Advance Funeral Wishes
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Did you know?

The only legal stipulations following a death are that:

  • The death must be certified and registered, and the body must be disposed of. ('Disposal' means disposal by burial, cremation or any other means, and 'disposed of' has a corresponding meaning' - source Births and Deaths Registration Act, 1926.)
  1. It is an offence to expose a dead body near a public highway as this would outrage public decency'.
  • Basically, as long as a dead body is covered up in some way in public, and suitably buried, cremated or disposed of by some other (legal!) means after the death has been certified and registered, there are no rules! Fran Hall from The Natural Death Society says:

 

Where misinformation and misunderstanding occur is when crematoria, cemeteries, hospital or mortuary staff or other official bodies make up their own rules, i.e. only allowing a funeral director to make arrangements with them for a burial or a cremation, or only permitting a funeral director to liaise with them about a body - ill informed people then assume that these regulations are the law. They are not.

 

Advance Funeral Wishes are a document you create to clarify you choices, preferences and decisions about what you would like to place following your passing from this life to your funeral and afterwards.

You may take the attitude that what happens after your death doesn’t matter, you won’t care, you’ll be dead - or you may have exacting plans for what should take place, where and how. Either way what is important, is to write it down, so those who are left behind know what your wishes are.

 It is amazing to think that the majority of us leave it to our loved ones to ‘guess’ what type of funeral we would have wanted! In these cases it can lead to arguments, tears and upset by families having to make such huge decisions at this most difficult time.

 

Why get my funeral wishes done?

Getting your advance funeral wishes done can save a lot of heart ache and can even prevent family arguments at a time of grief, if those left behind know what you would have wanted. 

Your documented Advance funeral wishes will reassure your family that you have thought about things carefully and give them confidence that they are acting in accordance with your wishes when making these important decisions. It provides ‘peace of mind’ knowing that your ‘affairs are in order’.Your family, and especially if you have children, will appreciate your concern for their well-being.

It is a caring way of providing your loved ones with all the relevant information in one place. The knowledge that you are receiving the care before, during and after the funeral that you wanted will be a great comfort to them during a naturally difficult time.

If you have family members and friends who have different ideas about what you would have wanted, who are sure they know what’s best, who think you did express a preference, it’s going to be challenging  making arrangements for your funeral, to agree and all be at peace with the outcome.

Families or individuals who have not done their funeral wishes may be easily steered into unimaginative, formulaic funerals that are straightforward for the funeral directors to organise. They may be told that they can have whatever they like, but are not told what that may include beyond their own limited options.

It is strange that for weddings we make so much effort to personalise them so that they communicate something unique and personal about the couples. Yet with funerals, people may spend little time considering what we want to ‘say’ and honour about a person’ life and the many ways that could be done.

For example, you may be told that there is only one choice of vehicle to take the body to the Church or Crematorium and that there aren’t any other options which there certainly are! You may not realise how much choice there is and how relatively easy it is to personalise a funeral. It can be helpful and illuminating to have more than just the Funeral Director’s input to help you make decisions.

 

I thoroughly enjoyed our session, thanks for being so easy with everything and so attentive and supportive. You managed to allay my fears and put me completely at ease with talking about all the arrangements. 

 

What gets included in Advance Funeral Wishes?

Your funeral plans can be as simple or elaborate as you wish. You may want to only specify a particular burial place or address a myriad of details - from the type of casket to the music at your service.   

Even if you don’t mind whether for example, you are buried or cremated, whether you want a wicker or wooden coffin, , it is very helpful to put something in writing saying that you don’t mind and specify who you would like to make the relevant decisions.  

 

When should I get my funeral wishes done?

It is a good idea to get our affairs in order when the time feels right for you. Making known your wishes for your care should you get sick and for your funeral should you depart suddenly from this world will put your mind at rest.

You may think you can’t get your wishes done just yet because you are not clear about everything. But during the conversation with me you may find that you do have more preferences than you had thought once you turn your mind to the subject. 

 

Why not just fill in a form?

Often forms sit around in our desk gathering dust and become just one more administrative chore to put off! Having an appointment for a conversation can encourage our reflections and help to focus the mind.   

Talking it through can bring more depth and clarity over what you want. 

 The conversation often reveals follow up questions, things you hadn’t thought about and suggests choices you didn’t know you had. Taking time to reflect can bring up fears and emotions along the way, so having a gentle dialogue  can provide helpful guidance, reassurance and support. 

Forms offer limited choices and tick box options. There may be more details to add into certain areas and this is best covered in an open dialogue. Funeral Director’s forms do not always include every option and may be more tailored for you to use their services more fully and to encourage you to choose one of their pre-decided funeral payment plans rather than what you truly want.

 

Will my advance funeral wishes be legally binding?

Funeral wishes are not legally binding. It is, therefore, sensible to identify who will give instructions for your funeral, so you feel confident that your wishes will be followed as closely as possible. However as it is a signed and dated document it may stand up in Court of Law. It is first and foremost a support document that lets your family and friends know clearly, in black and white, in detail, what they can best do in your memory and honour.

You can keep them in a documents folder on your computer or a signed hard copy close to your Will, and somewhere known to the person arranging your funeral, as often the Will is not read until after the funeral, in which case your wishes may not be known until it is too late!

Remember that you will also need to make a Will and ensure that it is up-to-date. Your legal advisor can help you complete this. You may also need to collate a ‘death file’ of all your important papers and financial details for easy access when the time comes. An Advance Directive and appointing a Power of Attorney may also be very beneficial and make a huge difference to your end of life.

 

What happens next?

We can meet in person or arrange to talk over the phone or on Skype. The questions get sent to you just beforehand. 

When we have prepared this document and emailed it to you and you are completely happy with it, you can print it off, sign it and give copies  given to a friend or family member, your executor and solicitor. Make sure a friend or family member are aware of the document’s existence and it’s whereabouts.

To give you an idea, the meeting normally takes between one hour and 90 minutes. This is followed by an hour and a half to prepare the document. The charge is an hourly rate to ensure that everyone gets exactly what they need from this service. keep a copy of your funeral wishes on file and if you wish to update or amend any details you can keep me informed of those changes.

A simple signed document stating your wishes in detail and how you would like family and friends to be involved will enable everyone to give you a wonderful send off with all their love and blessings and help everyone to move on in their grieving.

 

Cost

Sessions by Skype/phone or in person cost £75 for the meeting of around 1.5 hours and the creation of the final document.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Associations

The Interfaith Ministers Association is part of the One Spirit Interfaith Foundation, a charitable company limited by guarantee.
One Spirit Interfaith Foundation is a trading name of the Interfaith Foundation, Communications House, 26 York Street, London W1U 6PZ, Tel: 08444 457 004
The Interfaith Foundation is a registered charity in England and Wales (1099163) and Scotland (SCO40148) and a Company Limited by Guarantee (4432622 England and Wales).  Registered Office: Ropery House, 16-18 The Cross, Wivenhoe, Essex CO7 9QN.

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