The deceased person is likely to have left instructions as to whether they wanted to be buried or cremated. If they didn’t then you will need to make the decision.
Making the arrangements
In any event, you will need to go ahead and book in the burial (sometimes called the interment) or the cremation as soon as possible to ensure availability and arrangements are completed in time for the funeral service.
Your funeral director will have all the appropriate contact details of the appropriate authorities and will be able to help you make the requisite bookings.
Helping to make the decision
There are several factors which may help you choose between burial or cremation.
Cremation is now chosen by more than 70% of people in the UK. As recently as 1940, only 9% of people were cremated and cremation was only made legal in 1884. The strong rise in the number of people choosing to be cremated has now leveled out. In recent years there has even been a slight move back to burials.
The Protestant Churches widely accepted cremation by the end of the nineteenth century and this allowed the Cremation Act to be introduced in 1902. The Act regulated cremations and enabled burial authorities to establish crematoria.
The Roman Catholic Church, which had previously claimed cremation to be the most sacrilegious of acts, finally lifted its ban in 1963. The Eastern Orthodox Church continues to ban cremations.
Shortage of burial plots
There is a national shortage of burial space. Many cemeteries will run out of space within the next ten years. There are already parts of the country where space is no longer available or is limited to local residents. You will need to check if a burial spot is going to be available in the locality.
Unless there is a family grave, you will then need to purchase a grave. This will give you the exclusive right of burial in a grave for a specified period of time, usually between ten and one hundred years. You should be aware that the law stipulates that graves cannot be sold for more than one hundred years.
The law does permit grant ownership to be extended and some local authorities will offer owners the opportunity to top up their lease every five years. Even if this option is not available, a family will be able to renew the right at the end of the current lease.
In the past fifty years, people have been encouraged to choose cremation as a solution to overcrowding in churchyards and cemeteries.
Cremation was heralded as being efficient and convenient. However, there is increasing concern that cremation is contributing to global warming with the emission of carbon dioxide and other harmful pollutants into the atmosphere.
According to recent government figures, the fumes from vaporised dental filings make up 16% of mercury emissions. The government has recommended that graves are reused and if this happens, there may be strong shift back to burial as a natural and eco friendly solution.
In this regard, there has already considerable growth in alternative or green burials. Here, the burial takes place in a natural woodland setting. After a period of time, traditional trees are planted and the area returned to nature with wild flowers and animal life encouraged. There are estimated to be 2,000 green funerals each year and the number of natural burial grounds has increased from 52 in 1997 to 214 grounds today.
Cost of burial versus cremation
The cost of a new grave varies considerable in different parts of the country but on average will be in the region of £700 – 1,200. Local authorities often differentiate between residents and people living outside the area with outsiders being charged considerably more.
A modern grave is designed to hold between one and four people so when used in the future, the cost incurred will be significantly lower as the family simply pays for the grave to be reopened.
In comparison, the average cost of a cremation in 2012 was £584 (according to the Cremation Society of Great Britain).
The information which we provide through Lasting Post is in outline for information or educational purposes only. The information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a solicitor, accountant or other professional adviser. We cannot guarantee that information provided by Lasting Post will meet your individual needs, as this will very much depend on your individual circumstances. You should therefore use the information only as a starting point for your enquiries.