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Burial and Cremation

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Funeral arrangements

When the death certificate has been issued by the Registrar, you will be given a certificate authorising the funeral.

The choice of a firm of funeral directors is important as you should feel comfortable and confident with them.  They may be known to you personally, may be recommended by a friend, your GP or religious adviser or may just have a good reputation in your area.

You can search the on-line Yellow Pages for local Funeral Directors.

The Funeral Standards Council, National Association of Funeral Directors and the Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors all have a code of practice and should give you an estimate of costs - their own and those fees they will pay on your behalf and add to the account.  You can ask for this estimate in advance and it's a good idea to ask different firms to quote so that you can compare costs.

Your funeral director can make all the arrangements for the funeral, burial or cremation, religious or secular service.  The funeral director can also advise on all the procedures and documents needed to register the death.

If you are considering a headstone most cemeteries will advise to wait for a period of approximately six months before placing it.  However, we suggest you contact your preferred choice of monumental mason as soon as possible to avoid any unnecessary delay after this waiting period.

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Burial or cremation (without a funeral director)

Although a funeral director will be invited to organise the majority of burials and cremations, some people prefer to organise the burial or cremation themselves.  The details in the individual sections of the Charter for the Bereaved gives sufficient information to achieve this.
The funeral director typically organises the burial or cremation by collecting and moving the body, arranging embalming and viewing of the deceased, providing a coffin, hearse and other elements.  Carrying out these services relieves the bereaved from doing what they may feel are unpleasant and difficult tasks.  Ultimately, the funeral director must operate commercially and in charging for his or her services, burial or cremations can be expensive.  In addition, the funeral director imposes him/herself on the arrangements to a greater or lesser degree.

Some people do not wish to use a funeral director, they may feel that personally organising a burial or cremation is their final tribute to the deceased person.  Others may simply wish to save money by doing everything themselves or may have used a funeral director on a previous occasion and found the experience unsatisfactory.  Some may feel that burial or cremations arranged with a funeral director are routine and processed, and some may desire an innovative and different approach.

The entire burial or cremation can be handled by the bereaved family and charter members are able to assist in facilitating this.  Such a burial or cremation is referred to as 'Personalised' or 'Independent'.  These burial or cremations will be different because traditional funeral elements may be unobtainable.  Currently, many funeral directors will not sell coffins separately, neither will they offer a hearse for use, unless the entire funeral package is purchased.

Consequently, personalised burial or cremation arrangers use their own vehicles or hire vans in lieu of a hearse.  They may also make their own coffin or use a biodegradable type.  Burials or cremations arranged by the bereaved contain a far higher personal input, which evokes more emotion and often celebrates the life of the deceased in a more moving and individual way.

A new type of 'green' funeral director is emerging, promoting bio-degradable coffins and a more personal approach.  Funeral facilitators are also appearing.  They are people who will assist the bereaved in organising a burial or cremation for a fee.

In the first instance you should contact the cemetery.

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Welfare funerals

In certain circumstances Hastings Borough Council will make funeral arrangements under the National Assistance Act 1948 as amended by the Local Government Act 1972 and sections 43-46 of the Public Health Act 1984.  These require the Local Authority to be responsible, in given circumstances, for the disposal of the dead.

The Authority becomes responsible if:
a)  The deceased died within the Authority's boundaries, but not while under the care of the County Council or the Area Health Authority.
b)  The value of the deceased's estate is inadequate to provide sufficient funeral funds.
c)  The appointed executor or next of kin is unable or unwilling to make funeral arrangements, unless in receipt of DSS payments which would entitle him/her to their assistance.
d)  No third party is willing to make provision for a funeral.

The Authority provides a coffin, floral tribute, minister, and cremation.  Burial will be arranged if there is written evidence of this being the deceased's preference.  Any addition to this is at the Authority's discretion and at a third party's expense (viewing etc).

Under the above mentioned Act, as with the Administration of Estates Act 1925 the funeral expenses have prior claim on the estate.  To that end, all such estate as the deceased has, shall be contributed towards funeral costs.  Should any estate expenditure, including administration costs; the balance is paid to the next of kin.  Should there be no known next of kin, any balance would be forwarded to H.M Treasury Solicitor.

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Buying a grave

Any adult living in the Hastings Borough Council area can buy a grave space for immediate use for half the fee charged to those living outside the Borough.  They may also reserve the right to purchase adjoining graves but graves cannot be purchased to reserve.

Normally, your funeral director will help to make the necessary arrangements for buying a grave.  Some people may want to make their own arrangements at the time of the funeral.  You can organise this by directly contacting us.  We will be happy to advise you.  If you would like to view the section of the cemetery where the burial is to take place before the funeral, we will arrange for a member of staff to meet with you on the site.

The exclusive Right of Burial is sold for 50 years.  These are known as 'purchased graves' and are renewable on expiry.  The owner of the right of burial can decide who will be buried in the grave and memorials are allowed in line with our cemetery regulations.  An unpurchased grave, sometimes known as a public or common grave, is where the right to burial cannot be bought and the council has total control of the grave.  The council will decide who will be buried in the grave and this might not be members of the same family.  No memorial rights exist on public graves so no headstone or other memorial can be put up.

There are several types of grave available including 'Traditional grave spaces' where the owner of the grave is able to put a full headstone and surround on the grave after burial.  All memorials of this type must be built on a concrete base or 'landing'.  Lawn-type graves where the Council will maintain these special areas, at no expense to the grave owner.  After the burial, the grave is made level and grassed over except for an area one foot from the headstone which may be used as a garden plot.  As soon as convenient after burial the Council will sow grass seed or lay turf over the rest of the grave area.

Burials can take place on any weekday, except on bank holidays.  Please talk to your funeral director or contact us to discuss any specific needs.

Cremated remains can also be buried at the Cemetery.  There are five methods of disposal of cremation ashes at Hastings.  They may be strewn communally in the Gardens of Remembrance or strewn in a 'designated place'.  In neither of these cases can any memorial be raised where they are placed, only on the adjacent Memorial Wall overlooking the whole Garden, with the whole Garden in memory.
Alternatively they may be placed in the lawn of the Gardens of Rest where a Memorial Vase at the Lawns edge can be released for a period of 15 years.
We also have a Woodland Walk in which they may be strewn upon request, with the environment as the only memorial.
Ashes can be strewn or interred in a grave if you already have one in the cemetery or you can purchase the exclusive right of burial for fifty years in a cremated remains plot which will accommodate four or more caskets and at which a stone memorial may be raised.

Our cemeteries have consecrated (blessed as sacred) and unconsecrated areas where you can buy graves.  The consecrated ground is consecrated by the Church of England.

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Natural burial

The Natural Burial area is managed for the benefit of wildlife and will therefore not resemble a traditional cemetery.  The area for Natural Burials will not be mowed in the manner that the rest of the cemetery is and maintenance will depend upon the species of wild flower, which develop on site.
Horticultural chemicals will not be used, except where a serious noxious weed develops and then this would only involve spot treatment.

Graves will not be reserved for specific religions and the dead of varying faiths will be buried in the same area.  Traditional funeral patterns do not have to be rigidly followed.  Funeral Directors, Cemetery Manager and members of staff can advise on this.

As a natural environment is being provided in order to encourage wildlife to thrive, memorials will not be permitted in this area.  The native species tree and shrubs will be a living memorial, and would offer as great longevity as a traditional headstone.  Other forms of memorialisation are available elsewhere in the cemetery including the Book of Remembrance.

Wooden Caskets containing cremated remains may be interred (or Cremated Remains strewn loose) into existing graves but no provision has been made for cremated remains plots in the Natural Burial area.  A grave plot will not be allocated solely for the interment so strewing of ashes.  A separate Woodland Walk area in natural copse within the Cemetery has bee designated for the placement of cremated remains in a natural setting.

Natural Burial is not for people who require a neat and tidy grave with a traditional headstone.  This will be chosen by those who love birds and wildlife and wish to create a natural setting for future generations and provide environmental benefits for the people of Hastings.

Rules of the Natural Burial Area

  1. All graves will be excavated to single or double depth as required.
  2. Graves may remain "Ordinary Graves" with all Rights ascribed and vested in Hastings Borough Council, but where desired an Exclusive Right of Burial subject to the Rules of the Natural Burial Area may be purchased (this would be more appropriate where graves are intended to be re-opened at a future date).
  3. At an appropriate time after each funeral, when soil settlement has taken place, the grave area will be seeded with grass and wild flower seeds at a seasonable time of year.
  4. The adjacent tree and shrubs is the living memorial and no other forms of memorial of any sort will be allowed at any time.  One week after the interment any floral tributes will be removed from the top of the grave, flowers and any memorial placed in the area will be removed.  Other forms of memorialisation are available elsewhere in the cemetery including the Book of Remembrance.
  5. Only biodegradable coffins may be used.  These may be of cardboard subject to their being capable of conveying the body decently to the graveside and being lowered into the grave.
  6. Arrangements exist for the reservation of an adjoining burial plot in the cemetery and these facilities will be available to those people using the Natural Burial area who wish to be buried beside another family member or loved one.  No other reservation will be permitted.
  7. Caskets containing cremated remains may be interred or strewn into existing graves but no provision has been made for cremated remains plots in the Natural Burial area.  A grave plot will not be allocated solely for the interment or strewing of ashes.  A separate Woodland Walk area in a natural copse has been designated for the placement of cremated remains in a natural setting.
  8. Since the Natural Burial area is to be managed for the benefit of wildlife it will not resemble a traditional cemetery.  The area for Natural Burials will not be mowed in the way that the rest of the cemetery is and graves must not be interfered with by cutting or mowing by anyone other than authorised personnel.  During the course of its 'return to nature' the area will appear to be overgrown and unkempt and this is the intention.  Any outside attempts to ameliorate this situation or make 'tidier or prettier' will not be allowed.

The cost of a coffin, conveyance, funeral director's fees and charges etc, must also be considered when making arrangements for an interment.

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Non-religious services

There is no requirement to have a religious ceremony, or any kind of ceremony at all at a funeral.  People that regard religion to be unimportant or have made a decision to live their lives without it may prefer a Humanist Ceremony.
This type of ceremony is not intended to oppose a religious funeral, but to provide a dignified and respectful celebration of the death that has occurred.

At this type of funeral the services of an officiant, on the lines of a minister or celebrant are commonly employed.  They will conduct the proceedings which can involve readings of appropriate prose, tributes by attendees or the officiant and the playing of appropriate music.
The British Humanist Association website offers advice on all aspects of humanist ceremonies and produce a booklet 'Funerals Without God'.
Celebrants are trained professionals who can officiate at funerals, weddings, namings or any other rite of passage.  For more information on celebrancy visit The International Federation of Celebrants website.
If you don't want a ceremony at all, members of the family or close friends can attend the committal, which can be in silence or with some music being played.

If you have to arrange a funeral for someone who is of a faith different from your own, it is important to contact the equivalent of the local priest of the denomination to find out what needs to be done.  Where a funeral director is used he/she will advise and guide on this.

Most Muslim communities appoint one person who is responsible for making funeral arrangements.  It will be their job to advise of the rules and to select a suitable funeral director.

Hindus are always cremated, and never buried.  There are many possible variations of rites which depend on their form of Hinduism.  The Asian Funeral Service can give advice on and arrange Hindu Funerals.  They can be contacted by telephone on 020 8909 3737 or by e-mail asianfuneralservice@btinternet.com

Jewish funerals are usually arranged by a dedicated Jewish Funeral Agency, or the local community may have a contract with a Gentile funeral service, which will be carried out under strict rabbinical control.
The Jewish Bereavement Counselling Service offers support and can be contacted on 020 8349 0839.

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Legal Advice

If you have any difficulty in dealing with the deceased's property, possessions or guardianship of their children, get advice from a solicitor or Citizens Advice Bureau as soon as possible.
From the CAB (you can get the leaflets Legal Aid Guide and Getting Legal Help from a Citizens Advice Bureau, public library, police station or a court, to find out if you can get legal aid.  These places also hold a list of local solicitors which shows whether they take legal aid cases and if they specialise in probate work.  Again you can search for local solicitors using the on-line Yellow Pages
The Legal Services Commission Website also contains leaflets and other useful information.
Many solicitors are prepared to offer up to half an hour of legal advice for a small fee, some even offer a free initial consultation to discuss your situation.

Probate

Probate is a document issued by the Probate Registry confirming that an executor has the right to wind up an estate (house, money and savings) of the person who has died.  The "executor" is the person chosen in the Will to sort out the estate and make sure it goes to the people named in the Will.

Visit www.courtservice.gov.uk for further information about Probate.

Wills

In order for a will to be valid, it must be:

  • Made by a person who is 18 years old or over
  • Made voluntarily and without pressure from any other person
  • Made by a person who is of sound mind (she/he is fully aware of the nature of the document s/he is writing or signing and aware of her/his property and the identify of the people who may inherit; and in writing)
  • Signed by the person making the will in the presence of two witnesses
  • Signed by the two witnesses, in the presence of the person making the will, after s/he has signed.  A witness or the married partner of a witness cannot benefit from a will.  If a witness is a beneficiary (or the married partner of a beneficiary), the will is still valid but the beneficiary will not be able to inherit under the will

Although it will be legally valid even if it is not dated, it is advisable to ensure that the will also includes the date on which it is signed.  As soon as the will is signed and witnessed, it is complete.  If there is no Will speak to a solicitor - it is safer in the long run because various laws affect who is entitled to wind up the estate and receive the money.

Tax

Inland Revenue leaflet IR45 'What to do about tax when someone dies' gives more information and is available from the www.inlandrevenue.gov.uk.

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Burial and/or Grave Details

The Cemetery and Crematorium maintains records of burials and graves.

Our records hold details on the parish from which the deceased was removed.  For burial dates from around the beginning of the 1930s onwards we should be able to provide you with information about the interment location.

Most searches of our records are not charged.  However, in a few cases, a fee of £21 may be payable.

If you would like details about a burial or grave please contact us.

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