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Public Health Funerals

When somebody dies in Swale we organise a cremation or burial for them under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 when:

  • no funeral arrangements have been made
  • no relatives can be found
  • the relatives aren’t able or not prepared to arrange a funeral

If the deceased:

  • died as an in-patient in a hospital managed by an NHS Trust and there are no relatives, they will take responsibility for the funeral arrangements and recover their expenses from the deceased's estate
  • died in a nursing home, funeral arrangements are normally made by relatives or social services, as they will often be managing the finances of the deceased
  • lived in Swale but died somewhere else, the local authority where they died will arrange their funeral

Dealing with the deceased’s estate

Before we make the funeral arrangements, our officers will search the last known address of the deceased. We’ll look for a will, evidence of family or friends, and any items that may be used to cover our costs. We may need to remove personal possessions from the property, including address books, correspondence, legal documents, financial paperwork, and possessions such as jewellery which may be sold to raise money.

We are not responsible for clearing or cleaning the property.

Following the search, the deceased’s property will be secured and the:

  • keys returned to the landlord, if the property was rented
  • property was owned by the deceased, it will be referred to the Government Legal Department and we’ll follow their instructions

If the family have already removed any possessions from the deceased’s home, these may need to be returned to us to help offset our costs.

We are entitled to recover costs but are not empowered to administer the estate.

Where there is a surplus of over £500, after the funeral costs and our expenses, the estate shall be referred to the Government Legal Department unless the deceased has living family.

If the deceased has living relatives we’ll hold monies until a legally entitled person is able to administer their estate. They’ll need to have letters of administration from the courts.

In the situation where there is residual money from the deceased’s estate then you’ll need to get letters of administration to receive it.

Executors of a Will

We will not make funeral arrangements where the deceased left a will, and the executor is traced. In such cases we expect the executor to make suitable arrangements. If the executor doesn’t want to perform these duties, they’ll need to get legal advice and declare they don’t want to be involved in the funeral arrangements.

When someone still has living relatives 

As part of our investigations, we use a genealogy company to search for direct relatives. If we find them, we’ll write to them asking them to get in contact with us.

If the deceased still has living family, their closest surviving relative will need to sign a form stating they are willing for us to make the funeral arrangements.

Once we have the necessary agreements , we’ll organise the funeral. This includes registering the death, liaising with our contracted funeral directors, and paying for the funeral.

The funeral

We will normally arrange a cremation at a local crematorium, unless it is established that the deceased would have chosen burial for religious, cultural, or personal reasons.

There will be no ceremony, cars or flowers and no opportunity for family or friends to attend.

Following a cremation, the cremated remains will normally be scattered at the crematorium Gardens of Remembrance

Collecting the ashes

In certain circumstances, the ashes may be given to a close family member or friend.  They will need to collect the ashes from the crematorium.

To collect the ashes, we’ll need to know when you’ll be collecting them.

The crematorium will need to see proof of identification before you can collect the ashes.

If family members or friends cannot agree on who the ashes should be released to we’ll make arrangements for the ashes to be scattered in the crematorium gardens.

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