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Death and Bereavement

Please contact Central Bedfordshire Council, www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk telephone 0300 300 8089 for information about registering a death.

These pages aim to provide some useful help and advice with the arrangements for dealing with a death.

 

If the Death Occurs in Hospital

If the death occurs in hospital, the hospital staff will contact the person named by the deceased as next of kin.   This may be, but need not be a relative.  You may, if you wish, request to see the hospital chaplain.  Most funeral directors have a chapel of rest in which the deceased will be held pending the funeral.   The hospital will arrange for the nearest relative to collect the deceased’s possessions.

 

If the Death Occurs Elsewhere

Expected Death

If the death was expected, contact the doctor who attended the deceased during their final illness.  If the doctor can certify the cause of death he or she will give you the following:

  • A Medical Certificate that shows the cause of death (this is free of charge and will be in a sealed envelope addressed to the registrar).
  • A Formal Notice that states that the doctor has signed the Medical Certificate and tells you how to get the death registered.

You may wish to contact the deceased’s minister of religion if you have not already done so.   Arrangements for the funeral may be made by a funeral director.

If you discover a body or the death is sudden or unexpected, you should contact the following people:

  • The family doctor (if known) 
  • The deceased’s nearest relative
  • The deceased’s minister of religion
  • The police, who will help find the people listed above if necessary

If there is any reason to suspect that the death was not due to natural causes, do not touch or remove anything from the room.  The death may be referred to the coroner.  The doctor may ask the relatives for permission to carry out a post-mortem examination.

This is a medical examination of the body which can find out more about the cause of the death and should not delay the funeral.

 

Reporting a Death to a Coroner

In any of the following circumstances the doctor may report the death to the coroner.

  • An accident or injury
  • An industrial disease
  • During a surgical operation
  • Before recovery from an anaesthetic
  • If the cause of the death is unknown
  • The death was sudden and unexplained, for instance, a sudden infant death (cot death).

You will be advised if the death has to be reported to the Coroner, in which case the death cannot be registered nor the funeral take place, without the Coroner’s Authorisation.    Where a death is reported to the Coroner, the Coroner’s Officer will contact the relatives.

A Coroner can order a post-mortem examination without getting the relatives’ permission.   This examination will ascertain the cause of death.   He may also wish to hold an investigation into circumstances leading up to a death.  (This is called an inquest).  When an inquest is called, the Coroner’s Office will contact the relatives.  This should not cause undue distress as it is a legal formality.

In such cases an interim Death Certificate will be issued direct to your from the Coroner’s Office.  When an inquest is to be held, the death cannot be registered until the conclusion of the inquest, but a certificate will normally be issued at the opening of the inquest to allow the funeral to take place.  Once the inquest is over the inquest report will be sent by the Coroner directly to the Registry Office in order that the registration can take place without disruption to the family and certificates can then be purchased.

For more information on the Coroner click here to visit the website of the Home Office.

 

Funeral Arrangements

When the Death Certificate has been issued by the Registrar, you will also be given a certificate authorising the funeral.  The choice of a firm of funeral directors is important as you should feel comfortable and confidence with them.   They may be known to you personally, may be recommended by a friend, your GP or religious advisor or may just have a good reputation in your area.

Below are links to various online directories where you can search for Funeral Directors.

Yellow Pages: www.yell.com

Scoot: www.scoot.co.uk

 

The Funeral Standards Council, National Association of Funeral Directors & Society of Allied Independent Funeral Directors all have a code of practice and should give you an estimate of costs – their own and those fees they will pay on your behalf and add to the account.

You can ask for this estimate in advance and it’s a good idea to ask different firms to quote so that you can compare costs.

Your funeral director can make all the arrangements for the funeral, burial or cremation, religious or secular service.  The funeral director can also advise on all the procedures and documents needed to register the death.

If you are considering a headstone most cemeteries will advise to wait for a period of approximately six months before placing it.  However, we suggest you contact your preferred choice of monumental mason as soon as possible to avoid any unnecessary delay after this waiting period.

 

Non-Religious Services

There is no requirement to have a religious ceremony, or any kind of ceremony at all at a funeral.  People that regard religion to be unimportant or have made a decision to live their lives without it may prefer a Humanist or Civil Ceremony.

This type of ceremony is not intended to oppose a religious funeral, but to provide a dignified and respectful celebration of the death that has occurred.

At this type of funeral the services of an officiant, on the lines of a minister or celebrant are commonly employed.  They will conduct the proceedings which can involve readings of appropriate prose, tributes by attendees or the officiant and the playing of appropriate music.

The British Humanist Association website offers advice on all aspects of humanist ceremonies and produce a booklet Funerals without God: A Practical Guide to Non-religious Funerals which can be purchased £5 (including postage and packing).

Celebrants are trained professionals who can officiate at funerals, weddings, namings or any other rite of passage.

If you don’t want a ceremony at all, members of the family or close friends can attend the committal, which can be in silence or with some music being played.

 

Civil Ceremonies

Civil Funerals can now be conducted by civil funeral celebrants including those who are members of our own staff or a Registrar.  If you wish for this type of service please let your Funeral Directors know.  A  Civil Funeral can contain religious elements combined with tributes to the deceased.  The emphasis of Civil Funerals is the deceased’s life experiences coupled with the needs of the bereaved.  The balance between religious aspects and life experiences is solely that of the bereaved family.  We aim to make the occasion relevant to all who attend.  

 

Non-Church of England Funerals

If you have to arrange a funeral for someone who is of a faith different from your own, it is important to contact the equivalent of the local priest of the denomination to find out what needs to be done.

 

Non-Christian and Minority Group Funerals

A brief word on the practises of other faiths is included below:

Muslim

Most Muslim communities appoint one person who is responsible for making funeral arrangements.  It will be their job to advise of the rules and to select a suitable funeral director.

 

Hindu

There are many possible variations of rites which depend on their form of Hinduism.   The Asian Funeral Service can give advice on and arrange Hindu funerals.  They can be contacted on 020 8909 3737

 

Jewish

Jewish funerals are usually arranged by a dedicated Jewish Funeral Agency, or the local community may have a contract with a Gentile funeral service, which will be carried out under strict rabbinical control.  The Jewish Bereavement Counselling Service offers support and can be contacted on 020 8349 0839.

 

Legal Advice

If you have any difficulty in dealing with the deceased’s property, possessions or guardianship of their children, get advice from a Solicitor or Citizens Advice Bureau as soon as possible.

From the CAB (or their website) you can get the leaflets Legal Aid Guide and Getting Legal Help from a Citizens Advice Bureau, public library, police station or a court, to find out if you can get legal aid.

These places also hold a list of local Solicitors which shows whether they take legal aid cases and if they specialise in probate work.   Again you can search for local solicitors using the online directories below:

Yellow Pages: www.yell.com

Scoot: www.scoot.co.uk

The Legal Services Commission website also contains leaflets and other useful information.

Many solicitors are prepared to offer up to half an hour of legal advice for a small fee.

 

What is probate and do I need it?

The word “probate” is often misunderstood. It conjures up images of months of difficulty and delay.  This is not inevitable and many simple probates are finished quite easily in a month or so.

 

What is it?

It is a document issued by the Probate Registry confirming that an executor has the right to wind up an estate of the person who has died.  The “estate” is the house, money,  and savings left by someone when they die.  The “executor” is the person chosen in the Will to sort out the estate and make sure it goes to the people named in the Will.

 

Do I have to have it?

This depends upon the size of the estate.  Often, when the estate is very small no probate is needed.

 

How do I get it?

By filling in some forms.  If the estate is small the forms do not have to give full details of it.  The important form is the “Executors Oath”.  This is not usually available from stationery shops but can be found in books about probate.   It has to be sworn as being true.  For more information on Probate, including application forms, fees etc, visit the website of the Court Service – http://www.hmcourts-service.gov.uk/

 

Do I have to use a solicitor?

No, but it helps.  You can also apply direct to the Probate Registry yourself.   Most solicitors offer probate services and their fees depend upon the amount of work necessary and the size of the estate. 

 

Wills

In order for a will to be valid it must be:-

Made by a person who is 18 years old or over, and made voluntarily and without pressure from any other person: and made by a person who is of sound mind.  This means that s/he is fully aware of the nature of the document s/he is writing or signing and aware of her/his property and the identity of the person who may inherit, and in writing, and signed by the person making the will in the presence of two witnesses; and signed by the two witnesses, in the presence of the person making the will, after s/he has signed it.

A witness or the married partner of a witness cannot benefit from a will, the will is still valid but the beneficiary will not be able to inherit under the will.

Although it will be legally valid even if it is not dated, it is advisable to ensure that the will also include the date on which it is signed.

As soon as the will is signed and witnessed, it is complete.

 

What if there is no will?

Speak to a Solicitor – it is safer in the long run because various laws affect who is entitled to wind up the estate and receive the money.

 

Tax

If the person who died was paying tax on income from investments or as a self employed person or as an employee, tell the tax office about the death as soon as possible.   This will enable the deceased’s tax affairs to be settled.  Depending on circumstances, this may involve some more tax or claiming a repayment.  The particular tax office to contact will depend upon the deceased’s circumstances.

For instance if the deceased was an employee or had a pension from a former employer, the pay section of the employer or pension organisation will know the deceased’s tax office.

If the deceased was self-employed, contact the tax office nearest to the place of business.

If the deceased was unemployed, or retired without pension from a former employer, contact the tax office nearest to the home address.

Inland Revenue leaflet IR45 what to do about tax when someone dies gives more information.  Alternatively, further information, and copies of IR45 leaflet are available at the Inland Revenue’s website – http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/bereavement/index.htm.

 

Independent Financial Advice

Professional advice on financial matters can be obtained from a variety of sources: your bank or building society may be able to offer you assistance regarding investments etc… however, they will generally only be able to recommend their own policies and investment opportunities.

An Independent Financial Advisor will be able to search around for the best investments, savings, life assurance, mortgages etc, to suit your individual needs.  It makes sense to contact an independent Financial Advisor so that you can make comparisons on all the different options that are available.

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Community and Living

Bedford Borough Council aims to help build communities and neighbourhoods. The pages in this section provide details of community living in the borough and details of crime prevention and youth support in our neighbourhoods.