Burial Formalities

A Certificate of Disposal must be seen before a Burial takes place

Clergy and Readers taking funerals are reminded that before a burial may take place in a churchyard, the minister conducting the service must be satisfied that a “Certificate of Disposal” for the body (the “green form”) has been issued by the Registrar of Births and Deaths, or a corresponding Order made by the Coroner.  The Certificate (or Coroner’s Order) should be produced to the minister before the burial. It is evidence that the death has been duly registered, and authorises disposal of the body.

To avoid any last minute delays at the funeral itself, the minister should ask the family or the undertakers to ensure that the Certificate is provided at least 48 hours before the burial is scheduled to take place.  If this is not possible, the minister should ask at least to have a copy of the certificate or coroner’s order sent over by email. 

In exceptional circumstances, if production of the Certificate prior to the funeral has not been possible, but the minister is satisfied by a written declaration that the Certificate or Order has been issued but has been left behind or mislaid, the burial may proceed, but only if the minister obtains a written undertaking that the missing Certificate or Order has been issued and will be produced as soon as possible.  Nevertheless, those taking burial services are recommended to ensure that they see the Certificate at least 48 hours before the funeral in order to avoid any last minute misunderstandings. The written declaration must be in the prescribed form – see a specimen at Declaration – Births and Deaths Registration Act 1926

It would be helpful if the requirement for a Registrar’s Certificate or Coroner’s Order to be produced before a burial takes place could also be mentioned to churchwardens, so that if the regular priest or minister is absent for any reason and another minister is taking a burial service, the churchwardens can make sure that they have had sight of the Certificate or Coroner’s Order before the burial proceeds.

Burial of a body without a green form can give rise to a criminal prosecution under the Births and Deaths Registration Act 1926, and may attract a fine at level 1 on the ‘standard scale’ (currently up to £200)