Funeral choices: what can you do in advance?

Freeman Brothers was first established as a funeral director in Horsham, West Sussex, in 1855. The company remains independent and family-run – the sixth generation of the Freeman family recently joined full-time – and now has a further three offices across the county in Billingshurst, Crawley, and Hurstpierpoint. Members of the team continue to provide […]

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Freeman Brothers was first established as a funeral director in Horsham, West Sussex, in 1855. The company remains independent and family-run – the sixth generation of the Freeman family recently joined full-time – and now has a further three offices across the county in Billingshurst, Crawley, and Hurstpierpoint. Members of the team continue to provide advice on funerals free of charge and without obligation. Today, Community Co-Ordinator, Becky, shares a reminder of decisions you can make regarding funeral arrangements before you die…

It’s almost six years since we launched our Big Deal, Small Talk leaflets as a way for people to record their funeral wishes. The world – and the funeral industry – has been through a lot during that time, and we at Freeman Brothers have seen public conversations about funerals change several times since.

At the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, much media and public attention was focused on what funerals looked like at that time – only a small number of attendees, wearing masks, people not being able to sit together. It was all a far cry from the kind of funeral that many people clearly hope to have, and it taught us a lot.

One of the main lessons many of us learned is that there is always a degree of uncertainty in recording our wishes. In a way, we are gambling on what we think will happen, assuming that circumstances will remain broadly as they are in the present day. Equally, it’s not right to try and imagine every possible scenario – not only is this unnecessary, but there’s bound to be something that we miss out. Overall, it’s good to hope for the best – if nothing else, having at least a sense of your wishes means that there is a framework which can be adjusted accordingly.

And that was, in fact, one of the main ideas of our leaflets. We created them knowing that there will always be some people who are truly resistant to sharing or discussing their thoughts, and that’s why we made it possible to cover just the basics. The most critical decision when it comes to arranging a funeral is what will happen to the body of the person who has died. The legal terminology around this aspect is unfavourable to many, but it is what we have to work with – the only compulsory requirements following a death in England and Wales is that the cause be established, the death is subsequently registered, and the person’s body is safely disposed of.

At the moment, the legal means of accomplishing the latter in England and Wales are limited to burial or cremation. There is also space on our leaflet to declare your wish for your body to be donated to medical science, but there will still ultimately be a requirement for one of the other two options to take place, and there are also some additional necessities when donating your body – these are mentioned within our literature.

Options are also supplied for those who wish to go into greater detail. You could specify pieces of music or readings, the venue you’d prefer, and what kind of person you might like to take the service. There may be other wishes you’d like to state too – one of my colleagues has said that they’d like the hearse to travel at national speed limit, rather than a traditional slowed pace. Whatever is important to you is what should be recorded.

The final thing to bear in mind is that wishes, trends and legalities may change. There is a move towards an increase in options beyond burial and cremation to be made available. Whilst these are currently still in the early stages, if anything is formalised and you would prefer an alternative to burial or cremation, make sure that you update those likely to be involved in arranging your funeral of your wishes.

If you would like to make use of our Big Deal, Small Talk leaflet, you can download it here.

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Written by Becky Hughes

Community Co-Ordinator

April 24, 2024

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