Paupers Funerals under the Public Health Act

Paupers Funerals under Public Health Act

Paupers Funerals
Public Health Act

BBC video report on pauper’s funeral can be viewed here.  There will always be some circumstance where there is no other way, but for many families there may be other ways in which they or their family can plan ahead. Councils are taking an increasingly hard line in threatening executors and family. The person who instructs the undertaker (which should be the executor if there is a Will, otherwise next of kin) becomes personally liable to pay the bill if the person who died doesn’t have the assets to do so.

The only – horrible – way out is for everyone to refuse to have anything to do with arranging the funeral, and ignore the bullying.  There may be a little bit of help available (see below) but whether you will qualify for it is often not decided for months after the funeral.  So grieving mixed with severe financial uncertainty.

Paupers funerals are provided by local authorities under section 46 of the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984.  If someone else in the family, or a friend owns the right prepaid funeral plans (but not most) they can donate it to the person who would otherwise suffer the Public Health funeral.  An alternative is to buy them a funeral plan while they are alive. Either way, we’re here to help advise on prepaid funeral plans. (But not Public Health ones, we just thought some informal notes would be helpful.)

When a person dies within the local authorities boundary and there is no-one available to take responsibility for the funeral,  the local authority may arrange a basic funeral.  They will recover the costs (including their time) from the estate.  Most people and their families will wish to avoid a Public Health funeral if possible.  However, can usually only be done by planning  well in advance.

Planning to avoid a paupers funeral
Planning to avoid a paupers funeral or financial problems for your family.

There are a few tips on the page about Government Funeral Payments. Make sure that the funeral director will accept the amount available under the it. Bear in mind that almost half of applications for funeral help are rejected.  This leaves the person who booked the funeral director responsible for the whole funeral bill.

But please don’t confuse Paupers Cremations under the Public Health Act with the Government Funeral Payment.   They are quite different, and if you get help from one, you can’t get help from the other.

The family CANNOT arrange a Paupers Funeral.

A paupers funeral has to be arranged by the local authority.  Even so, the funeral expenses are the first call on any estate, so the local authority will reclaim its’ expenses if there are any assets in the  deceaseds’ estate. Many will put pressure on relatives to pay, even if they are not legally required to.  The Council can and will collect any and all sums of money due or belonging to the deceased and sell any belongings of the deceased to help offset the cost of the paupers funeral.  Any shortfall would be borne by the Council.

The Local Authority will not get involved if funeral arrangements have already been made or the funeral has taken place. Just to remind you, anyone giving instruction to a firm of Funeral Directors is responsible for the costs.

Paupers funerals are a cremation unless the local authority believe that cremation would be contrary to the wishes or religion of the deceased.  The funeral director is paid to give a dignified funeral, with a respectable but basic coffin which will be taken to the ceremony or crematorium in a hearse attended by bearers.

The funeral is conducted in a respectful way so an observer could not be aware that it was a paupers funeral.  Generally, after the funeral and administration charges have been deducted, and if there were no other bills outstanding, any money left would go to the Treasury Solicitor in accordance with their guidelines for referring estates in ‘Bona Vacantia” Department, though those entitled under the Rules of Intestacy would be able to claim what was left.

The doctor confirming death will generally issue the death certificate together with a sheet giving instructions and guidance on who can register a death and the procedure for doing so.  When deaths come under the Coroner’s jurisdiction, his office will tell the person taking responsibility for the funeral.  Advice can also be sought from the Registrar of Births, Marriages and Deaths. The local authority would not undertake these arrangements if the deceased died in hospital, as the hospital authorities would take responsibility:  they will also need to be repaid should any assets be discovered in the estate of the deceased.

Paupers funerals under the Public Health Act.

Pauper’s funerals could return to UK, say MPs

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