We are living in extraordinary times and as we all come together to do our bit to get through this crisis as quickly as we can, all of us are having to work out how to do difficult things in even more difficult circumstances.
Death is a part of life and very sadly we continue to lose loved ones for all sorts of reasons – not just the coronavirus – so we thought it might be helpful to publish a guide for how to deal with those first difficult steps just after a loved one has passed away.
Choose A Funeral Director
This is an important part of the process. You may have a local funeral director your family prefers to use or there may be a pre-paid funeral plan in place. Either way, this needs to be an early decision made after checking that the funeral director of your choice is able to take your booking. It is a difficult fact that in this crisis, there are practical issues to consider. That sadly includes the pressure to manage and organise more funerals than usual which puts pressure on coroners, morgues and funeral directors. Even in this most difficult part of all of our lives we will all need to be flexible and patient while our key workers do their best to help us.
You don’t have to be the Executor of someone’s will to register their death nor to arrange their funeral, but it makes sense to let the Executor know what you are planning if you want them to arrange for the fees to be reimbursed/paid without any difficulties.
Register the Death
The next step is to register the death. Unlike the normal process where you register a death in person at the local registry, this process now has to be carried out without any face-to-face contact to maintain the social distancing requirements and to keep everyone involved as safe as possible.
The paper death certificate signed by the doctor noting the cause of death is now sent to the registration services electronically and family members can carry out the registration process over the telephone. You will need to make a telephone appointment for your local registry and you will be given a list of details about the deceased which you need to locate in advance of that telephone meeting. Once you have given all of those details, a death certificate will be issued and you will be able to get official certified copies of it which will be sent to you by post.
Arrange The Funeral
The Government has released some guidelines for managing a death and these apply (in addition to the social distancing and hygiene guidelines) no matter whether the deceased had or was suspected to have had coronavirus.
These mainly relate to organising funerals and the key guidelines are as follows:
- The number of mourners attending must be restricted so that a safe distance of at least 2 meters (3 steps) can be maintained;
- Only members of that person’s household and close family members should attend any service and if the deceased has neither of these then a ‘modest’ number of friends may attend;
- Mourners should at no point mix closer than 2 meters apart from each other and there should be no physical contact (such as hugging) unless they are members of the same household.
- Any mourners who are showing symptoms of coronavirus and/or are part of a house hold with a possible coronavirus infection should not attend any gatherings in any circumstances.
- It is common for the household members of the deceased to be the next of kin, however if the deceased had or was suspected of having coronavirus they should not attend in any circumstances unless the funeral takes place after the 14 day self-isolation period has been completed (assuming no other member of that household begins to show symptoms).
What this means in practice will vary between local authorities and funeral directors, for example many funeral directors will not provide any limousines due to social distancing requirements and they may impose varying caps on the number of mourners that may attend.
There is no prohibition on either burials or cremations therefore both are possible options however whether a service can take place in a chapel will again vary according to particular local authorities’ applications of the guidance.
The National Association of Funeral Directors has also published helpful guidance on how funerals will work under these testing circumstances.
For more detailed information you should contact your local authority or look on their website for the particular procedure in your area as this may be affected by factors specific to where you live.