It's worth planning your funeral in advance

How East Devon District Council can help you make preparations for a funeral

Although we may not want to think about it, making arrangements for our own funeral is important for a number of practical reasons. If you haven’t recorded your wishes, then it places an extra burden on your loved ones, who have to work out what you would have wanted from the choice of music to the dress code. So the best way to let people know your funeral wishes is to talk to them or write down a list of specific instructions in a document that is separate from your will or trust.

A funeral plan allows you to pay and plan for your funeral in advance, helping to reduce stress and worry for your family or friends, as well as keeping the costs down. We have created a guide to arranging a burial in East Devon on the council website.

So if you are looking for support or guidance on planning a funeral, either for yourself or for someone close to you, our guide covers topics such as:

  • low cost funerals and advice
  • Types of grave
  • Monuments
  • Walls of remembrance
  • Claiming for a funeral payment from the Social Fund (only for those claiming benefits)
  • Claiming a one-off payment from the Bereavement Service

When does East Devon District Council arrange a funeral?

If a person dies without a known next of kin, the council will normally act on written instructions received from the local coroner's office

If we are able to locate next of kin or family member(s) we always try to contact them to find out if they want to make their own arrangements for their relative’s funeral.

Sadly there are occasions when someone dies in the district and there is no one able to arrange their funeral.

In this case, we:

  • Try to contact the next of kin and find out if they want to make arrangements for their relative
  • Provide a basic funeral if no one else is willing or able
  • Recover the costs of administering the funeral from the estate. If any funds remain, they are paid to the Treasury Solicitor's office.

Lucy Turner, one of the Technical Officers in the council’s Environmental Health team, has gained considerable experience in handling these sensitive situations. When she traces friends or relatives she offers advice on how they can arrange a suitable funeral. This can be a delicate process needing great tact, given that family members may have been estranged for many years.

In a small number of cases, Lucy has not been able to trace a relative to arrange the funeral:

When I go into a property after somebody’s death, I try to piece together little clues about their life. Occasionally there’s nothing – no photos, no memories, for example there was a gentleman who had lived as a recluse for many years. It’s always very sad to find that a person has lived such an isolated life. In such a case there is literally nobody to arrange the funeral, so I do it.

Describing her approach, Lucy said:

At the heart of it, the main thing is to be respectful. I know that I’m doing the very last thing for that person that you can possibly do. I make sure that the end of their life is marked with dignity, so that any onlookers wouldn’t guess it was a council funeral.

On two occasions, when no neighbours or carers were available to attend the funeral, Lucy has attended as a final mark of respect.