When a person dies within our area and there is no one available to take responsibility for the funeral, under Section 46 of the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984, Central Bedfordshire Council may arrange the funeral.
Should the person die in hospital or in an ambulance on the way to hospital, the hospital may arrange the funeral, however they have no legal responsibility to do so.
We would not usually undertake these arrangements if there was a next of kin, or if the next of kin was in receipt of benefits as the Department of Work and Pensions (link opens in new window) would pay for a very basic funeral. Where the deceased is ex-service personnel then you should also try contacting the Royal British Legion (link opens in new window) before contacting us as they may be able to deal with the funeral arrangements on your behalf.
You can call us on 0300 300 8767.
What happens after we have been notified?
When we have been told about a death, the deceased personal belongings are collected by us from the police or whoever else has them.
If the address of where the deceased person lived is known, we 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.
We will register the death, 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. We will then take no further action.
Who pays for the funeral?
The cost of the funeral is usually met out of the estate of the deceased. If there are insufficient funds the executor is personally liable. Where the deceased has not left a Will the person arranging the funeral (normally their next of kin) is liable to meet the funeral costs. If the next of kin is not prepared to arrange and pay for the funeral (i.e. there are insufficient funds in the estate) they will be asked to make a written statement to confirm that they are not prepared to do this.
What happens to the deceased belongings / estate?
We may be required to search the property of the deceased to establish next of kin / family details and to secure any items of value.
Where there is no next of kin, the estate will be referred to the Government Legal Department (subject to value of estate being in excess of £500 following all funeral costs). More information can be found on the Government Legal Department website (link opens in new window)
Where the deceased lived in rented accommodation, once are satisfied that there are no items of value, the landlord should take responsibility for clearing the premises at their costs. If the deceased lived in a care / nursing home, the home is accountable for the disposal of the effects.
Public health funerals - Freedom of Information requests
We are often asked for information about public health funerals, people who have died with no known next of kin, bona vacantia estates and estates which have been referred to the Treasury Solicitor, or Duchy of Lancaster or Cornwall. This information is supplied by year and the listings contain all information that can be made publically available. For further information on Freedom of Information Act, please visit our information governance page.