An exhumation is the term used when human or cremated remains are moved. 

Please note that it is unlawful to disturb any human remains (including cremated remains) without first obtaining the necessary lawful authority. Exhumations are rare and cannot happen without having the necessary legal authorisation.

Reasons for exhumation

There are many reasons why the remains of someone you care about need to be removed from their grave or burial plot such as:

  • relatives wishing to move the body to a different plot - this could be in the same of different cemetery
  • a request for repatriation overseas
  • relatives wishing to change from burial to cremation

An exhumation is a traumatic occurrence for all those involved and should only be considered after carefully thinking through the whole process, discussing it with your family and getting as much information from all the relevant authorities.

Arrangements can take a very long time to finalise and involves various official procedures, permissions and licences.


Exhumation can be very expensive and costs may be incurred for:

  • exhumation licences
  • the exhumation itself
  • the removal of memorials on all relevant graves
  • bishop faculty fees
  • funeral directors charges for new coffins or cremated remains caskets
  • cemetery fees and charges
  • re-burial costs.

Applying for a licence or faculty

There are generally two types of licences that are used for exhumation. They are dependant on where the remains are presently buried and where the remains once exhumed are planned to be reburied.

Most burial grounds and cemeteries are segregated between consecrated and unconsecrated areas. Consecration is the term that is given to areas of a cemetery that have been 'dedicated to the service of God according to the right of the Church of England'. To make a cemetery or section consecrated a religious service takes place in the cemetery prior to burials taking place, by a Church of England Bishop who administers the Diocese that the cemetery is in.

Generally, if the cemetery is unconsecrated and the cemetery they are being reburied in is also unconsecrated then only a licence from the Ministry of Justice should apply.

If the remains are in a churchyard or consecrated cemetery and it is planned to move them to another consecrated cemetery then you may have to apply for both a Ministry of Justice licence and a Faculty from your nearest Diocese. 


Further advice can be sought from The Ministry of Justice or with the burial ground where the remains are currently buried. Apply for a licence.

There is no fee for issuing a licence and The Ministry of Justice will normally process applications within 20 working days of receipt. Please note that only original documents will be accepted, not photocopies. 



If the remains are to be removed from a consecrated section of a cemetery and are to be re-buried into another consecrated section then only a faculty is required.

The ten cemeteries under Milton Keynes Council's control come under the Oxford Diocese and our staff will be able to check to see which sections have been consecrated. 

We would advise you to read the churchyard regulations about exhumation before applying for a faculty from the Diocesan Registrar - there may be variations of costs and administration details between all the different Dioceses in England and procedures for applications will vary.

What happens next?

Once you have obtained all the necessary licences you will need forward these onto the burial authority where the deceased is buried.

A copy of the licence will automatically be sent to the Environmental Health department of the local authority in the area where the exhumation is to take place so they can ensure the safety of public health.

Arrangements can then be made to carry out the exhumation and ensure that if any of the licences have special conditions listed these are fully considered.

Contact should also be made with all those involved with the pending exhumation, this could include:

  • the funeral director
  • burial authorities
  • a minister of religion for the re-interment
  • family members 

There is normally some discussion between all attending parties about how the exhumation will take place and what equipment is required.

Exhumations take place early in the morning to ensure maximum privacy and an Environmental Health Officer will be in attendance along with the funeral directors and cemetery staff. 

As soon as reasonably practical after any disinterment, the officer of the Burial Authority where the exhumation took place will complete the statutory records to state:

  • the date of disinterment
  • the number of the grave
  • the name of the person whose remains are disinterred
  • where the remains have be re-interred or cremated

Please contact us for independent advice on all aspects of exhumation and re-burial including information on how to obtain the necessary paperwork.


Crownhill Crematorium and Cemetery Team

Crownhill Crematorium and Cemetery Team contact information

Crownhill Crematorium and Cemetery Office, Dansteed Way, Crownhill, Milton Keynes MK8 0AH