What to do after a death in Scotland - practical advice for times of bereavement: revised 11th edition 2016 (web only)

General information on what to do after someone dies in Scotland and about succession and inheritance law. See https://www.mygov.scot/bereavement-benefits/ for the latest information about benefits.

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6. Planning the funeral

You should start planning the funeral as soon as possible. But you should not make the final funeral arrangements until you are sure that the death does not have to be reported to the Procurator Fiscal, since this may affect the date when the funeral can be held.

Pre-paid funeral plans

A number of people now pre-arrange and pre-pay for their funerals by taking out a pre-paid funeral plan or funeral bond. These are different from insurance policies in that they do not pay a monetary amount on death but provide an entitlement. Usually someone will pay in advance for a specific funeral director to carry out the funeral.

Before contacting a funeral director or making any arrangements, check whether the person had a pre-paid funeral plan or bond. Look among personal papers at home or with relatives. If such a document exists then it is advisable to contact the plan or bond provider, who will give details as to which funeral director should be contacted.

Funeral director or undertaker

You can make arrangements for a funeral yourself, but most people go to a funeral director (or undertaker) who can take over all the arrangements. Funeral directors are normally a most helpful support to the family.

You will need to decide:

  • Where the body is to rest while awaiting the funeral.
  • The time and place of the funeral.
  • How much you intend to spend on the funeral.
  • Whether to have a funeral service.
  • Whether to have flowers, or to make any donations to a named charity.
  • Whether to put a notice in the newspapers.
  • Whether the body should be buried or cremated.

You may wish to obtain estimates from at least two funeral directors.

A funeral director who is a member of the National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD) must give a full estimate when you first make enquiries. This estimate will include what is called a "basic simple funeral" as well as any additional services. Check when the bill will have to be paid.

A "basic simple funeral" will include a coffin and a hearse. It will not include things like church or crematorium fees, flowers or newspaper notices. If you are not satisfied with the service you get, or the price you have to pay, the NAFD have a complaints and arbitration service which you can use.

Funeral service

If you wish to have a funeral service you should contact the minister of religion as soon as possible. Most ministers appreciate a personal approach by relatives and can be helpful in many ways. If you wish to have the services of a minister but do not know one in the area, most funeral directors will do their best to advise and in some cases arrange for one to officiate at the service.

If you would prefer to have a non-religious service at the funeral, you may be able to get help with this by contacting the Humanist Society of Scotland. The Society produces a leaflet describing its views and purposes and it can be contacted at the address given at Part VI of this booklet.

Medical research

If the body is to be given for medical teaching purposes, the dead person will usually have made arrangements in advance with a Medical School. A written statement of the intention to benefit medical science should therefore be among the dead person's papers. You should contact the Anatomy Department of the appropriate University Medical School (Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow or St Andrews), and they will advise on the procedures involved. Before a body can be accepted by a Medical School, there are several factors which have to be considered, such as:

  • place of death;
  • cause of death;
  • condition of body at time of death; and
  • extent of demand in the Medical School.

Bodies are normally refused if there has been a post-mortem examination, or if any major organs have been removed. In normal circumstances, the costs of removing the body, and burying or cremating it are normally borne by the Medical School. A body used for teaching purposes will normally be cremated or buried within 3 years at a special memorial service.

If someone dies abroad or in England, Wales or Northern Ireland

You can arrange a local burial or cremation to avoid the expense of bringing the body back;

or bring the body back to Scotland once you have got the certificate of death and an authorisation for the removal of the body from the country of death from the appropriate authorities, and arrange a funeral in Scotland. For this you will need either an authenticated translation of a foreign death certificate or a death certificate issued in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, depending on the country of death.



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