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Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984

Sections 43 to 45 

contain appropriate powers for pulic authorities to carry out burial or cremation of bodies where a person has died while suffering from a notifiable disease.


Section 46 (1) 

'District Councils must cause to be buried or cremated the body of any person who has died or been found dead in their area, in any case where it appears that no suitable arrangements for the disposal of the body have been made or are going to be made otherwise than by the authority.'


Section 46 (5)  

Provides that 'where a funeral is arranged by an authority defined under the provisions of the 1984 Act, it is possible for such authority to recover from the estate of the deceased person or from any person who was liable to maintian the deceased person immediately before his death expenses incurred in arranging the buiral or cremation'.


In practice 

this means that most 'intestates' are referred to the cemeteries and crematorium office by the coroner's officer, after extensive searches to try to trace relatives.


  • Persons provided with accommodation under part 111 of the National Assistance Act 1948 by the Local Authority, or were living in a hostel under section 29 of that Act will have arrangements made by the Social Services section of the Council, if there is no estate or next of kin.
  • Persons (without estate or next of kin) dying in hospital will have arrangements made by the Patient Affairs officer.
  • Where a next of kin is receiving benefits from the Department of Social Security, they may claim basic funeral expenses from the DSS.

NB Once someone has instructed a Funeral Director, they are responsible for the funeral. The Authority cannot by law take over at that stage.


 Funeral Service

  • We will do our best to contact any known friends, relatives or neighbours to ensure that no-one is willing or able to make the funeral arrangements, to ascertain whether the deceased has ever expressed a preference for burial (which will be in a public grave) and to find out if there is a preferred date for the funeral. (Usually, these funerals are carried out as the first funeral of the day, but a later time may be allocated at the discretion of the Bereavement Officer if it is deemed necessary in order that relatives/friends may attend.)
  • In the absence of any family members, we will register the death after making an appointment with the registrar’s office. If there are family members, who do not object to registering the death (despite not wanting to take responsibility for the funeral) it is preferable for them to do so. Or friends, social workers, home helps may do so if they wish.
  • As we wish to treat everyone equally and without discrimination of any sort we cannot offer any choices in procedure (e.g. such as burial in a cemetery outside the Authority’s area) – however, the funeral service content can and will be accommodated whenever possible (e.g. favourite hymns – non-religious service – candles – etc.).
  • When we have identified a suitable date and time for the funeral, we will contact a local funeral director to request that the person be removed from the mortuary or place of death to his/her premises, where they will remain until the funeral. As enquiries have usually been made before referral to us, we try to carry out the funeral as soon as possible to give closure.                                                                                                                               
  • The funeral director will bring the coffin to the cemetery & crematorium well in advance of the funeral and it will be waiting on the catafalque at the start of the service (or on trestles in the case of burial).
  • A minister will carry out the service unless there is evidence from family, friends or neighbours that this would not have been acceptable to the deceased, in which case a non-religious service will be provided.
  • A member of staff always attends each funeral.
  • Following the funeral the remains will be buried in the current shrubbery. If a family grave or vault is identified to which the deceased only would have had the right to apply for transfer of ownership within one of the council's cemeteries, the remains may be interred there at the discretion of Bereavement Services staff.

Bona Vacantia 

Where the estate is solvent, but the deceased neither left a will nor blood relations, the estate is referred to the Treasury Solicitor (or Bona Vacantia).  Referrals are not made where the remainder of the estate is less than £500 (excluding funeral expenses) or there are any known relatives sharing the same grandparent.

Bath & North East Somerset Council is only concerned to establish that the estate is greater than the threshold stated above before referring to Bona Vacantia and the only financial records kept are those relating to the costs of arranging the funeral in order to claim reimbursement. No estimates of overall value are made at any time, nor any records kept to enable such an estimate to be made.

Names and dates of death of those whose estates have been referred to Bona Vacantia will be posted on this page at six monthly intervals in arrears i.e. at least six months will elapse between referral to Bona Vacantia and posting. (The last known address of the deceased will not be published in the interests of the current residents of the property.)

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