We have a responsibility under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act of 1984 to arrange a funeral for anyone who dies in South Gloucestershire when there is no relative or friend to make the funeral arrangements.

We will only take responsibility for all funeral arrangements and estates in extreme circumstances.


We have no responsibility to arrange a funeral for people who die outside of South Gloucestershire. It will be the responsibility of the local authority where the person died. This applies even if the person lived in South Gloucestershire.

We are also not responsible if someone dies in hospital or in an ambulance on the way to hospital. If this happens it will be the health authority’s responsibility.


Public health funeral referrals can come to us from various sources including:

  • His Majesty’s Coroner
  • General Practitioners (GPs)
  • care homes
  • social workers
  • family members

If no one has already registered the death we will register it.

Finding family and friends

When a death is referred to us we will need to investigate the financial circumstances of the deceased person and their next of kin. This will help us to decide if a public health funeral is necessary.

To do this we will need to search through the deceased person’s property to look for a will or documents that will tell us about their financial situation, relatives and funeral preferences.

If we find a will we will ask the executor to make the funeral arrangements.

If we find family and friends we will tell them about the death and ask them if they want to make the funeral arrangements themselves.

Timescales for referrals

We will carry out our investigations as quickly as we can, but it can take us many weeks or sometimes months to do so.

Funeral costs

Any estate (usually money or property) that the deceased has must first be used to pay for the funeral. The only exception is when there are secured debts, such as mortgages or secured loans. Any money left by the person who died should not be used to pay off any other bills.

We have the right, where possible, to recover all the costs incurred in making the funeral arrangements from the deceased’s estate.

This includes:

  • accessing bank accounts such as savings or investments
  • selling belongings
  • placing a charge against property owned

To do this we may need to enter the deceased’s property to identify any estate and remove items or assets.

Any shortfall in the funeral costs will be paid for by us. Where there is no estate no costs will be claimed back.

Getting help to pay for a funeral

You might be able to get a funeral expenses payment to help with funeral costs if you get certain benefits. You can find more information on GOV.UK’s get help with funeral costs page.

Contact us

You can make an enquiry using the details in the contact box on this page.

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