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Public health funerals

We do understand that there are occasions where families have no other option than to approach us to make funeral arrangements for them.  

This route should not be taken by families who can afford to make other, simple funeral arrangements but choose not to. It’s not a free alternative to a family’s moral responsibility to care for their own family members. The law does not require us to provide a funeral service. 


A public health funeral should not be confused with getting financial assistance toward the cost of a funeral for a friend or relative. 

In cases where a public health funeral is agreed, we will: 

  • respect the wishes of the deceased, if known 
  • decide whether a burial or cremation will take place 
  • decide the date and time of the funeral 
  • inform any family and friends of the arrangements, and allow them to attend 
  • allow the ashes to be collected by a friend of family member, if a cremation is chosen 
  • seek to recover any costs from the estate of the deceased, where one exists. 

When we will provide a public health funeral 

The cost of the funeral is normally paid for using funds from the deceased person's estate. We will only arrange and pay for a funeral if no one else is willing to do so. 

We have a responsibility under Section 46 of the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 to plan and pay for Public Health Funerals when: 

  • someone dies without making a will or appointing an executor 
  • we do not think there are any relatives or friends willing or able to make the funeral arrangements. 

Freedom of information requests 

We provide information on a quarterly basis on: 

  • public health funerals 
  • people who have died with no known next of kin 
  • bona vacantia estates 
  • estates that have been referred to the Treasury Solicitor or Duchy of Lancaster or Cornwall.