A Guide To Home Funerals

When someone you love dies, it can be daunting to pass their body over to someone else.  You may feel that you want to carry out those final tasks and make all the necessary arrangements for your loved-one by yourself.  But what's involved in a home funeral, and can you realistically expect to do everything single-handed?  Read on to find out more.

Legalities and expert advice

Your legal obligations only extend as far as registering the death with your local authority, organising for the body to be disposed of legally, and arranging for the deceased's estate to pass through probate. 

It's perfectly legal for you to assume the role of funeral director, although it's strongly recommended that you seek the advice of your local funeral home like Lee Adam Funeral Services before proceeding.  There's no substitute for experience, and the funeral director will be able to offer you practical help and guidance throughout the process, while still allowing you to carry out much of the work yourself.

Potential problems

In order to understand the enormity of the task you're taking on, it's important to be aware of potential problems and complications that may arise.

If your loved-one dies peacefully and expectedly at home or in hospital, things are pretty straightforward.  However, if the circumstances of the death are suspicious or unexplained, there may need to be a post mortem examination to determine the cause of death.  Similarly, if someone is killed in an accident, dies away from home or from an infectious disease, the body will not be released to you immediately, and you may ultimately end up having to instruct a funeral director to deal with things for you in any event.


It is quite possible to keep a dead body in your home for a week or so, provided you are able to keep the person cool; a portable air-conditioning unit is useful here.  You could also use ice packs or even dry ice as an alternative.  Problems can arise if the deceased had open wounds, septicaemia or an infection.  Such conditions can hasten decomposition and may cause copious fluid leakage.  Certain cancer drugs can also predispose a body to rapid decomposition, regardless of how cool it's kept.

Remember that you'll need to wash the body, dry and dress it, and lay it out in a coffin or shroud ready for burial or cremation.  You won't be able to embalm the body; this is something that a funeral director would have to do for you.

You'll need to source a legal burial site, arrange for the body to be transported there, and possibly organise for an experienced grave digger to prepare the ground for you.  The funeral service itself is largely a matter of personal choice.  You and your family may like to choose suitable words and music for the occasion, make your own floral tributes etc.

In conclusion

Home funerals are certainly an option if you'd prefer to carry out these final practical tasks for your loved-one, but there's a lot of work involved, and the whole exercise can prove extremely stressful, particularly if things don't go according to plan.  There is a useful resource in the form of the latest edition of the Natural Death Handbook to which you could refer for guidance and practical advice.  There's also plenty of advice and information on their website, but before you decide to undertake a home funeral, you're strongly advised to have a chat with your local funeral home for guidance and advice.