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Death, funerals and the law - your legal responsibilities

Funerals: a step-by-step guide


What does the law say? The legalities of death and funerals.

As you might imagine, the law surrounding death and funerals has evolved over a long period, and is today quite complex. However, these complexities surface only in relatively rare circumstances – in most cases, the law is well-defined and easy to understand.

Below is a summary of the key points of law concerning death and funerals. If you’d like a more comprehensive review the guide to your legal rights and responsibilities from Good Funeral Guide is a useful resource.

  • The executor (personal representative) of a deceased person has a right to take charge of a dead body unless (a) the coroner wishes to examine the body, or (b) the person died of an infectious disease
  • A funeral is not required by law
  • You do not have to use an undertaker or funeral director
  • If no one accepts responsibility for disposing of a dead person, the responsibility defers to the state
  • You are not legally bound to carry out funeral wishes
  • All deaths must be registered
  • Failure to dispose of a body may result in prosecution
  • Want a free funeral? You can bury a dead person on your or their own land
  • Permission is required to move a buried body
  • The law surrounding ashes is muddled – they may or may not be defined as property
  • You don’t have to bury or cremate someone who has died. You can preserve them

How can Life Insurance help?

Funerals can be expensive. In fact, as we explained previously the average cost of a funeral in the UK today is between £5,000 and £6,000. And it’s a cost that’s likely to rise.

So it makes sense that more and more people are thinking about how they can pay for their own funeral, so that their families don’t have to worry about finding the money when the time comes. The question is – what’s the best way to ensure that these costs are covered?

One popular and extremely effective method is to factor your funeral costs into your life insurance policy. At Beagle Street, we offer extremely flexible, affordable and simple to understand life insurance products that include:

If you’d like more information about our Life Insurance options with Beagle Street click here to visit our Life Insurance page or call us on 0800 247 247.

Life Insurance in Trust

Life insurance policies placed in trust are typically paid out faster, giving relatives, friends or family the vital funds they may need to make funeral arrangements. Trusts also come with a number of additional benefits, use our life insurance trust tool to find out how much you could potentially save.

How can I ensure fast financial support?

Funerals can be expensive. And even if the deceased person has an insurance policy or funeral plan, it can take time to make and complete a claim.

That’s why, at Beagle Street, we do everything we can to speed things up. One of the things we do is regularly and actively search official records, so when a policy holder dies, we don’t have to wait for you to contact us. This means we can give you financial support faster than other insurance providers.

Death abroad and repatriation

Benefits of Beagle Street

Trust Tool
FREE tool to place your policy in Trust.

Terminal Illness Cover
FREE Terminal Illness cover

Accidental Death Benefit
if you don’t get an immediate decision on your policy

Online Account
Online access to your account, so your policy documents are never lost.

Search Official Records
We search official records to proactively pay-out

Personal Care Services
A dedicated hotline for bereavement counselling & support.


Took out life insurance as my husband and are recently married & have had a child.  Fab service, online policy and written policy sent quickly & efficiently. Would highly recommend.

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More guides

Check out our collection of handy guide pages to help answer any further questions you may have about Life Insurance.

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How much cover do I need?

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What’s different about us?

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  1. Age UK – The UKs largest charity dedicated to helping everyone make the most of later life.
  2. Age UK – What to do when someone dies. – 19 October 2015
  3. Alcor Life Extension Foundation – About Cryonics.
  4. BBC News – Cost of a funeral soars to £3,700 – but what do you get? – 4 October 2015
  5. BBC Science – Frozen body: Can we return from the dead? – 15 August 2013
  6. City of London Corporation – Burial – Frequently asked questions.
  7. Flintshire County Council – Cemetery regulations. PDF
  8. Funeral Inspirations – DIY Funeral guide
  9. Law Donut – Family bereavement FAQs.
  10. Manchester City Council – Which deaths must be reported to the Coroner?
  11. Merton Council – Grave ownership and transfer of ownership of a grave space.
  12. The Natural Death Centre – Support, help, guidance and advice on planning a funeral.
  13. Rossendale Borough Council – Pre-purchasing a grave.
  14. Sunderland City Council – Non-resident cemetery and crematorium fees and charges.
  15. British Medical Association – Cremation fees and guidance.
  16. Citizens Advice – What to do if someone dies abroad.
  17. Funeral Zone – The Cost of a Funeral. – 8 August 2016
  18. – What to do after someone dies.
  19. – How to register a death in the UK or abroad.  – 8 September 2016
  20. Kingston Council – Register a death.
  21. Marie Curie – Registering a death. – 31 October 2016
  22. The Money Advice Service – Help paying for a funeral.
  23. The Money Advice Service – How much does a funeral cost?
  24. Turn2Us – Charity that helps people in financial hardship gain access to welfare benefits, charitable grants and support services.