Arranging a funeral
Forget the rules you thought you knew, funerals stopped being stock-items some time ago. These days, the choices are many and varied, a good funeral director will tell you what is possible, how it can be done, what the costs are likely to be and the timescales involved.
There could be a service at a church or place of worship, a service at the crematorium or cemetery Chapel, an outdoor service, a private home, a licensed public building or no service at all.
Being able to make choices to follow those wishes and loves of the person that has died, makes the final act of care, personal and special.
Last wishes do not have to be detailed or complex; playing a favourite song could be enough for family and friends to feel reassured in gifting this one last task to the person who has died.
Talk to us to arrange the service that you would like. Whatever that is.
Where to Start
When will the funeral be?
You can start the planning stages of the funeral as soon as you feel able, if you have the information or indeed if you want help with options or decisions. We can help you long before the details need to be finalised. The period of time between when someone passes away to when their funeral takes place is usually about fourteen days. If the person’s death was not expected or there are any complications, this could be extended.
There may be cultural or religious reasons why this period needs to be longer or shorter
Are you planning a Burial or a Cremation?
This is a question that will be asked of you perhaps surprisingly early on. The reason is that the paperwork is not the same for a burial as it is for a cremation. Don’t worry if you haven’t had time to think about every detail or are undecided, you have choices and you can take your time and talk it through with people before making a decision.
What paperwork do I need and when?
You may not need any paperwork at all to begin with. You will probably be asked to wait to speak to the person’s Doctor Surgery during opening hours or the Administration Office at a hospital to get paperwork, so initially, there may not be any. In the meantime, we could bring the person into our care if you would like us to.
Paperwork for accessing the deceased’s personal affairs, often called the Death Certificate, comes later.
What to do if death occurs at home/Care home?
If the death occurs at home, you will need to phone the deceased person’s GP or normal doctor. They may well attend to officially certify the fact that the person has died, before the we can be called upon to bring the person into our care.
If the death occurs at a Care Home or Nursing Home, usually the staff there will contact us on your behalf once the doctor has certified that the death has occurred.
Feel free to contact us at any point to make an appointment to start discussing arrangements.
Death occurs at hospital
The Hospital or Trust staff will usually arrange for all paperwork to be completed there before it is possible to bring the person into our care. You will need to make an appointment to see them to arrange for return of personal effects etc. This would normally be during office hours.
An Unexpected death?
If the person that has died has died unexpectedly (this can also be interpreted as not having been treated by a medical doctor for the last 14 days), the matter may be referred to Her Majesty’s Coroner. The Coroner would then take overall responsibility for the deceased until such times as they have looked into the circumstances.
Who do we tell?
There are often people to contact, to inform them, when someone passes away. Depending on the circumstances, it may be wise to keep this to close family and friends initially, who may well then come together to support and help with otherwise potentially burdensome tasks such as passing on information to long lists of people and places. Organisations such as 'Tell Us Once' really help.
Next-of-kin, Wills and Executors
In terms of the person responsible for making the funeral arrangements, this is usually completed by the next-of-kin but may be completed by others, for various reasons. There is statutory paperwork to complete in many cases and these must usually be signed by the next-of-kin or an Executor
Registering a death with the register Office
A death should be registered at the Register Office in the registration district where the death occurred. There are exceptions to this, please visit our 'Registering a Death' page for full information.
Did the deceased person leave any instructions or have a pre-paid or pre-arranged funeral plan?
It is important to check the person’s Will and to ask family or close friends that usually lived with the person who has died, or people that may have cared for them, if they know of any wishes. There is often paperwork or Membership Certificates associated with Pre-Paid and Pre-Arranged funeral plans and these may have wishes recorded on them so it's important that we read through them and check any details.
Can they be buried with someone already buried?
Most new graves are purchased with the availability to bury two people, although some are not, some older graves may be able to accommodate more than two people. This will need to be checked with the burial authority at the time, but we can do that for you.
Should we visit them in the Chapel of Rest?
This is a personal matter. Where appropriate, we recommend embalming so that the decision about visiting can be deferred and made at leisure and that the person looks at their best should anyone wish to pay their respects. We would also recommend embalming due to likely time-scales.
What will they wear?
There may be restrictions on what the person can wear due for environmental reasons but natural fibres are generally acceptable.
Some people think “Sunday Best”, others think less formally.
How do we plan the service?
Usually, this is planned together with the Officiant “in charge” of the service, perhaps a Minister of Religion, Community Leader or Elder or a Non-Religious Celebrant. It may be that you are planning it all yourselves. Either way, there may be time restrictions to work with so we all have to work together to get this right.
You may be thinking of family and friends carrying the coffin on the day of the service, someone to deliver a Eulogy or a Reading of some kind, which music is to be played, readings or poetry, photographs or special locations or a whole manner of things. All sorts of things come together to plan and ensure the smooth running and support in the days ahead.
What transport do we need?
You will need a hearse of some kind. We have a black fleet of traditional funeral cars, but motorcycle, horse-drawn, specialist hearses are all available too.
Our limousines have a glass partition between passengers and driver, so we are able to offer them for safe use.
How long will you keep their ashes?
We will collect your loved one’s ashes and return them to our Funeral Home within a couple of days of the service, when we will notify you that they are in our care. Ordinarily, we will look after these ashes for a maximum time period of three months from the date of the funeral. There can be exceptions to this, but they must be by specific arrangement or agreement. Thank you for your understanding in this matter.
Who pays for a funeral?
The person who signs the Funeral Director’s paperwork enters into a formal contract to pay for the funeral, so it’s important to understand who is paying for the funeral before you sign. If your loved one had a pre-paid funeral plan, the costs may already be taken care of.
If not, the cost of the funeral is usually paid from the estate of the deceased, although it may be difficult to get access to the funds in time for the funeral. The bank holding the estate should release funds to pay for the funeral from the deceased’s account, if they are presented with an itemised account from the funeral director and a copy of the death certificate.
If funds can’t be released in time, the family may need to fund the funeral and be reimbursed later. Family members could all contribute, or you may need to take out a loan to cover the cost until probate comes through.
How do we arrange for a memorial or a keepsake?
There are many different types of memorial or keepsake, ranging from a lock of hair, jewellery made including a small portion of ashes or fingerprints, to a tree or a bench.
Gravestones and plaques often require authorisation from an existing grave Owner or Deedholder (there are some exceptions) and this person must give permission for any alterations or additions to the grave or memorial, couple that with the fact that most established burial grounds, churchyards and cemeteries etc. have restrictions on types of memorial, size etc. We would need to be specific to advise fully.
Richard and his team are consummate professionals who supported us at the most challenging of times.
When Mum passed, you were an absolute Godsend to me. You helped more than I could have expected
Nothing was too much trouble.
Richard was recommended by a friend. I immediately felt comfortable and relaxed. He was a good listener, easy to talk to and his manner was reassuring and helpful. I can't thank him enough for seeing us smoothly through this traumatic time.
I lost my husband in his early 50's and Richard took over with great empathy, kindness and discretion. The professionalism of both him and his team was exemplary, even down to organising the traffic so that my husband's biker friends could follow us to the funeral. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you.
Nothing was too much trouble. Everything from start to finish was absolutely perfect, the attention to details also superb including the timing of the drivers closing on both car doors, in my eyes, with that attention to detail I knew my Dad was in safe hands
I cannot recommend Richard enough for his compassion, professionalism and kind and thoughtful approach when dealing with myself and my family at such a difficult time. Nothing was too much bother for Richard.
We can't rate Westcountry Funeral Service high enough for their level of compassion .... nothing was ever too much trouble. Excellent communication throughout the whole process and everything was done to a high professional standard. I would highly recommend Westcountry Funeral Service.
From start to finish the professional service that we received was excellent. We would recommend this company to anyone who sadly is in need of this service.
Throughout the undertakers were superb, calm, stewarding agents of remarkable humanity... It was an incredible experience - a good disturbance of the heart.
Richard took over and gave our father's funeral dignity. An excellent all round service that I have no hesitation in recommending.
.. they looked after my mum, and all the details with the highest standard and went above and beyond.
...unbelievable from start to finish. It is rare to find such a truly personal service
From the moment we contacted Richard we knew our loved one, and the family, were in the safest hands. Outstanding care, service and value for money