Public health funerals

If somebody dies and it appears that no suitable arrangements have been made then Oldham Council has a responsibility to make sure that a person receives a proper burial or cremation (Section 46 of the 1984 Public Health Act).

This usually happens when someone dies with no known blood relatives or has relatives that do not want or who are not able to be involved.

When does this happen?

Oldham Council normally act’s on instructions from the local Coroners Office.

In some cases managers of residential homes or sheltered accommodation tell the council when a death has happened at their home or accommodation.

This happens when they do not think that there are any relatives willing or able to make the funeral arrangements.

If a person dies in hospital then arrangements for burial or cremation are the responsibility of the health authority.

What happens next?

When the council has been told about a death the deceased person’s belongings are collected by the Council from the police or whoever else has them.

If the address of where the deceased person lived is known, the Council will search their home to try and find a will or any other documents that will tell us if they have any relatives, religious beliefs or funeral preferences.

The death is registered by the Council if it has not already been done.

If details about family and friends are found, they will be told about the death and asked them if they want to make the funeral arrangements.

If a will is found the executor (the person who will be responsible for looking after your estate when you die) will be asked to make the funeral arrangements in line with the deceased person’s wishes. The council will then take no further action.

Who pays for the funeral?

The cost of the funeral is normally paid for using the money from the deceased persons estate. (A person’s estate is all the belongings you own when you die). If there isn’t enough money in their estate to meet the costs, the executor of the will is personally responsible.

If the deceased person has not made a will the person who is arranging the funeral (normally the next of kin) is responsible for the funeral costs.

Help may be available from other sources like charities and the department of works and pension Support will be provided to help claim for these funds. If this happens we will tell the executor that they should keep the funeral costs to a minimum as funds may be limited.

If the next of kin is not prepared to arrange or pay for the funeral, for example if there isn’t enough money in the deceased persons estate to pay for the funeral. The next of kin will be asked to make a written statement to confirm this.

Burial or cremation?

Unless we know that the deceased would have wanted a burial, funeral arrangements will be made with a funeral director of our choice to have a cremation service. If the deceased has left paperwork or told family or friends that they wanted to be buried, suitable arrangements will be made. In either case an appropriate religious or non-religious ceremony will be arranged depending on the deceased’s beliefs (if we know what their beliefs were).

At the crematorium a Public Health Funeral is just the same as any other funeral with a chapel service. If possible the minister doing the service will have an opportunity to speak to the family before the funeral so that they can make the service a personal one. If family and friends are going to be at the funeral, if appropriate, a hymn may also be included in the service.

If it is a burial a graveside service is normally held, this would be the same as any other graveside service apart from there would not be a gravestone to mark the grave.

Property and belongings of the deceased person

The property will be made secure and any keys or property belonging to the deceased that family and friends have should be handed in for safekeeping. All property should be recorded and handed into the Client Financial Affairs Team. Oldham Council will then issue a receipt for any property handed in.

Property should only be handed over to the legal representatives dealing with the deceased person’s estate. This may not be family or friends because if a will has been made executors may have been chosen

If the deceased left furniture or other personal belongings Oldham Council cannot make arrangements for these items to be disposed of. The cost of clearing the property is normally met by the estate. Property should not be removed from the house unless legal authority exits to do so.

If the deceased person’s belongings are not worth anything in monetary value and the property was rented, the landlord is responsible for recovering the property and dealing with the contents

If, after the funeral costs have been met and there is still some money left over, Oldham Council will tell the Duchy of Lancaster to follow the rules set down by the Secretary of State.

Recovery of expenses

Wherever possible Oldham Council will recover expenses from the deceased’s estate to limit the cost to the taxpayer.

The following administration fees will be made and recovered from the estate

  • Administration fee without property search: £303.00
  • Administration fee with property search: £544.00
  • Cost of funeral: Actual cost of services

If there is not enough money in the deceased person’s estate to cover the administration costs a statement will have to be made. This will need to confirm what has been left in the deceased persons estate (including money possessions and property) and the charges may not apply.


Oldham Register Office
Chadderton Town Hall
Middleton Road
Chadderton
Oldham, OL9 6PP
Tel 0161 770 8960
Fax 0161 770 3729