When someone dies

There is a lot to organise when someone dies.  You will need to: 

  • get a death certificate - whether it is issued by the General Practitioner (GP), hospital or coroner will depend on where and how the person died
  • register the death within five days 
  • consider what kind of funeral you want

The Department of Works and Pensions (DWP) provide comprehensive guidance on what to do following a death, either in hospital or elsewhere. Helpful advice is also produced by Age UK and Citizens Advice.  

What kind of funeral do you want?

Every family is different and your choice of funeral may be influenced by religious and cultural traditions, cost, personal preferences or by the express wishes of the deceased. 

Ceremonies can be conducted by:

  • religious ministers
  • civil celebrants
  • friends or family members

There are various forms required before burial or cremation can be arranged.  If in any doubt, please contact us to discuss exactly what forms are required by law to be submitted to the burial or cremation authority. Your funeral director can give advice and put you in touch with a minister or a civil celebrant or, if you do not wish to employ a funeral director, please contact us for advice.

Please note that Milton Keynes Council does not promote any particular type of arrangement - the information we provide is intended to widen your choice when making funeral arrangements. We have also put together some help and advice about paying for a funeral, choosing a reading and writing a eulogy.

Religious funerals

You may wish to consider contacting your religious leader soon after a death occurs. They will have a lot of experience in funerals and can offer valuable advice.  This might range from choosing hymns for the service to whether or not to view the body of the deceased.  This advice is useful before you commit yourself to a funeral.

You can contact local faith groups for more information.  

Civil Funerals

A civil funeral is a ceremony that reflects the wishes of the family and is focused on celebrating the life of the deceased. It is created by a professional Celebrant in consultation with the family or executor. A civil funeral can be held almost anywhere you wish (except churches or religious buildings) and are appropriate for either a cremation or a burial at a non-religious burial ground.  

Your Funeral Director can help you contact a civil funeral celebrant, or you can visit the Institute of Civil Funerals website.

Pre-arranging your own funeral

Planning your own funeral can be a way of ensuring that it will be a personal and appropriate occasion and is something that more people are opting to do.

Many people leave instructions for their funeral in their Will.  However, such instructions are not legally binding because the prime responsibility for arranging a funeral lies with the Will’s executor. Wills are also sometimes only found after a funeral, so make sure that friends and relatives are aware of your wishes and of the existence and whereabouts of any documentation.

Donating you body for medical research

If you wish to donate your body for medical education training or research, you should make your wishes known in writing (and witnessed) before you die, and inform your next of kin.

The Human Tissue Act 2004, which came into force on 1 September 2006, repeals and replaces the Anatomy Act 1984 and also establishes the Human Tissue Authority (HTA) as the regulatory body for all matters concerning the removal, storage, use and disposal of human tissue. As a result, the post of Her Majesty’s Inspector of Anatomy ceased on 31 August 2006.

Organ Donor Register

Putting your name on the NHS Organ Donor Register makes everyone aware of your wishes and makes it easier for them to agree to your donation. Millions of people carry donor cards or are on the register. 

Instructions to give to your next of kin

Instructions expressing your wishes are not a will and are not intended to deal with the dispersal of property or savings, but do enable you to record information such as:

  • the location of your will
  • your Doctor’s name and address
  • your bank details
  • instructions about leaving your body for medical research or for transplants
  • your choice of funeral director
  • whether you prefer cremation or burial
  • your choice of hymns or readings 
  • whether you would like flowers at the service
  • if you would like donations instead of flowers, a list of your preferred charities
  • contact details for services like your water company or gas and electricity supplier
  • where to find important documentation 

Independent funerals without a funeral director

Some people find great comfort from being involved in arranging the funeral of a loved one.

The following information is intended to assist you by outlining what is involved in tending to the deceased and arranging a funeral. There is some technical and sensitive information included to help provide a clear understanding of what is involved - this information is written in a matter of fact way and not intended to cause distress.


The body must be transported to the cemetery or crematorium in a container, clearly identifying the name and age of the deceased. Where the body has to be removed from a hospital, remember to contact the mortuary first and check what documentation is required. If you intend to use an estate car or van, ensure that the coffin or container you intend to use will fit into it. You will need help to carry the coffin, so make sure you have at least three people available to assist you.


The container most commonly used is a standard coffin, made from chipboard with a good quality veneer. The metal effect handles, nameplate and such like are actually plastic which, when cremated, will melt. Coffins and caskets are available in solid wood which, when used for burial, will last longer in the ground than chipboard. Recently, more environmentally friendly containers are becoming popular. A cardboard coffin or casket can now be obtained and decorated in water-based colours, if desired, or covered with a pall, quilt or similar, which can then be removed at the committal. Cremation or, with biodegradable benefits, burial is possible as the coffins are rigid, carry well and retain any potential leakage that may arise. Other alternatives for burial would be to use a shroud of natural material or a woven wicker basket.

As a rule, if you plan to make your own container, use the smallest size possible to accommodate the deceased but strong enough to hold the weight. If cremation is decided, do not varnish or paint the container in oil paints. The materials used must be such that it minimises the use of fossil fuels. Clothing of man-made fibres, shoes or rubberised items will cause smoke if cremated, and should not be placed in the container. If you are in doubt please contact the Crematorium staff first.

Some funeral directors will assist in do-it-yourself funerals by supplying a simple coffin and dealing with the documentation.

The ceremony or service

Everyone has a right to be buried in the churchyard of the parish in which they die - assuming that one exists, and that there is space left. If the deceased has paid for a grave space in the churchyard, there will be a document called a ‘faculty’ in existence and you will need to produce this.

Everyone also has the right to a church funeral, but it is not necessary to have a service at a funeral, whether it is a burial or a cremation. A few words can be said by a relative or friend, or, if there is no wish for a religious ceremony, a non-religious one can be planned. 

For a service in the Milton Keynes Crematorium Chapel, you can contact your local minister to conduct the service, or you may prefer a non-religious service with all religious emblems removed from the chapel. The content of the service can be your choice. Alternatively, a service may take place at any separate place of worship followed by a brief committal ceremony at the crematorium.

The Natural Death Centre is a charitable project which aims to support those dying at home and their carers and to help people to arrange inexpensive, Do-It-Yourself and environmentally-friendly funerals.

Crownhill Crematorium and Cemetery Team

Crownhill Crematorium and Cemetery Team contact information

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