There’s so much to think about after the loss of a loved one, but knowing what to expect when it comes to planning a funeral could help to keep things as stress-free as possible. 💛 (Having a will written will help with that!) The timeline for planning a funeral ceremony depends on a few factors including religious beliefs, availability of a particular venue or even if there are relatives or friends who live overseas and cannot get immediate travel booked.
Funerals can be held as quickly as 48 hours after death, or even as long as almost a month, if not longer under certain circumstances. In the UK, funerals are typically held around one to two weeks after death. This allows loved ones a little time to arrange the ceremony and to decide what kind of wake they want to plan, if any.
Some timeline guidelines
A medical death certificate should be obtained from a medical professional stating the cause of death. If a cause of death cannot be explained, then the case would be referred to the coroner who would carry out an inquest.
- The death must be registered with the local authority.
- Check for important documents such as funeral plans and a will.
- Contact a funeral director.
- Decide on specifics, such as cremation or burial and obtain necessary permits. ⚰️
- Choose a date and location.
- Contact a venue and book the wake. You may also need to arrange catering.
- Inform loved ones of the arrangements. You may want to put a death notice in the newspaper, post the details online or even write an obituary.
- Select personal touches, such as flowers, hymns and eulogies. Here are some more specific details of what to prepare. 💐
What are the various religious beliefs about funeral timescales?
Generally speaking, there are no set guidelines within Christianity such as Protestant and Catholic faiths but if a person of Jewish or Muslim faith dies, then it’s widely regarded that their funeral service should be held as soon as possible after death, usually within just a couple of days.
What does the law say?
There’s no law that dictates under what timescale a funeral should be held, but the average time in the UK is between one and three weeks after death. A death must be registered within five days in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, in Scotland it’s eight days.
If a person dies in England or Wales but their funeral is being planned abroad, an application must be made to the coroner at least four days in advance of transporting the body.
What might lead to a delay?
There are multiple factors which may lead to a significant delay when arranging a funeral. The most common is making allowances for travel if certain close family members or friends live abroad and want to attend the funeral. Some may not be able to book international travel at short notice which could lead to holding off on making solid plans when arranging a funeral. 🥀 There can also be a delay if the deceased passes abroad, as it can normally take some extra time for the body to be returned to their home or loved ones.
Similarly, if a close relative is suffering serious illness or injury and cannot attend, there may be allowances made with regards to the timescale to ensure that they are able to attend at a later date.
Something you may want to consider if it’s difficult to get relatives together at short notice, is going ahead with the funeral within a one-to-two-week timescale and then hosting a memorial at a later date for those who could not attend.
Another reason there could be a delay is if there is an inquest into the death, which is a legal inquiry which is ordered by the coroner if the death was sudden, the cause of death is unknown or if there were suspicious circumstances which cannot be explained. If the person who died had not seen their doctor in the 14 days previous to their death, or if they died during recovery from surgery or an anaesthetic, there would also be an inquest into the cause of death to determine if anything untoward had occurred. In some circumstances the inquest could lead to a criminal prosecution.
Arranging a funeral for a loved one may not be something that we look forward to doing, but we inevitably will have to make those arrangements at some point in our lives.
At Bequest, we think that making plans for your own funeral, and taking care of the financial arrangements is a gift that your family and loved ones would appreciate during their time of grief. You may want to have things planned beforehand so they know exactly what you want! This can all be done in your will which we suggest you do as soon as possible. No one knows what tomorrow will bring and being prepared with a will is never a bad idea. But let’s be clear - just because you have created a will, it DOES NOT mean that you are planning on dying! We need to change the conversation around this; sharing your wishes with your loved ones is a wonderfully selfless act and we believe everyone should do it! ✍️