DIY Funerals - A Short Guide
Did you know you can bury a loved one in your back garden?
As long as a few rules are abided by you can avoid a funeral director altogether.
Many grieving families wish to go through the do it yourself route for more than just funeral cost savings. Others of course feel that arranging the funeral with the help of a Funeral Director is a better fit for them.
A DIY funeral, for the vast majority, is actually quite straight forward.
Furthermore, the feedback from Rosie Inman-Cook of NaturalDeathCentre.org is that agencies, on the whole, are very helpful. The only recommended pre-requisite for going through with a DIY funeral is having a number of able-bodied persons from your family & friends to help.
The other big benefit of organising a funeral yourself is that it’s an incredibly cathartic process which helps immensely with the grieving/mourning process. And when you think about it, it does make sense as families are doing the last thing for their loved one themselves, and with love.
At the time of someone’s passing, it is a difficult moment, a period of grieving will ensue after the shock. Arranging a funeral yourself can be achieved and the short guide below will hopefully assist in going some way to getting started and potentially saving money on burial costs too.
Arranging the funeral is only one piece of the puzzle. When a person dies their body is usually kept somewhere before a service.
This can be any length of time between three days and two weeks in some areas. Some people keep the loved one at home but this does not require embalming.
Saying that, common sense and a healthy dose of reality is required re cooling and time constraints – not all funeral directors have proper refrigeration and some let bodies rot. Hospital mortuaries are usually happy to store for a few days and will dress and put people into the coffin if asked nicely.
When enlisting a Funeral Director, they already have on hand refrigeration facilities and a person to apply make up and clothe the body.
These are elements most people would prefer to take for granted rather than arrange a DIY funeral. If you are to take on the duties of a Funeral Director, you will need to consider most if not all of the following agenda.
Speaking to crematoriums, religious bodies, individual coffin and cask manufacturers as well as the details you were seeing to already.
Finding a place to keep the body
- Deciding upon a coffin, casket or urn, styling and purchasing and arranging delivery – One phone call away and most deliver within 24 hours.
- If you are religious, using your local church or crematorium for both service and final resting place
- Sourcing a gravedigger for hire (only required if burial is in your garden), cemetery masonry and plaque, burial plot dressage
- Hiring a celebrant to oversee the service, religious or otherwise – A phone call away.
- Plan and draw up service schedule, booklets and stationery, with floral tributes (families do this anyway with the funeral director)
- Organising transport for not only the coffin or casket but family – Taxi’s are great for this.
- Posting death notices in local and national newspapers and notifying family and friends – not as hard as it seems, and only a phone call away.
- Book a venue for any wake or arrange for transport to the person’s home – families will do this anyway.
Which situations would suit a DIY Funeral?
Organising a DIY funeral will not be for everyone. Occasions where they might be suitable for any family wishing to take on different aspects personally by themselves.
If the death is one that is being managed or known before the fact, the person dying may wish to take part in organising their own funeral. This is something that could be experienced by close family and friends who wish to help.
Ultimately this is the most personalised funeral option, it will most likely work out much cheaper too.
Home Burial / Burial on Private land
Another aspect of a DIY funeral could be that of placing the deceased within the confines of property and land that you own. You do not have to use a Church yard or recognised consecrated ground.
In fact you can not only bury loved ones in your garden, but in woods you own, fields, any private land as long as it meets certain environmental criteria.
Who would change their land to be a burial site? (click to expand)
You may need to be quite imaginative to understand why someone would wish their loved one to be buried on their own land. At the same time appreciating their love for that person, a lot of rich landowners and Lords and Ladies have had Mausoleums built on their land but it’s something everyone can do.
OK, you can’t erect a 20 foot building worshipping the Gods with the deceased in the middle without getting planning permission but surprisingly you don’t need that same permission to bury a body.
Not from that local council department in any case. Instead it is more a concern of the Environment Agency.
Are there any rules on burying a body in your garden?
Talking of which… yes there are several laws that you need to abide by and they are covered in the Registration of Burials Act 1864. It allows any landowner to bury a person on their land providing they register the details with the local Coroner or Registrar of Birth and Deaths using a Green Disposal certificate.
After having obtained the Doctor’s Certificate of Death of course.
You will need to submit this paperwork with details about the deceased. Name, age, place of death and the date it occurred needs to be formally attached to the Deeds of the Property with map to show where a person / persons are buried, so that any Solicitors overseeing a property sale will instantly recognise that a memorial is in effect and can advise their clients accordingly.
With two legalities wrapped up you need to further convince any inspector from the Environment agency.
The following will allow your loved ones to rest in peace:
- Residing body must have at least one metre of earthly soil above and underneath.
- That’s one metres above the coffin if used. Gravediggers would normally leave another one foot on top of that and revisit a few times after add more compacted soil as it will subside slightly.
- The location should be at least 250 metres away from boreholes, springs or water supplies, not 50 as quoted in some places.
- Grave should be 30 metres in distance from any standing or running water and free of standing water when dug.
- Also ten metres from any dry ditch or field drain. To be blunt, bodies decompose and any water drainage can carry the effects in any direction.
- You don’t really need any planning permission unless to contain several graves. You do need permission if adding a memorial building or monument that can be seen by neighbours.It is preferable that the grave reside on a site that has a high water table and to ensure not contamination of local or natural water supply.
- Take all safety prosecutions while digging or ask a professional for help, you’ll be surprised how deep two metres is when digging. Be aware of any local gas pipes, electrical cables and water pipes, ask local supplier or council for maps before beginning to dig. Lastly not many people die with infectious diseases in the UK and the body would probably not have been released back to you if this was the case. However if the environmental Health department should be informed if the deceased had any.
Why burying on small plots isn’t ideal:
As you can tell from the above rules on burial sites on your own land, it does pretty much rule out small gardens in consideration of 50 metres.
However should you have a sizeable plot it is worth remembering what might happen should you need to move house. That part of your land will now be considered consecrated and have a change of use.
With the deceased now detailed on the Property Deeds, prospective buyers will mostly be put off, a minority may not mind. Furthermore you can’t simply up sticks, dig up a relative and move them with the house.
The deceased is as much in the ground by law as they would be in a church graveyard and that’s a Court appearance or two for exhumation. If you are concerned about a future owner disturbing the grave you can petition for additional covenants to ensure this doesn’t occur but this may affect any potential land sale.
Any last details?
Concerning the funeral itself:
If you wish to bury someone on your property that’s great, if you wish it to go unhampered and for the funeral to pass as peacefully as possible, if the service is on private land in a housing area or similar.
It’s probably best to advise the Police that
1. You have legal entitlement and all the paperwork to bury someone on your land, when it will take place and the time and
2. If they’d oblige with directing traffic or consulting with the local council to close a road.
Should you be burying any more loved ones on your land, you need to keep a record of burials, and you’ll need to update the Deeds as per the first time.
Remember, too many graves and land use may need to change which could cause other legal issues.
You can’t move graves – not easily anyway. It may be possible to rent or purchase a smaller plot of land for this specific purpose.
Remember access to the site may be important for you and others so keep that as a consideration. We think it quite nice if you have the spare land to have a burial on your own property.