Frequently Asked Questions

Common queries and concerns when planning a funeral.

Please find below a list of some of the questions we are asked most often. We have grouped them into several categories, so please click on that category to see questions on that topic. If you can’t find the information you need, or to discuss your question with one of our teams, please contact us- we will be happy to help. Our advice is always free, and given without obligation.

General funeral advice.

Someone in my family has died. What happens next?

If the death was expected, a doctor who has been treating the person who has died will complete the Medical Certificate of the Cause of Death. This needs to be given to the Registrar in the district where the person has died; they will then register the death, produce the Death Certificate (plus any additional copies required) and issue the Certificate for Burial or Cremation, commonly known as ‘the green form’. This is passed to your Funeral Director who submits it to the cemetery, churchyard or crematorium where the funeral is expected to take place; it is for this reason that we recommend you meet with us after the death is registered.

Depending on where the death took place, we may already have had direct contact with you and brought the person who has died into our care at one of our chapels of rest. If the death occurred in hospital, we may need you to sign a release form, giving us your permission to collect the person who has died.

If the death was not expected by medical staff, or if the person who has died was not seen by a doctor within the preceding 14 days, the procedure may be different. Please see the section on ‘Sudden Deaths.’

How quickly can I have the funeral?

It depends on whether the person who has died is to be buried or cremated and whether the death was expected or not. When someone is cremated, there are several pieces of paperwork that have to be at the Crematorium at least three working days before the funeral takes place. If someone dies unexpectedly and the Coroner is involved, a funeral cannot be held until any necessary tests have been carried out and permission is given for the body to be released. Broadly speaking, once the death has been registered, the funeral can take place after about a week. It is difficult to make arrangements on a shorter timescale although we will always try our best.

We will also have to take into account the availability of the crematorium, cemetery, and/or place of worship where the funeral is to take place. These are booked on a ‘first come, first served’ basis over which the funeral director has no control. If you have someone specific in mind to officiate at the service, we will need to discuss their existing commitments with them too. Some days of the week, and some times of day, are more popular than others and so tend to be booked further in advance. If you can be flexible about the day and time you would like the funeral, you may be able to have it sooner than if you have specific requirements. The funeral director tends to be most flexible, and can usually accommodate all requests, but there will be rare occasions when, due to commitments we have already made, we may be unable to provide our services exactly when you would like them. It is therefore very important that, if you have thoughts on the day and time of the service, you advise us as soon as possible.

In our experience, clients sometimes prefer to wait a while to hold the funeral, giving their family time to make arrangements to attend and ensuring the service itself is planned fully, especially if a printed order of service or special music is required. In such cases, we would agree that the extra time may be useful, but may also increase the average waiting time as more popular slots are often booked in advance. Presently, we estimate that most funerals take place approximately three weeks after a death.

Someone who needs to come to the funeral is on holiday. What do I do?

Don’t worry. There is no necessity or legal obligation to have the funeral within a certain time frame: we can look after the person who has died in our Chapel of Rest until the funeral can be arranged. The funeral can either be arranged immediately, for a time you know will be convenient, or the arrangements can wait, although please do bear in mind that this may impact the anticipated timescale as it is determined by when the booking is made; not the length of time that has elapsed since the death.

We don’t want a funeral service. Is that OK?

Of course. Our staff will treat the person who has died with all respect and care, and ensure the burial or cremation goes smoothly, but no-one needs to attend.

You should remember that this might impact people who knew the Deceased and consider having a get-together (or more formal memorial service) so that people can come together, share memories and have an opportunity to say ‘goodbye’.

Freeman Brothers has a bespoke package for direct cremations, which you can see here.

How do I know whether someone should be buried or cremated?

If you haven’t talked about it, this can be a difficult decision to make. The person who has died may have written a will, which specifies their wishes, or they may have discussed them with others. An older person, or someone who has previously arranged a funeral for someone else, may have made their wishes known to friends or family. There may be religious or cultural considerations but otherwise the choice is down to the Applicant of the funeral who formally instructs the funeral director. We will advise you of all the options available so you can make an informed choice.

What does a funeral cost?

The cost depends on burial or cremation, whether there is a service at a different location first, who officiates, the choice of coffin, whether you require limousines and how many, and many other factors. We have an online estimate tool, which can give you a good indication; you can find it here. If you would like a detailed quote then please contact us and you can also see our prices to learn more about what we charge. We can advise you on ways to reduce the cost if necessary. Those on low incomes may also be eligible for help after someone dies: please see our Useful links page for more information.

We want to carry the coffin. Is that OK?

We would not recommend this. Though we understand that the idea of bearing the coffin may be desirable, it is our experience that the difficulty of doing so – both physically and emotionally – is greater than most people expect. It is also technically challenging as it involves removing the coffin from the hearse and walking a long distance (sometimes up steps) before it is placed securely.

If you have attended funerals and feel that bearing the coffin appears to be easy, we would respectfully suggest that this is because the funeral staff are professional, experienced, well-trained and not emotionally involved in the proceedings.

If you wish to do so, we cannot prevent you from carrying the coffin but will still provide a full complement of staff to ensure it can be transported safely if some or all of your family bearers change their minds.

We wish to provide our own coffin/ we only wish to buy a coffin from you/ we want to carry out the funeral ourselves. Can you help?

Absolutely. Many of our services are available independent of funeral packages. Whether you would like just a coffin, or just a hearse, or you only require us to care for the person who has died until the arrangements are made, please let us know. We will charge you fairly for what we do. Our advice is willingly given and always free.

Be advised that providing your own coffin can be difficult. Not all coffins are suitable for cremation (the supplier has to be accredited) and even similar-looking coffins can be very different from one another. We will gladly receive your chosen coffin when it is delivered, but it will be your responsibility to ensure that it is of a sufficient standard and that the coffin plate bears the requisite information.

Can the funeral be broadcast over the internet for people who are not able to come to the service?

This depends on where you are having the funeral service. Most crematoria offer this service, although the specifics vary depending on the provider they use; for some this will mean receiving a link to watch the service after it has taken place. Facilities at churches and other places of worship vary considerably and for these, and most cemetery or burial ground service chapels, it may be that an external company is required. Freeman Brothers is able to recommend such companies; please contact us for more information. Hills Cemetery Chapel, in Horsham, is operated by Freeman Brothers and live services are able to be broadcast. You can find more information here.

Do you accommodate different religious beliefs?

Yes. Let us know what you need and we will do our best to provide it. In the past, we have carried out funerals for people of many beliefs and none.

Pre-payment schemes.

My solicitor says I should get a pre-payment scheme. Why?

Your solicitor can advise you best, but some people use a pre-payment scheme as a way to decrease the amount of funds they have. This is different to giving the money to a family member or friend (which can have tax implications) as you are buying something.

How does it work?

We calculate how much it would cost to meet your requirements today and charge you that amount. The funds are invested until we need them. After the funeral, we assess the current value of the money paid and that is what we claim as costs.

Is my money safe?

Absolutely. We send your funds to an independent company who keep the money in trust. The only way we can access that money is by sending the funeral account to that company. This means your money is totally safe and there will be no further costs incurred by your family or friends unless they choose to have additional services not included in the original package, for which they will be charged the prevailing rate.

Why should I use you rather than a larger, national scheme?

For many reasons. A company that only sells funeral plans will be using your money for marketing, costs, staff wages, commission to funeral directors and so on. We put every penny you give us into trust and don’t use it to run our company. As a result, our extensive research shows we are very competitively priced against the larger companies. We are a local firm that you can contact at any time. We don’t use call centres miles away or salesmen paid on commission. And we’ve been around for over 165 years so you know you can trust us to still be here for years to come.

What about a whole-life assurance scheme? Isn’t that better?

These products are not necessarily comparable to a pre-paid plan because, although they are often sold with a mention of funeral expenses, what they give you is a lump sum that can be used for any purpose. You may pay more than you get back and often can’t miss a payment or you lose everything. It’s also worth bearing in mind that there is no guarantee that the amount of the lump sum you receive will be enough to pay for your chosen funeral arrangements, unlike pre-paying for a funeral where the price at the outset is designed to be related to those costs.

More information about Freeman Brothers’ pre-paid funeral plans can be found here.

Donations.

I want people to make donations in lieu of flowers. Is that OK?

Yes, and it’s very common. All you need to do is choose the charity or charities you would like to support and spread the word. Encourage friends and family to donate in memory of your loved one and ensure you mention the charity in any press notices or online announcements. We can also give the donation details to anyone who enquires with us about the funeral.

How does it work?

If you ask Freeman Brothers to collect donations for you, we will set up an online tribute page (you can see what these look like here) that allows people to share condolences and remember the person who has died together. This special memorial website acts as an ongoing tribute to your loved one where you can share memories, thoughts and stories with family and friends as well as lighting candles or adding music, photos and videos. The page also connects to our online donations function, where the charity or charities you have chosen are mentioned, and your friends and family can choose the amount they wish to donate and do so securely.

For those who do not wish to donate online, a cheque – made payable to the chosen charity – can be posted to any of our offices. The online donations are sent to the charity as received and any that we receive here will be posted when we close the collection several weeks after that funeral. At that time, we will send you information about the donations received both online and by ourselves.

You can also choose for donations to be sent directly to the charity or collect them yourselves. If you let us know your wishes, we will ensure we communicate them when people enquire.

Do people mind donating?

Not at all. Most funerals now feature some element of charitable collection. We have provided an online donation facility because of feedback that many people expect to be able to donate in memory via our website.

Bereavement advice.

I don’t know how to deal with my bereavement, what should I do?

It’s very normal to find bereavement very hard. Everyone deals with being bereaved differently and it’s worth bearing in mind that comparing yourself to others isn’t usually useful: they might be having an especially good day or find putting on a cheerful face helpful for themselves. Bear in mind you will go through stages of grief (although it is not a linear process as some people have suggested in the past) and it can take a long time before you feel even nearly back to normal.

Some people feel it’s important to talk about the person who has died while others want to get on with everyday routine. Some people will feel sad for a very long time; others feel fine for several days or weeks. The most important thing is to do what you feel is right for you rather than what others are doing, or what you feel you ‘should’ do.

You may wish to consider speaking to your GP who can recommend people to talk to if that feels appropriate. There are also many excellent charities who help at times of bereavement: please see our Useful links page for their details.

How do I speak to a child about death?

This can be very difficult as children see things differently from adults. It shouldn’t distress you if the death of someone doesn’t seem to affect a child: they may not understand what it means for someone to die if they are very young. Be sure they know they can talk about the person if they like.

If your family doesn’t have religious beliefs, it may be confusing to talk to a child about heaven, but it may help them to think that the person who has died lives on in ways they are remembered.

Children can find the death of someone close to them (or another young person) very confusing, especially if they don’t feel able to ask questions. It’s also important they understand that being upset – if they are – is alright. The instinct to ‘protect’ children from your emotions is well-meant but letting them know you are sad is more sensible. Again, a bereavement charity will be able to offer you much more specialist advice.

I’m not sad. Does this make me a bad person?

Absolutely not. If the death has only just happened, you may be in shock. Everyone responds to death differently and not everyone cries. If someone has been ill for a long time, most people feel a sense of relief and are perhaps even glad that their loved one is out of pain. You may feel sad later but your happy memories of the person may mean you always look on them with love. Some people concentrate on their joy of knowing a person and their luck in sharing their lives, and this is totally normal. Comparing yourself to ‘expected’ responses or other people’s reactions only makes the already-difficult experience of bereavement much harder.

For further information, please see our Bereavement Information page.

Sudden Deaths.

Someone has died suddenly. What happens now?

The police who attend the scene will arrange for the Coroner’s Office to be informed and for the person who has died to be taken to the appropriate place: this may be a public mortuary or a hospital.

The Coroner’s Office will first determine if the death truly is unexpected: it might be that the person who has died was being treated by a doctor who is able to provide their cause of death, in which case the Coroner’s Office declares that they have no further interest and there is a reversion to the procedures for expected deaths (see our section above).

If this is not the case, investigations will be carried out to determine the cause of death: this may well involve a post-mortem and might include reports on toxicology and other investigations. The Coroner’s Office will either determine the cause of death, and issue paperwork for the death to be registered, or they may decide an inquest is necessary. They will always keep the next-of-kin informed about what is happening.

I don’t want the Deceased person to have a post-mortem/it is against our religious beliefs to have a post-mortem- how do I stop it?

Unfortunately, it is a legal necessity in the UK to know the cause of someone’s death. If the death is unexpected, a post-mortem may be the only way to determine the cause of death. If the person who has died was being treated for any illness, it is important to tell the Coroner’s Officer as soon as you are able as the doctor may be able to complete a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death, which means no post-mortem is necessary.

What are the differences in registering the death?

Instead of taking the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death to the Registrar, the Coroner’s Office liaises with them directly and gives them the information they require.

If the funeral is to be a cremation, it will not be necessary for you to collect a green form from a registrar: instead, the Coroner’s Office will send paperwork directly to your nominated funeral director. This is why the Coroner’s Officer will need to know the name of your chosen funeral director.

How do we get the Deceased person to the Funeral Director’s premises?

If you let us know about the death, and let the Coroner’s Officer know we are dealing with the funeral for you, we will liaise with the Coroner’s Office. As soon as the investigations are completed, the Coroner’s Office will let us know the paperwork has been sent to release the body of the deceased person from where they are being held. We can then go and collect them. We are not able to collect the person who has died until the Coroner’s Office has told us the body is released.

Ashes.

What are the options for the ashes after a cremation?

There are lots of options, but the first decision is whether you would like them to remain at the Crematorium or to do something with them away from there. If the former, there will be a variety of options, depending on availability at that Crematorium. Usual options include the ability to have them scattered in a communal area (costs may apply) or to purchase a plot in which they may be interred.

If you have other plans, Freeman Brothers will collect the ashes for you, if you would like, and then let you know once they are back in our care; you can then collect them or we can assist you with your plans. This may involve them being buried elsewhere (see below). There are a variety of products available where the ashes can be turned into jewellery or other permanent pieces: please contact us to find out what is available as new products and suppliers are entering the market all the time.

If you wish to scatter the ashes yourselves, you can simply collect them from us or you might like to choose a scatter tube to make the task easier. You should ensure you have permission from the landowner to scatter the ashes on any land that isn’t your own. We also have suppliers who offer water-soluble and biodegradable containers if this is appropriate to your plans.

It’s worth remembering that none of these options are mutually exclusive: most jewellery and keepsake options use only a small portion of the ashes. Also, the ashes can be split by request if you have multiple plans, though we appreciate some clients will not want this.

We suggest that, if at all possible, you start to think about options for the ashes as soon as you can, if there are no set plans already in place. It is our experience that people can find deciding their final resting place quite difficult as it is one of the final decisions to be made. As time progresses after the funeral, this decision doesn’t become easier and it sometimes means no decision is made at all. That’s fine for people who are happy to hold onto them (see below) but, regrettably, we are not able to store them indefinitely for you as our storage space – although secure – is finite and not a suitable final resting place.

We would like the ashes scattered with someone else’s at a crematorium, how do we arrange this?

This depends on whether the cremation has taken place at the same crematorium as the desired scattering place. If so, when the instructions for the cremation are given to the crematorium concerned, there is a section on the statutory paperwork for such an instruction. All that will be required are some brief details of the previous funeral, which will enable them to find the previous scattering location in their records. You will need to decide whether or not you wish to be present when the ashes are scattered, and a fee may apply.

If the subsequent cremation is held elsewhere, the ashes will need to be removed from the crematorium where the more recent funeral took place and brought to the other. Freeman Brothers can do this for you, if both crematoria are local, or arrange a reliable courier if one of the venues is at a distance. The receiving crematorium will require an ‘ashes from away form’, which we can help you with, and will probably require you to pay a fee for this service. Again, you will have to give details of the previous funeral and decide if you want to be present or not.

It is worth bearing in mind that you do not have to have a service at a particular crematorium just because you have done so in the past. It is particularly useful for those to whom cost is a prime consideration to understand that it can be cheaper to have a service at one crematorium and then pay the ‘ashes from away fee’ to another.

Can ashes be buried in churchyards or cemeteries?

Yes, quite often they can. If there is an existing plot with space, this is relatively easy to arrange.

Both cemeteries and churchyards often have areas specifically for the interment of ashes, which are sometimes called Gardens of Remembrance. They may have different rules about headstones to the areas where full burials take place. In cemeteries or burial grounds, you will still buy a plot (although it will often be cheaper than a plot for a full burial). In churchyards, there will be rules as to what qualifies you for burial there.

Fees will apply and there may be paperwork to complete. Freeman Brothers can assist you with all of this.

Do I have to dispose of the ashes? I would like to keep them.

You don’t have to do anything with the ashes if you don’t want to. It is perfectly legal to keep them at home, although some people find this idea strange.

It is worth remembering that the standard containers in which ashes are returned from a crematorium are designed to be functional rather than aesthetically pleasing and so you may wish to choose something else to keep them in, especially if you are intending to have them displayed. The options, in terms of materials, shapes, sizes and finishes, are vast so, if this is of interest to you, please contact us; we will be able to discuss your requirements and help narrow down the options, or else direct you to a supplier we think can fulfil your needs.

You should also know that ashes can be decanted into any container (apart from in some circumstances such as when they are being flown or couriered). The only requirements are that it is (at least temporarily) sealable and of sufficient capacity. We will be very pleased to transfer the ashes into any container of your choice. In the past, containers we have been given have included a statue with a hollow base and a biscuit tin: the sky really is the limit.

We would issue one word of caution however. If you have responsibility for a set of ashes, and you don’t intend to do anything with them, it is only fair to discuss what might happen to them with the person who will have responsibility for your funeral, otherwise they may be left with a difficult decision. If you would like to be cremated, and they can choose what to do with both sets of ashes, tell them. They will no doubt be relieved one day to know they have a free choice and can’t ‘get it wrong’ or ‘should have known’.

Myths.

As funeral directors, we often hear that people have beliefs about our industry that contradict the best practice and level of care we strive to give every customer. This section is intended to explode some of those myths and, hopefully, put our customers’ minds at ease about how we conduct our business.

Surely you can charge me however much you like?

We have a number of ways to ensure this does not take place. We have published price lists that detail the charges for each service we provide. If you wish, you can click here to view and download our price list, or visit this page and enter your requirements for an estimate based on your answers to a few simple questions. We are open about the total costs; we are always happy to provide a no-obligation quote based on your needs. Please contact us for more information.

We encourage customers to obtain quotes from other companies for comparison: we believe we are competitive whilst maintaining the highest standards of service. All funeral directors are legally obliged to publish a standardised price list to facilitate comparison between them: you can see ours here. Any funeral director who does not provide this information to you is operating illegally.

All our customers receive a written, fully-itemised estimate that gives our best indication of the overall charges. When we send our account, it is itemised identically; you can see where any discrepancies lie and query them if you wish. As members of the National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD) and Society of Allied Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF), we are required to be open about our pricing. You may be interested to know that we have displayed our prices online since the inception of our first website, which was a considerable length of time before we were obliged to do so.

How do I know you are definitely burying/cremating my next of kin?

When we collect the person who has died, they are identified to us and we ensure they have a wristband with their details: either a hospital one or one provided by ourselves. Once at our premises, we have a system of checking and double-checking to ensure the person who has died remains identifiable. No coffin ever leaves our premises without us knowing that the name on it matches the name of the deceased person. Crematoria and cemeteries also have their own procedures in place for identification purposes.

How do I know you won’t re-use the coffin if the deceased person is being cremated?

It is a common myth that, once at the crematorium, the person who has died is removed from their coffin before being cremated. Firstly, this is not possible as it would require the collusion of crematorium staff, which would be judged as gross misconduct by their own employers: the funeral director cannot interfere with the mechanics of the actual cremation process. Secondly, the coffin is an important part of the cremation process and to cremate a person without their coffin would be ineffective and make the process more difficult, so it would be counter-intuitive for crematorium staff to facilitate this.

Crematoria are used to people witnessing the cremation process, sometimes for religious reasons, and will be only too happy to accommodate you if you feel this is important. Additionally, crematoria sometimes have open days where you are able to see their ‘backstage’ areas: these are usually well-publicised in local press so you may wish to look out for such events being advertised.

I have asked for my relative to be buried/cremated wearing some jewellery/with various possessions in the coffin. How can I ensure this happens?

Through our identification process, we note what jewellery someone is wearing and what items they have with them. This is double- and treble-checked; lastly when the coffin is sealed. After that point, no-one is able to access the person who has died without some visible damage being done to the coffin. Obviously, if someone is buried, you will see the coffin being lowered into the grave and can, if you wish, then see the plot filled. You can also, as mentioned above, watch the cremation process if it is important to you for religious or other reasons.

Call us at any time on 01403 254590 or email mail@freemanbrothers.co.uk

Our advice is always provided free of charge and without obligation.

Can I arrange my own funeral in advance?

Freeman Brothers operates its own Pre-payment Scheme whereby the funeral can be paid for at current prices, with no further expenditure, regardless of the date of the eventual death. For more information, please visit our Pre-payment Plans section.

What do I need to do to plan a funeral?

The first few days following a death seem to consist of an endless succession of decisions, along with a great deal of paperwork. Freeman Brothers can help you through the practicalities, with factual information and guidance regarding registration, arranging the funeral and any relevant legal matters. Please visit our Planning A Funeral section for more information.

How can I cope with bereavement?

Different individuals respond to loss in different ways. If you are struggling with bereavement, we have a dedicated section of our website that offers advice and links to various charities and support networks. Please visit our Bereavement Information section for more information.