Cremation is the norm in England and Wales with approximately 75% of all recorded deaths are now followed by cremation. This is mainly due to lack of available burial plots throughout England and Wales, which can make internment very expensive. Crematoriums are widely available. The service for cremation is the same as that for burial, apart from the form of committal sentences, and the fact that the service may take place in a church or chapel followed by a short committal service in the crematorium chapel. Alternatively, the whole service may be conducted in the crematorium chapel and usually lasts approximately 20 minutes. However, it can be as long as the family wishes by prior arrangement, although an extra charge may be assessed.
When possible, the cremation will follow immediately after the service. The Code of Cremation Practice requires that the cremation shall, wherever possible, take place on the same day as the cremation service. Without exception the coffin is always cremated with the body. The Code of Practice requires that nothing must be removed from the coffin after it has been received from the chapel, and it must be placed in the cremator exactly as received.
The information is updated tri-annually. The next update is scheduled for April 2022.
(1) Maximum Period before Burial
British law does not place a time limit within which burial or funeral arrangements must take place. Remains are held free of charge at a public mortuary pending receipt of next-of-kin’s instructions. This can prove useful in cases where locating next-of-kin is difficult.
There is neither a time limit within which remains must be embalmed, nor a requirement for embalming of remains for export from the United Kingdom or import into the United States.
For remains that are to be sent to the United States, next-of-kin are encouraged to consult their receiving funeral home to resolve any doubts about embalming, particularly if relatives wish to view the remains. Next-of-kin should advise the funeral home or the Embassy if, for religious or other reasons, the body should not be embalmed.
In cases of HIV/AIDS-related deaths, or other highly contagious diseases, embalming may not always be possible. In those instances the body must be properly sanitized for shipment.
There is no time limit within which remains must be cremated. For further information please see above.
(4) Caskets and Containers
Coffins/caskets and air trays are available that are suitable for cremation, local burial, or international shipment of remains.
(5) Exportation of Human Remains
Whole remains must be contained in a zinc-lined, hermetically sealed coffin/casket or CadSeal which is a metal containment film. To facilitate the export of whole remains from the UK to the U.S., the Embassy prepares a Consular Mortuary Certificate to accompany the remains. It provides the flight details and consignee and incorporates the following documents:
i) a certified copy of the local death certificate or the Coroner’s interim certificate when an inquest is pending;
ii) an affidavit from the funeral director stating that the remains have been properly prepared and packed for shipment;
iii) an embalming or sanitization certificate, if appropriate; and
iv) the Coroner’s “Out of England” certificate permitting the removal of the remains from the Coroner’s jurisdiction.
(6) Exportation of Human Cremains/Ashes
Cremated remains may be exported if they are accompanied by certified copy of the local death certificate, the cremation certificate and a statement from the crematorium or the funeral home confirming the urn contains only the ashes of the deceased. We recommend that airline passengers carrying cremated remains to the United States declare the nature of the package to UK and U.S customs and use a non-metallic urn to allow screening. Unaccompanied cremains must be sent by airfreight.
Charges shown are the average price for disposition of human remains and are based on an exchange rate of $1.30 = 1 British pound sterling.
(a) Local Burial
Fees include collection and transportation of remains, funeral home charges, administrative fees, cost of private burial plot near London and a brief service with no mourners present. This can only be an approximate figure as the cost of burial plots varies immensely and there are often different prices for borough residents and non-residents. Burial costs in England and Wales are extremely expensive due to limited space available at cemeteries particularly in central London.
From approx. $5000.00 – approx. $22000.00
(b) Cremation and local disposal of ashes
Fees include collection and transportation of remains, doctor’s certificates, crematorium fee, administrative fees, a brief service with no mourners present, and scattering of ashes.
(c) Cremation and air shipment of ashes
As (b) above but also includes the collection of the ashes from the crematorium, packaging and forwarding to the consignee by air freight for collection from the airport.
(d) Preparation and shipment of whole remains
(i) Preparation of remains for shipment, including local collection of remains, embalming, provision and preparation of a lightweight coffin in accordance with established U.S. and international standards for shipment, administration of flight arrangements, preparation of all documentation, notification of consignee and delivery to the airport.
(ii) Sample airfreight charges (average 140 kilos weight) are based on the highest quotes provided by the four funeral homes regularly used by the Embassy so the next-of-kin are aware of the maximum they will be expected to pay. Some funeral homes have agreements for reduced freight rates with some airlines, and those deals may be reflected in these examples. Here are the examples of the rates to various destinations in the United States:
London to Atlanta: $1256.00
London to Chicago: $1295.00
London to Houston: $1288.00
London to Los Angeles: $971.00
London to Miami: $906.00
London to New York $906.00
Applications for exhumation must be made to the British Ministry of Justice. Exhumed remains and their original casket/coffin must be contained in an outer casket/coffin for shipment. Exhumations may be carried out only before the opening of the cemetery to the public, i.e. normally at dawn, Monday to Friday. The cemetery charges a fee to open the grave. If the death occurred a long time ago or the deceased died of an infectious disease the environmental health office must also attend.
An autopsy is mandatory in England and Wales when the death is sudden and the cause is unknown or there is reasonable cause to suspect that the deceased died a violent or unnatural death.
The four London-based funeral homes used by the Embassy may have agreements with particular airlines. As a result, transportation costs can sometimes be less than the amounts listed above. All of the four funeral homes accept major credit cards except for American Express and Diners Club.
For deaths outside of London, an additional mileage fee is charged by most London companies to cover transport costs.