Caledonia Cremation - Doing Death Differently

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Doing Death Differently - a starting point

Index Pg 4


Pg 5

What is a funeral for?

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The cost

Pg 7

Some 21st century options

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Organising your own funeral

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What’s important for you in the days between a death and the funeral?

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Organising a funeral for someone else

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Basic checklist - when someone dies in Scotland

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Who might need to be informed?

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Digital legacy information

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Initiating conversations

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Your notes


WELCOME Caledonia Cremation is a not-for-profit Funeral Director based in Scotland. In providing this document, we hope to assist and empower you in starting to have discussions with your nearest and dearest. It’s fair to say the reality is that dying is the only certain outcome of life, yet we tend to shy away from discussing or sharing experiences around it. And unnecessary harm is caused because people in Scotland are not open about death, dying and bereavment. Wellbeing can be adversely affected financially, psychologically and even physically. As a not-for profit enterprise with a mission to reduce funeral poverty in Scotland, and increase choice, we are also committed to encouraging more frank and open conversations around all things death-related, because we believe the taboos attached to talking about it contribute to the struggles that people face. We believe that planning ahead not only makes life easier for loved ones, but can also improve the care a person receives as they reach the end of their life. However, in Scotland:

74% of people have not discussed what their wishes would be if they did not have long to live For 61% of these people, this is because they feel ‘too young’ to discuss death, or because death feels ‘a long way off ’ 79% of people don’t have any written plans for their end of life care, financial wishes or funeral wishes Only 35% of people have written a Will Knowing what the options are, and having discussed things in advance, can make a vital difference when ‘the inevitable’ happens. People can then make more informed choices - whether that’s about end of life care or funeral arrangements. Dying isn’t just for the elderly, and we want to encourage the young and healthy to think ahead in terms of funeral planning, in order to avoid future stress. To that end we have included some discussion points and suggested websites and organisations which offer further resources in that regard. Finally we hope that the ideas and practical information here might also assist those who are responsible for organising a funeral for someone in the here and now. If you need any further information or have any questions after reading our booklet, please phone 03000 11 33 11 or email and we will be happy to assist.


WHAT IS A FUNERAL FOR? A good funeral is probably a combination of three things: the mourning of a loss, the commemorating of a life and the sharing of grief.

It’s important to take time and consider what you feel would be an appropriate reflection of the deceased person’s life and how that might be best achieved. For example, someone who is - or was - very environmentally conscious may want to keep the carbon footprint of their funeral low.

Many people these days do seem to prefer to have a ‘celebration of life’, and this is an important aspect of saying goodbye to someone – honouring all the good they have brought to the world and to those that knew them. Acknowledging the gap that their death has created and the sadness around that, is also something that is helpful to the grieving process. Crying and laughing are not mutually exclusive expressions of emotion. A funeral is about the dead and for the living.

A funeral does not have to be in church or crematorium chapel and it can be conducted by anyone of your choosing, be that your local minister, a family member or friend, or a celebrant. Decorating the coffin might be a hands-on way of saying goodbye. A picture board or slideshow can be a wonderful way of sharing memories and moments. A good funeral director will support and help facilitate any such choices.

There are absolutely no rules about how a funeral should be conducted or where, or how long it should be. A thirty minute slot at the crematorium can be adequate for some and feel very short and unsatisfying for others, likewise a traditional church service.

You may wish to take care of the deceased person yourself. It is perfectly legal to take a body home from the hospital if you wish. See for more information.


A lot of people assume there are strict laws and regulations regarding funerals but in fact there are only three rules that apply to the whole business of death and funerals. 1. You must register the death or obtain permission from the Procurator Fiscal to go ahead with the funeral arrangement 2. You must not expose a dead body on the public highway 3. You must dispose of the body in an approved manner – burial or cremation. (with thanks to the Natural Death Centre)


THE COST This postcode lottery means that burial and cremation charges can differ by hundreds of pounds.

Unfortunately the cost of funerals in Scotland today can be a real challenge for many families to meet, making a difficult time even tougher and more fraught.

As the funeral industry changes and evolves to meet people’s changing needs and wishes, thankfully there are now more economical options. The lowest cost option, a direct cremation, can cost around £1000. For some people we understand that even the lowest cost option might be a struggle. If you are worried about how to pay for a funeral, you may wish to phone our Scottish Funeral Costs Helpline on 03000 11 33 01 for advice around your options including eligibility for government assistance. In September 2019 the Scottish Government launched the new Funeral Support Payment which replaces the DWP’s Funeral Assistance Grant for those living in Scotland. It can currently be applied for via Social Security Scotland online or by phoning 0800 182 2222.

We really want people to understand that the amount of money you spend on a funeral is not the measure of your love and respect for them. Certainly in our experience, many people would prefer their families to choose a cost-effective way of saying goodbye and, for example, not go for an ornate, expensive coffin for the sake of appearances. The average cost of a burial in the UK is £4,798, with a cremation costing an average of £3,744 and a direct cremation £1,712. These numbers do not even include the average spend on the “send-off ” (venue, catering, flowers, limousines etc) or the cost of professional legal fees.

If you have walked into a funeral home to organise a funeral and are taken aback by a funeral bill estimate, do remember that you can change your mind! Do not feel obligated to commit to a funeral company because they have started making arrangements or you have handed over the paperwork needed. You should feel comfortable with all aspects of the service provided, including the cost, and it is your right to walk away if you are at all unhappy.

Because a funeral bill can all too easily ramp up unexpectedly, we always suggest shopping around. We have found that most cemeteries and crematorium display their charges online, but funeral directors can sometimes have hidden charges that can stack up. Hopefully new guidance from the Scottish Government will lead to greater transparency in this regard. Where we live in Scotland can also influence the cost of funerals.

Other useful resources for information:

See also:


WHAT ARE SOME OF THE OPTIONS IN THE 21ST CENTURY? The modern world has given us so much more choice in so many aspects of our lives. However, the funeral industry is just catching up in terms of offering and respecting people’s rights to choose from a diverse range of rituals. Sunlife’s Cost of Dying Report 2018 found that when it comes to the types of services that are popular, it seems that traditional religious services are falling further and further out of favour. In fact, 64% of funeral directors say they’ve seen a drop in the number of traditional religious funerals they organise. Eight in ten (82%) funeral directors say they’ve noticed a marked difference in the tone of funeral services – which they describe as a ‘celebration of life’ rather than mourning. director of your choosing. A list of all the sites can be found here.

Donating your body to science may be an appealing option. In Scotland you can do this via five universities: Aberdeen, Dundee, St Andrews, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Whichever university you choose, you will have to submit a Declaration of Bequest – each university has a similar procedure and links to each one, describing the process can be accessed via However, as you will discover, there are many reasons why your donation may ultimately be refused so it is important to have a Plan B.

Direct cremations are increasingly common in the States and Canada and the concept is now becoming more understood and popular in the UK, particularly after it was revealed that David Bowie chose this no-fuss exit. A direct cremation is a cremation at its simplest, with no funeral service tied to the process. The body is collected from the place of death and cared for by a funeral director until the day of the cremation. This allows time for the necessary paperwork to be completed. Usually a plain coffin is used, and the cremation takes place at a time that’s suitable for the crematoria.

Natural Burial Sites (or Woodland burials) are becoming increasingly popular, and most encourage and support families to hold their own bespoke farewell. Bringing the pet dog along for example, or having a marquee.

It is a particularly appealing exit for people who don’t feel the need for the formality of a ceremonial funeral service. When someone has died abroad, a direct cremation can save the considerable cost of transporting the body home and for those who find themselves simply unable to meet the costs of a traditional funeral service and all its trappings, direct cremation offers an affordable alternative.

Although each site may vary in their requirements, essentially the idea is to be as green as possible so a biodegradable coffin (eg bamboo or wicker) is used and normally the deceased is unembalmed and either shrouded in, or wearing natural fibres (eg cotton or linen, not synthetic clothing). Instead of a gravestone, the final resting place is often marked with a tree (planted at the appropriate time) and sometimes a natural stone plaque. Microchip technology keeps track of who is buried where.

After the cremation the ashes can be returned to family or friends. They can then be present at any separately organised memorial service. By not being tied to a crematoria’s schedule, families actually get more time, more headspace and the freedom to create a more personalised farewell ceremony.

There are both private and council owned natural burial sites across Scotland – and each will have their own pricing. Many of them offer their own funeral services or you can use a funeral


PLANNING YOUR OWN FUNERAL Firstly, if you are in the process of planning ahead for your own funeral, we would like to say well done! Having your affairs in order and your wishes known can be a great gift to those left behind who must then deal with the practicalities of a death. And knowing you have done your best to minimise the burden of decision on your loved ones can bring you yourself great peace of mind. We hope that the information and ideas contained here will serve as a helpful inspiration and a practical starting point for making a plan that suits you and your values.

If you wish, Caledonia Cremation can send you a D-Day checklist of all the information and paperwork that is necessary or helpful when you die. We can also send an example of our Register of Wishes for you to use or adapt as you see fit. Our contact details are on the first page of this booklet.

You can be as specific or as general as you would like in your planning. Some people like to plan their own funerals down to the last detail and others are happy to have left only the broadest of instructions behind.

If you are more inclined to record your wishes digitally, these Scottish based options are worth exploring:

You can also access a Register of Wishes to download from this page of the Quaker Social Action website founded by Barbara Chalmers founded by Alasdair Burns

Whatever you decide, we do recommend speaking to your family and/or friends about your wishes. It can be a difficult subject to raise. However, remember that some may welcome the opportunity to talk and be grateful to you for having the courage to do so.

Remember: any Register of Wishes is not legally binding, meaning the person arranging your funeral does not have to abide by it, however more often than not, it is an incredibly reassuring piece of information for your nearest and dearest to have a guideline to refer to.

Others may be reluctant to engage in such conversations which can be discouraging if you want to explore ideas. At Caledonia Cremation we are happy to act as a sounding board if you need us. See page 17 for suggestions on how to broach conversations.

If you want to research costs and options, the Scottish Government’s booklet Planning Your Own Funeral has a spreadsheet type arrangement where you can note down your findings and compare. You can download a copy from the Scottish Government website.

We also recommend that you put your wishes in writing and leave them with your important documents.


PLANNING YOUR OWN FUNERAL THINGS TO CONSIDER Would you prefer to be cremated or buried? If you wish to be buried, do you have a preference for where? Is there a family lair you can use or do you need to purchase one? Would you prefer to be buried in a woodland? Would you like a traditional funeral service with the coffin present? If you prefer to be cremated, do you have any preference for what happens to your ashes? Is there a special place you would like them interred or scattered? Would you like a direct cremation followed by a separately held ceremony or memorial event with or without ashes? Do you have any particular preference about who would conduct your funeral service or celebration of life ceremony? Do you have any particular wishes in terms of the service you would like? Particular songs to be played? Would you prefer your funeral to be as eco-friendly as possible? Does the cost matter to you? How will you convey your wishes and to whom?

Dog Owners: If the care of your pet after your death is a concern for you, do you know about the Dogs Trust and their Canine Care Card Scheme? For people who may not have friends or relations who can take care of their dog, the Dogs Trust is a free rehoming service in the event of the owner’s death. They promise to look after your dog indefinitely until they can find a responsible, loving new home for them. For more information on how it works and how to apply for a card, Scottish dog owners should contact: or phone Emma-Louise on 0141 7735141


WHAT’S IMPORTANT FOR YOU IN THE DAYS BETWEEN A DEATH AND THE FUNERAL? Think about someone close to you who may die in the next few years – it could be a family member or friend whose funeral you for you, and the people around you, in the days between their death and their funeral? It is a personal choice. Your choices will culture and/or finances.

Family traditions Cultural /religious traditions Carrying out the last act of care and/or completing a caring role ** Having them at home for a period of time ** Giving children and other members of the family, friends and carers, a chance to visit and spend Having time to get used to the idea that their life has gone Feeling their spiritual presence and knowing they are ‘ok’ Keeping the costs of the funeral down. Ensuring any send-off reflects the individual’s life and character Keeping it as natural as possible Allowing their soul undisturbed time to leave their body Gathering in their presence with family and friends to share stories, thoughts and laughter. Involving family and friends in arranging the funeral yourselves. Having something purposeful to do for them 10

will likely be involved in organising. What do you think would be important likely be influenced by your personal beliefs, past experiences, community


Not important

May be important

Very important

time privately and comfortably with them

** for more information and help around this, contact 11

ORGANISING FOR SOMEONE ELSE First and foremost, take your time - often people rush into calling and doing. It’s worth just giving yourself time to pause and breathe and absorb the situation before acting. Even a few hours is going to be helpful. Secondly, it is perfectly okay to shop around. For too long the funeral industry has capatalised on the fact that often consumers will unquestioningly pay up for something they’re not even 100% sure they want. It’s an industry where myths and assumptions are commonplace and often left unchecked. Fortunately there are more and more progressive funeral directors who recognise that many funerals happening today do not serve their purpose and want to change that. As do we. Where someone has died may dictate how soon you have to call a funeral director. However, don’t feel obliged to use the funeral director that’s been called to collect the deceased from the care home or community hospital or hospice. Bear in mind though, that you may have to pay a fee of around £200 to that company if you then decide to use another funeral director. For some, handing over the organisation to a funeral director is truly helpful in reducing the stress of the situation. For others, it can feel more cathartic to be hands-on and involved in creating the ritual of goodbye themselves.

sudden and/or young death is likely to be a much greater shock for those left behind and therefore relying on a trusted funeral director and taking a more traditional approach may feel best. Remember though you can have as many elements to a farewell as feels necessary. For example, you may wish to have a private family ceremony initially and organise a more public memorial service at a later date. Remember that at time of great stress, it is easy to feel pressure around making choices. In our experience, concern about “what other people might think” can drive certain decisions. This might even be a subconscious concern. Some people can feel a sense of shame around not having sufficient funds for all the “bells and whistles” that you feel your loved one deserves. However we feel that it’s the thought and care you put into the process, not the amount of money you spend, that is an indication of your love and respect. And just as we all do things differently in life, we can do death differently. What may be right for someone else may not be what’s right for you. Already having a sense of what might be important for you when dealing with someone’s death can be really helpful at the time of need. see page 10 for a list of questions that are useful to reflect on. see also pages 13 and 14 for practical tips.

The age and circumstances of someone’s death will certainly have a bearing on decisions made around the rituals of goodbye. A


QUICK CHECKLIST – WHAT HAS TO HAPPEN WHEN SOMEONE DIES IN SCOTLAND 1. Whether someone dies at home, nursing home, hospice or hospital, you will need to get a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death. (Form 11). This is not something you will keep, it has to be handed to the Registrar when the death is registered. 2. Once that has been issued, (or in some cases, a verification of death by a palliative care nurse), a funeral director is able to collect the deceased if you wish. Or you may wish to call a few to simply to discuss your options. 3. Once you have the certificate of cause of death, you can then register the death. You will need to phone ahead and make an appointment. The Registrar will keep the certificate of cause of death and you will be given: a) the Form 14 (this form must be generated before any burial or cremation can take place) b) a Certificate of Registration of Death which is what most people tend to refer to as the death certificate and this is what you may need to show the bank, insurance companies etc. Most Registrars will issue you one copy for free and charge a fee for extra copies. You have eight days from the point of death to register and you can do so at any local Registrar in Scotland (it does not have to be in the region the person died in) as long as you have the Form 11 – the cause of death certificate. You will need to phone ahead and make an appointment. Also take with you to the Registrar: - NHS medical card if available - any certificate or document relating to pension, benefits or allowances the deceased was receiving from public funds - their birth certificate and marriage or civil partnership certificates if you have them Other information required by the Registrar includes the deceased’s: - full name, address and occupation - country of birth - full name and occupation of their father and full name and maiden surname of their mother - marital status - if the deceased has a living spouse, the registrar will need to know their date of birth too - the name and address of the deceased’s NHS doctor 4. You will need to give the Form 14 you have received from the Registrar to the funeral company you are using which is then submitted with the application for cremation or burial.


WHO MIGHT NEED TO BE INFORMED? Following the death of a family member or someone close, there are so many things to think about and do. You are likely to need to inform certain services and organisations of the death. We hope this guide is a helpful reminder. Firstly, when you register the death, ask the registrar about the Tell Us Once service which lets you inform most government organisations in one go. If it is available in your area, you will receive a phone number and a unique reference number to use either online or by phone.

When you use Tell Us Once you will need, where relevant, the deceased’s: - Date of birth - National Insurance number - Driving licence number - Vehicle registration number - Passport number You will also need: - details of any benefits or entitlements they were getting, for example: State Pension - details of any local council services they were getting, for example: Housing Benefit - the name and address of their next of kin - the name and address of any surviving spouse or civil partner - the name, address and contact details of the person or company dealing with their estate (property, belongings and money), known as their ‘executor’ or ‘administrator’ - details of any public sector or armed forces pension schemes they were getting or paying in to Tell Us Once will notify: - HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) - to deal with personal tax. (For business taxes like VAT, you need to contact HMRC separately) - Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) & Social Security to cancel benefits - Passport Office - to cancel a British passport - Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) - to cancel a licence and remove the person as the keeper of up to 5 vehicles (contact DVLA separately if you keep or sell a vehicle) - the local council - to cancel Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit, a Blue Badge, inform council housing services and remove the person from the electoral register - Veterans UK - to cancel Armed Forces Compensation Scheme payments


OTHER SERVICES AND ORGANISATIONS TO INFORM There may be others depending on your circumstances. However, we hope the following list of suggestions will serve as a helpful prompt. We’ve included the organisations that Tell Us Once also deal with, in case you are not able to access that service.

HOUSEHOLD Council Tax Cleaner Electricity Gas Heating Oil Suppliers Household Insurance Local Council (electoral register) Landlord Maintenance Contracts (eg: gardener or alarms) Mobile phone provider Milk delivery TV and Internet provider Water supply Window Cleaner

MEMBERSHIP Gym Library Sports clubs Employment related (eg Law Society, General Medical Council)

FINANCIAL Accountant Banks Building Societies Car Insurance Credit Card providers Credit Union Employer HMRC (particularly for business tax like VAT) Investment/Share companies Life Insurance companies Loan companies Private Pension Plan Social Welfare State Pension Store Cards

HEALTH Dentist Doctor Optician Private Medical Insurance Therapists (counsellor, physiotherapist, chiropodist)

SUBSCRIPTIONS Charities Magazine subscriptions Mail Order companies Trade Union

OTHER DVLA (licence and vehicle ownership) Veterans UK Passport Office Education Institutes Solicitor Social Media sites (see Page 16 for more information)


DEALING WITH SOMEONE’S DIGITAL ESTATE Most leading online providers have clear privacy policies about the sharing of passwords etc which you may wish to adhere to. However it is ultimately your decision. Ideally, along with or included in their will, people will have assigned a digital executor who has access to all the necessary permissions and passwords to deal with social media and online accounts. Digital executors can also be assigned via the actual site accounts eg. Google/ Facebook.

Accessing electronic devices when someone has died

If the person’s equipment was shared and used by others, then gaining access to any folders and files saved on it should be straightforward. If the devices were private, you may need expert help to access tablets, laptops etc. In that case, contacting the manufacturer of the device (eg Apple, HP, Samsung) is probably the best thing to do as they should be able to assist you with the ‘unlocking’.

Managing or closing online accounts

If, following the death of a loved one, you have no access to password info and need to deal with their digital life, this is a brief overview of how to go about it. More information will be found on their specific sites. Facebook currently has two options for dealing with a deceased person’s account. - Facebook will secure the account so the timeline is memorialised - You can request to have the account removed completely For either option, again you will need to contact Facebook and verify you are an executor or an immediate family member and provide documentation such as the death certificate. NB: for those thinking ahead, Facebook has a feature allowing people to appoint a legacy contact for their account. You will find this by following the drop down menu on the far right side of the page. Click on Settings and then General and you will see the option.

Gmail / Google /You Tube It’s a two stage process and be aware that Google do not guarantee they will allow access even when these are completed Step 1 – submit a request to Google who will review your application. You will need to provide your own contact information as well as documentation on the deceased, such as the death certificate (issued by the registrar) Step 2 – Google will then contact you if they are happy to move to the next stage of the process which will involve further legal documentation. Visit the Google help page for more advice. Twitter will liaise with the person acting on behalf of the deceased to deactivate their account.

Pinterest - contact via to deactivate an account LinkedIn – an electronic document needs to be completed and submitted to remove the LinkedIn profile of someone who has died. LinkedIn will then review the request and respond. More information is provided via their help page. Instagram can be contacted by email to advise them of the death of one of their users. Again, like Facebook, the account can either be memorialized or closed. Their response to your email will likely include a request for proof of death to close down the account. More information can be found via their help page.

We recommend for more information and a ‘digital estate checklist’. The site also has many helpful tutorials for the public regarding making decisions about your online accounts. You could also explore for more information and inspiration.


SOME THOUGHTS ON HOW TO APPROACH DEATH RELATED CONVERSATIONS We tend to speak about conversations around death, dying and bereavement as ‘difficult’, when really they are simply unfamiliar. Because it is a reality we will all face, we want to encourage more open discussion so that everyone can express their feelings around it all and feel heard and understood. And we want people to be accepting of one another’s perspectives. Just as we all have our own individual lifestyle choices, the same applies to our ‘death-style’ choices. Talking about your own desires around your death and funeral If you want to share your own experiences and explore your philosophy around death and dying, attending a local Death Café might be worth considering. An opportunity to drink tea, eat cake and discuss death - what’s not to like?? It was launched with the aim “to increase awareness of death to help people make the most of their (finite) lives.” See The website also has links to interesting podcasts etc. And if there is not a Death Café in your area, you might want to think about starting one up yourself! We can support you in thinking about this if you wish. is a Scottish organisation with a raft of resources available to help you initiate conversations in your community and your home, including a small origami game to help people ‘plan their own future’ and a conversation menu to prompt discussions around death, dying and bereavement. Initiating a conversation with someone else about their wishes If you have someone that you think might benefit from being able to discuss ‘death stuff ’, and don’t know how to begin, it may help to remember the following: - having made your own plans regarding end of life care and funeral arrangements will arm you with information and facts – this is a good place to be able to share, and offer ideas, from. - remember that what feels right for you may not be what someone else chooses. Support them in their choices. - give yourself permission to do it imperfectly - we are human and thus we are imperfect. - try to be humble and avoid going into ‘I know what’s best for you’ mode. - acknowledge the awkwardness – and the fact that in the modern world we tend to pretend we are going to live forever and that talking about dying has become uncomfortable. - it doesn’t jinx someone to talk about death - plenty of people never discussed death or dying and died anyway - it may take several attempts to make progress or build a comfortable connection around the subject matter. Talk about dying as well as death - research shows that the majority of people nearing the end of life, or even with a recent terminal diagnosis, are more likely to appreciate the attempt than not. - because no-one likes to talk about death, people can end up feeling isolated in their dying. - often the concept of dying is far more frightening to people than ‘being dead’ so we recommend reading “With The End In Mind” by Dr Kathryn Mannix, an experienced palliative care consultant. Her book is an excellent way to understand the process of a natural death.