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No-one can be cremated until the cause of death is definitely known. The crematorium usually needs:

  • An application form signed by the next of kin or executor, and either,
  • Two cremation certificates (the first signed by the treating doctor and another signed by a doctor not involved with the treatment of the person who has died), or
  • A cremation form signed by the coroner (if the death has been investigated by the coroner).

You have to pay for the cremation certificates signed by the two doctors. If the coroner investigates the death and orders a post-mortem or opens an inquest, you do not need these two certificates. Instead, the coroner will give you a free certificate for cremation.

You or someone you choose can make an appointment to see the two doctors’ certificates before the cremation, if you tell the crematorium and give them your contact details.

If the crematorium is satisfied that the cause of death is confirmed, and that all the forms are filled in correctly, the ‘medical referee’ will sign the form to authorise cremation. If there is a problem the medical referee can refuse the cremation and make further enquiries, but must give a reason for doing so.

A ‘medical referee’ is appointed by the Secretary of State to authorise all cremations in a crematorium.

If the person died outside England and Wales, see page 20.

It is important to make it clear to the funeral director or crematorium staff what you want to be done with the ashes. If this is not clear, they will need to contact you to discuss what they should do. You can scatter someone’s ashes in a garden of remembrance or their favourite place, bury them in a churchyard or cemetery, or bury or scatter them on private land if you have the landowner’s permission, or you can keep them.

In the case of babies and very young children, there may be no ashes after a cremation. At some crematoriums, you can arrange to have a memorial plaque which you may have to pay for.

With Grace