Frequently Asked Questions
We have tried to answer some of the questions we at Freeman Brothers Funeral Directors often get asked. They are grouped into several categories, please click on the category to skip down the page. If your question is not included or you simply want more information, please feel free to contact us at any of our offices – we are located in Billingshurst, Crawley, Horsham and Hurstpierpoint in West Sussex.
1 - General Funeral Advice
Someone in my family has passed away. What happens next?
If the death was expected, the doctor who has been treating the deceased will complete the Medical Certificate of the Cause of Death. This needs to be taken to the Registrar in the district where the person has passed away. They register the death and produce Death Certificates and give you the Certificate for Burial or Cremation (commonly known as the ‘green form’). We take this green form from you and pass it to the cemetery, churchyard or crematorium as part of the arrangements we make. This is why we recommend you see us after the death is registered. Obviously, if the death occurred at home, we will have had some contact from you and will have already brought the Deceased into our care at one of our Chapels of Rest. If not, we will get you to sign a release form which gives us permission to collect the deceased. If the death was not expected, or if the deceased was not seen by a doctor within the last 14 days, the procedure can be different. Please see the tab for ‘Sudden Deaths.’
How quickly can I have the funeral?
It depends on whether the deceased is to be buried or cremated, and whether the death was expected or not. When someone is cremated, there are several pieces of paperwork which have to be at the crematorium at least three working days before the funeral takes place. If someone passes away 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. We also have to consider the availability of who is to officiate the service if you have someone specific in mind. 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 very important, therefore, that if you have thoughts on the day and time of the service, you advise us as soon as possible.
In our experience, many people prefer to wait a little longer to have the funeral in order to ensure their family can make arrangements to attend and to ensure they have fully planned the service. This can be especially useful if you would like a printed Order of Service or to include special music, and we would tend to suggest that a couple of extra days can never go amiss. This does, however, mean that the average waiting time for a funeral increases as the more popular times of day are booked further in advance. As a guide, at present, most funerals are taking place approximately two weeks after the 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 of someone passing away. We will be only too happy to keep the deceased in our care until the funeral can be arranged. We can either arrange the funeral now for when you know will be convenient or wait until nearer the time and arrange things then, although please do bear in mind the timescales involved as the wait to have the funeral will be determined by when the booking is made, not the length of time since the death.
The deceased didn’t want a funeral. Is that OK?
Of course. Our staff will treat the deceased 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 on 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.
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 deceased may have written a will which specifies their wishes, or they may have discussed them with others. An older person will probably have made their wishes known to friends or family; a younger person may not have done. Obviously there may be religious or cultural considerations but otherwise the choice is down to the Applicant of the funeral. We can only advise on all the options and leave you to make the 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. If you would like a detailed quote than please contact us, or see our prices to learn more about what we charge. We can advise you on ways to reduce the cost if you need. Those on low incomes may also be eligible for help after someone passes away, please see our Resources page for more.
We want to carry the coffin. Is that OK?
This is something we recommend against. While understanding that the idea of bearing the coffin is very important to some people, it is our experience that it is more difficult that people expect, both physically and emotionally. It is more technical than might be thought, as the carrying of the coffin involves removing it from the hearse, and walking a long distance (sometimes up steps) before it is placed securely. If you have attended funerals and believe the carrying of 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. We also tend to think the funeral is a time for the family and close friends to be together. If you are insistent, we would ask that all the coffin bearers come to see us together for a practice carry.
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. Our services do not come in packages. Whether you would like just a coffin, or just a hearse, or you only require us to care for the deceased 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.
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 all beliefs – and none.
2 - 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 today’s 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 to your family or friends – unless they choose to have additional services, for which they will be charged at the prevailing rate.
Why should I use you rather than a larger, national scheme?
For many reasons. A company who 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. Probably because of this, our extensive research shows we are very competitively priced against the larger companies. We’re a local firm who you can come and see at any time. We don’t use call centres miles away or salesmen paid on commission. And we’ve been around for over 160 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?
Research shows that many of these schemes represent poor value for money. In many cases, you pay more than you ever get back and can’t ever miss a payment or you lose everything. That’s how those companies make their money and how they pay for TV adverts with well-known celebrities. With our plans, you know up-front how much you will pay and you know this will cover everything you have arranged for.
For further information please see our Prepayments page.
3 - 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.
How does it work?
If you ask Freeman Brothers to collect donations for you, we will set up an online Tribute Page which allows people to share condolences remember the Deceased person together. This unique page also connects to an 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 can be posted to us, payable to the charity. 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.
4 - Bereavement Advice
I don’t know how to deal with my bereavement, what should I do?
This is very common, especially if the death was of a younger person or unexpected. Bear in mind you will go through stages of grief 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 passed away, 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 many excellent charities who help at times of bereavement, please see our Resources page for their details.
How do I speak to a child about death?
This can be very different as children can deal with 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 deceased has gone to another, better place. Children can find the death of someone close to them or another young person very frightening and it may help them to know that most people die when they are old. 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 they are 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.
5 - Sudden Deaths
Someone has died suddenly. What happens now?
The Police who attend the scene will arrange for the Coroner’s Officer to be informed and for the deceased to be taken to the appropriate place. This may be a public mortuary or a hospital. Investigations will be carried out to determine the cause of death. This will involve a post-mortem and may 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 on what is happening.
I don’t want the deceased 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 deceased 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 give them the information they require. If the funeral is to be a cremation, instead of getting the Green Form from the Registrar to give to the Funeral Director, the Coroner’s Office sends paperwork directly to your Funeral Director instead. This is why the Coroner’s Officer will need to know who your Funeral Director is.
How do we get the deceased to the Funeral Directors?
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. We can then go and collect them. We are not able to collect the deceased until the Coroner’s Office has told us the body is released.
6 - Myths
As funeral directors, we often hear that people have beliefs about our industry which 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 doesn’t take place. We have published price lists which details what we charge for what service; if you wish you can click here to view and download our price list. 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 our customers receive a written, fully itemised estimate which 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 National Society of Allied Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF), we are required to be open about our pricing.
How do I know you are definitely burying/cremating my next of kin?
When we collect the deceased, they are identified to us and we ensure they have a wristband with their details, either a hospital one or provided by ourselves. Once at our premises, we have a system of checking and double-checking to ensure the deceased remains identified. No coffin ever leaves our premises without us knowing that the name on it matches the name of the deceased. Crematoria and cemeteries also have their own procedures in place for their own purposes of identification.
How do I know you won’t re-use the coffin if the deceased is being cremated?
It is a common myth that, at the crematorium, the deceased is removed from their coffin before being cremated. This is not possible: 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. 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.
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 deceased 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, see it being filled. You can also, as mentioned above, see the cremation process if it is important to you for religious or other reasons.
7 - Online Tributes and Charitable Donations
How does this service work?
Create your own Online Tribute with Freeman Brothers in partnership with MuchLoved. This is your own special memorial website in tribute to your loved one, where you can share memories, thoughts and stories with family and friends as well as light candles, add music, photos and videos.
Your MuchLoved Tribute is the ideal way to collect and record ongoing fundraising in memory of your loved one and this is commonly called having your own Tribute Fund. It’s a great way to bring together in one place all the friends or family that want to come together to commemorate a special person and to fundraise in their name.
After your funeral arranger has created a simple page on our website, you have the opportunity to add a personal message about your reasons for fundraising, set a fund target and choose a personalised total-o-meter to display your donations progress. Multiple fundraising events supporting your fund can then be easily added and promoted via an integrated blog and links to all main social networks. You can include a vast array of events and occasions, whether fundraising, remembrance or awareness-based, as one of the joys of having a Tribute Fund is being able to decide, arrange and carry out whatever tribute activities are most meaningful and supportive to you.
To leave a Tribute or make a Donation please see our Service Details – Tributes – Donations page.