Funeral arrangements and costs
Funeral arrangements are usually made by the immediate family of the person who died. The deceased person 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 who are administering the estate if there is no will.
You can engage an undertaker or funeral director to deal with most aspects of the funeral.
Funerals during COVID-19
Dealing with the loss of a loved one has been different during COVID-19. The pandemic has impacted many religious, cultural and family traditions – whether the person has died from COVID-19 or not.
Practical steps when arranging the funeral
You should contact your preferred funeral director as soon as you can. The HSE has issued guidance to all funeral directors (pdf) to ensure your loved one is handled safely and with care.
Let people know that your loved one has died. Your funeral director can place a notice on rip.ie, and you may want to tell your local newspaper or radio station.
You can read about Government guidance in the Department of Health’s Guide for the Bereaved.
If the deceased person had COVID-19
The funeral director should, where possible, allow the coffin to remain open. Their decision is based on the potential risk of infection. To avoid infection you should not kiss the deceased person.
You should avoid direct contact with the funeral director if you have been in close contact with the deceased. Instead, try to arrange the funeral details over the phone or by email. If you find this too difficult, you can ask a family member to be your spokesperson.
If the bereaved family wants to wash and dress the bereaved person themselves because this is part of your religious beliefs or customs, the funeral director can advise you on how to do this safely.
The Irish Hospice Foundation has more information on ‘Planning a funeral when your relative has died from COVID-19’.
On the day of the funeral
A funeral venue can operate at full capacity. Protective measures, like mask wearing are no longer required. You may feel more comfortable wearing a face mask and can do so if you prefer.
Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 should stay at home, away from the funeral (even if they are a close family member).
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
- Providing the coffin, the hearse, and the transport of family members
- Organising and paying 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.
Burials and cremations
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.
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.
Cremation is an alternative to burial when someone dies. 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 choose and depending on whether it is a city or country funeral (rural funeral costs are generally less expensive).
If you need financial support, you may be eligible for an Exceptional Needs Payment. This is a single payment to help with essential, once-off, exceptional costs (which you could not reasonably cover with your weekly income). This payment is means tested. This means you will have to give information about how much income you have, including savings and insurance policies that the deceased family member may have had to cover funeral costs.
How to apply for an Exceptional Needs Payment
Ideally, you should apply for funeral assistance before the funeral takes place. If not, you should apply as soon as possible afterwards.
You will need Personal Public Service (PPS) numbers for yourself, your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant and your children.
You will also need evidence of any income or social welfare assistance you are getting (such as a bank statement).
Bereavement: A Practical Guide is our publication for people who have been recently bereaved. It provides information and advice on practical matters that arise following a death. It includes information on what to do immediately after a death, possible social welfare entitlements, tax, financial and legal issues 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.