Public health funerals

Information about public health funerals.

Under the provisions of Section 46 of the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 Local Authorities have a duty to arrange a funeral for any person dying within their jurisdiction intestate and without any next of kin.

Under normal circumstances the deceased will be cremated unless the Council has any reason to believe such a funeral would be contrary to their wishes or religious beliefs and in such cases a burial would be arranged.

Under the provisions of Section 50 of the National Assistance Act 1948 the Council has the power to recover the costs of any funeral from the estate of the deceased or from anyone who was caring for them immediately before their death. The Council will not intervene in any case where a next of kin has been identified or a funeral has already been arranged however decisions on such matters will be made purely on a case by case basis once all facts regarding their affairs have been established.

What the Council will and won't do

We will:

  • Register the death.
  • Deal with the undertakers and organise the details of the funeral.
  • Make all reasonable attempts to find a living next of kin.
  • Administer the estate of the deceased.
  • Involve friends and any discovered relatives of the deceased in the process.
  • Pay for the funeral and cremation or burial.
  • Recover the cost of the funeral from any estate left by the deceased.
  • Settle any outstanding debts under £500:00 if there are sufficient funds.

We will not:

  • Accept responsibility where a living next of kin has been identified, the funeral has already been arranged or undertakers instructed.
  • Accept part payment for a funeral organised by us.
  • Erect a headstone or other memorial to the deceased.
  • Contribute to the costs of funerals organised by other persons.
  • Administer Estates on behalf of others.

If there is any remaining estate greater than £500 after the Council has recovered all expenses reasonably incurred and no living next of kin can be found it will be referred to the Government's Treasury Solicitor for final administration.
If you are having difficulty meeting the costs of a funeral for a family member or friend you may be able to get assistance from the "Social Fund". To find out what you are entitled to and how to apply for it you should obtain a copy of the Leaflet - D49 "What to do after a death in England and Wales" This should be available at all local Benefits Offices or can be downloaded through the link below.

As we are frequently asked for information about public health funerals, people who have died with no known next of kin, bona vacantia estates or estates which have been transferred to the Treasury Solicitor or Duchy of Lancaster or Cornwall we publish the following information about public health funerals. We receive few requests to carry out public health funerals and so we will only update the list after a funeral has been carried out.

Exemption of updated information

Under Section 22 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (intended for future publication) we will exempt updating the information before the necessity to do so. The reason for applying this information is that we have very few, details of all deaths within the borough are registered. Deaths can be registered at any Registry Office.  Information that we hold on estates passed, or estates to be passed to the Treasury Solicitor is considered to be held on behalf of the Treasury Solicitor’s Department. Some details of the estate of those person who have died and which have been passed to the Treasury Solicitor can be accessed via the Bona Vacantia website. Revealing details of the assets of an estate before the Treasury Solicitor has undertaken their own enquiries would provide an opportunity for criminal acts to be committed (for example, theft or fraud). Similarly, there would be concerns about making the last known address of the deceased public, as the property is likely to be unoccupied and might still contain the deceased’s personal papers and effects.

Surrey County Council provide help and guidance about some of the things that you need to do from the moment a bereavement occurs, as well as providing details of groups and contacts that may assist you over the first few days and weeks.