FAQs: Arranging a cremation

Q. What is cremation and what does the process involve?

A. Cremation is the process whereby the body is prepared for final disposition or the ‘scattering of the ashes’. The process involves placing the coffin containing the body in a cremator and exposing it to extreme heat (usually between 850˚C and 1100˚C. The resulting ‘cremated remains’ consist mainly of skeletal bone fragments, plus other basic elements. After cooling, the remains are further reduced in a cremulator using a mechanical process to produce homogenous grey looking ‘cremated ashes’; the latter are then placed in a temporary container.

Q. How much does cremation cost?

A. Costs for arranging a cremation may vary considerably, ranging, for example, approx £1700 for a direct cremation including a standard container for the cremated remains. Charges for cremation are usually less than for a traditional burial, although the service director’s fees tend to be similar for both types of services. The average cost for a full cremation funeral service is around £3300.

Q. What are the legal considerations for arranging a cremation?

A.Before the body can be cremated, the death needs to be registered and certification obtained from the General Register Office (GRO) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages in Scotland.

Q. When arranging a funeral, how can one establish what the wishes of the deceased were regarding cremation?

A. Individuals may leave instructions in their wills that they wish to be cremated, or they may simply have let their friends and relatives know, beforehand, of their wishes. Equally, the deceased may have instructed on the disposal of the ashes or have left it to relatives and friends to decide.

Q. What are the implications of the revised Cremation Regulations 2008?

A. The aim of the Cremation (England and Wales) Regulations 2008 which came into effect on 1st January, 2009, was to ‘modernise and consolidate all previous regulations, replacing the Cremation Regulations 1930’ [source: Ministry of Justice website: see Resources, below]. The revised regulations, for example, now require the completion of 2 medical forms; one to be completed by the doctor who last treated the deceased, the other by an independent doctor. If you have doubts about the cause of death, you now have the legal right to inspect the forms.

Q. Is cremation considered environmentally friendly?

A. According to the Cremation Society of Great Britain, the process of cremation is considered by UK public health authorities to be ‘the most hygienic method of disposal of the dead’. In addition, regulations set out under the 1990 Environmental Protection Act require that crematoria meet exacting standards which ensure that procedures are tightly controlled in order to minimise any impact on the environment.

Q. How can one be sure that the correct cremated remains are received?

A. UK crematoria are bound by strict operational policies and procedures at each stage of the cremation process. The Code of Practice dictates that once the coffin has been passed from the funeral parlour to the crematorium, no further access to the body is allowed. Coffins are clearly labelled with an identity card which stays with the body throughout. Also, it is important to note that no more than one cremation can take place, at a time. For ultimate peace of mind, it is possible for up to two family members to witness the committal when the body is finally placed in the cremation chamber.

Q. What cremation & crematoria options are available in Britain?

A. The majority of the 250+ crematoria in the UK are non-denominational and run by local authorities, although an increasing number of the more recently established crematoria are privately operated - find crematoria here.

Resources: cremation & crematoria information

The Federation of Burial and Cremation Authorities (FBCA); website: www.fbca.org.uk;

FBCA membership represents the majority of crematoria in Great Britain and Northern Ireland; the Federation is recognised for its consultative role with government departments ‘on matters affecting the law and practice of cremation …’.

The Association of Private Crematoria and Cemeteries (APCC); website: www.apcandc.co.uk;

the APCC aims to ‘raise awareness of the extensive facilities offered by privately owned crematoria and cemeteries’, in the UK.

Ministry of Justice; website: www.justice.gov.uk; for information on the latest cremation regulations and legal requirements, how to apply for cremation, which forms you need to fill in, etc., please see: http://www.justice.gov.uk/guidance/cremation.htm

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