Exhumation Guidance

Exhumations are generally rare. They cannot happen without having the necessary legal authorisation. Below are some brief guidance notes about the authorisations and other relevant information that are needed.

Brief details about Exhumations

It is important to point out that it is unlawful to disturb ANY human remains (this also includes any cremated remains) without first obtaining the necessary lawful authority.

The information provided here is a general guide to the exhumation of both cremated remains and complete coffined burials.

Exhumation is the term used when human or cremated remains are to be moved. The word Exhumation comes from the Latin and means in a very narrow sense “from the ground”.


A situation may arise that means the remains of someone you care about needs to be removed from their grave or burial plot.

There are many reasons why this might arise, it maybe that the families make a request for personal reasons. The relatives may wish to change from the original grave to another family plot in the same or different cemetery.

There could be a request for repatriation overseas to be buried in a family vault, or even be a change from burial to cremation as a mode of disposal.


Whatever the reasons it is a traumatic occurrence for all those involved and should only be considered after carefully thinking through the whole process and getting as much information from all the relevant authorities before starting this activity.

You may also need to discuss the issues with other members of your family and why you wish to proceed with this matter.

Arrangements may take a very long time to finalise and it may entail a lot of official procedures, and rules and regulations to work through before you finally obtain the proper permissions and licences.

Exhumation can a very expensive decision and full cost implications should be made clear when the initial request is made to carry out an exhumation, from all agencies concerned.

Not only will there be the cost of the exhumation itself, but some examples of 'forgotten' costs relating to exhumations could be

  1.  the removal of memorials on all relevant graves,

  2.  Exhumation Licences,

  3.  Bishop Faculty fees,

  4.  Funeral directors charges that may include new coffins or cremated remains caskets,

  5.  Cemetery fees and charges

  6.  and the re-burial costs.

If you need more detailed advice contact us and a member of staff will be able to offer you independent advice on all aspects of exhumation including information on how to obtain the necessary paperwork or advise you where to acquire it.

We can also answer any questions and concerns you may have regarding all aspects of exhumation and re-burial.



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. 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. 

Most burial grounds/cemeteries are segregated between Consecrated and Unconsecrated areas. Consecration is the term that is given to either all areas of a cemetery or smaller sections that have been 'dedicated to the service of God according to the right of the Church of England'. The term consecration means to be ''set apart, or separated, for use by the Lord''

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.


Application for a Licence or Faculty 

Download an Application for a Licence

Please note this also relates to buried cremated remains. Guidance notes are now part of the application form and should help the applicant complete the form correctly. If help or advice on this subject is needed then contact should be made with The Ministry of Justice, contact details are on the application form, or with the burial ground where the remains are presently buried. 

Once the applicant has completed Section A of the application form it then needs to be sent to the relevant Burial Authority/Council that administers the cemetery where the deceased is presently buried. They will then make investigations in their statutory records to ensure details are correct and there are no objections to the exhumation taking place in their cemetery.

The form will then be signed by the Cemetery Manager and will be forwarded onto the Ministry of Justice

There is no fee for issuing a licence and The Ministry of Justice will process applications within 20 working days of receipt, unless further information is required. Please note that only original documents will be accepted, not photocopies. The licence will, if this has been requested, normally be sent to the person applying for the exhumation.

A Faculty

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

Staff at Crownhill Crematorium will be able to check the burial records to see which sections in their ten cemeteries have been consecrated.

The ten cemeteries under Milton Keynes Councils control come under the Oxford Diocese, in the first instant write to the Diocesan Registrar.

Enquiries should be made in each individual case to the relevant Diocese and there may be variations of costs and administration details between all the different Dioceses in England and procedures for applications will vary.

Details about applying to Exhume remains from a Churchyard are listed in the document - Removal of human remains from consecrated ground to another place of burial. Section 12 (DOC, 26KB)of these Regulations specifically gives details on the removal of human remains and these need to be read before applying for the Faculty.


What happens next?

Once you have obtained all the 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. This is so they can ensure the safety of public health.

An Environmental Health Officer from the Council will also be in attendance on the day of exhumation along with the funeral directors and cemetery staff. This also applies if a Faculty is issued.

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 maybe the funeral director, the burial authorities, a minister of religion for the re-interment and other family members to ensure that all conditions of the licence(s), and family wishes are adhered to.

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.

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.


Last Updated: 30 November 2017