Funeral arrangements are usually made by the immediate family of the deceased. The deceased may have left specific instructions about the funeral service they would like and where they would like to be buried or cremated. Most people respect the deceased’s wishes where possible.
If there is disagreement about who should make the arrangements, the personal representatives of the deceased are entitled to make the decisions. The personal representatives are the executors of the will (if there is a will), or the people entitled to administer the estate if there is no will. The people entitled to administer the estate in the absence of a will are immediate family members.
You can engage an undertaker or funeral director to deal with most aspects of the funeral.
The Irish Association of Funeral Directors is the undertaker industry's trade association. Members must follow its Code of Practice, this includes:
- Discussing and agreeing in advance (unless expressly asked not to), the funeral director's charges and payment with the next of kin
- Providing full details of costs and payment
- Providing professional and quality services in arranging and conducting the funeral
- Providing accurate advertising of prices and services
- Sensitivity, confidentiality and a commitment to leaving the customer in control of decisions
Individual funeral arrangements vary widely and depend on, among other things, where the funeral is taking place, the type of coffin (casket) you get and whether or not you hire funeral cars.
The funeral director's job may include the following:
- Discussing the deceased's and the family's wishes and ensuring that all the details are taken care of and that the whole process goes smoothly
- Provision of embalming, the coffin, the hearse, the shroud and the transport of family members
- Organisation of and payment for the grave purchase, grave opening/cremation charges, church offerings, newspaper announcements, flowers, music at the ceremony and catering
Embalming is a specialised process involving the replacement of all body fluids with a substance designed to prevent the body from deteriorating. It is not strictly necessary, especially if the removal and funeral take place relatively quickly after death. About half of all bodies are embalmed.
Burial grounds (cemeteries) in Ireland are governed and maintained by local authorities. The local authority usually appoints a registrar or caretaker for each cemetery to manage the sale of plots in that site and in some cases to maintain the burial ground.
Prices for grave plots and burials in Ireland can vary a lot, so check around for prices, if possible. Further information is available in our document on Burial Grounds.
It is possible to bury a loved one outside an official graveyard, for example, on family land. However, it is very difficult to do so. It is wise to sort this out well in advance of the death, as it may be impossible to organise it legally at short notice. You will need a visit from an Environmental Health Inspector from the local authority's health department who must determine whether the proposed burial site will pollute any water sources or drainage channels and will be located down to a depth of eight feet.
You should contact your local authority for further details.
You can have the deceased's body cremated, and dispose of the ashes by burying them in a family plot using facilities provided by the crematorium or disposing of them privately.
Funeral costs can vary widely depending on what you opt for and depending on whether it is a city or country funeral (rural funeral costs are generally less expensive). If you have difficulty paying for the funeral, your Department of Social Protection's representative at your local health centre (formerly known as the Community Welfare Officer) may be able to help with an Exceptional Needs Payment.
Information for those recently bereaved
Information for those affected by bereavement (pdf) is a publication from the Citizens Information Board. This booklet is aimed at those who have been recently bereaved and provides information and advice on the practical and material matters that arise following a death. It contains information on what to do immediately after a death, possible social welfare entitlements, tax, financial and legal issues that may arise and where to go for further information and support.
The Irish Association of Funeral Directors has a Customer Care Charter that includes a complaints procedure. The procedure involves investigating complaints, trying to find a resolution and providing a full response in writing within 30 days.