore must send certain details of the death to the Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen.