In our previous article "When a patient dies in hospital – Assistance with
funeral costs: Who pays?" we set out the circumstances where a
Trust should assist with the funeral costs of someone who dies in
In this article we address queries such as whether funeral costs
can be recovered particularly where there is no next of kin, and
how a Trust should go about recovering these costs. We also outline
the interplay with the Treasury Solicitor in these
We also cover what a Trust should do with the deceased's
personal effects, and clarifies whether a Trust can recover funeral
costs from the personal effects which the hospital holds.
Can funeral costs be recovered?
Where a Trust has arranged for and paid for a funeral (or has
incurred incidental costs, such as buying a new suit), these
expenses can be claimed against the deceased's estate, if there are
sufficient funds. This is irrespective of who ultimately
administers it (for example a family member or the Treasury
Solicitor). Funeral expenses are the first legal charge against a
deceased's estate. The Trust should therefore ensure that it keeps
receipts of any funeral costs incurred, and submits these to the
individual responsible for administering the estate.
Can funeral costs be recovered if there is no next of kin?
Where the deceased has no known next of kin, their estate then
passes to the Crown. At this point, the Treasury Solicitor may
become involved and undertake a search for any next of kin. If no
next of kin are found, the Treasury Solicitor is granted probate
and administers the estate. As above, the funeral expenses can be
claimed against the deceased's estate if there are sufficient
How would a Trust recover funeral costs?
The Trust should contact the Treasury Solicitor setting out:
- The background to the matter;
- The circumstances of death;
- The steps taken to identify any next of kin and the outcome of
- Any details of the estate which the Trust is aware of;
- Any other relevant information.
The Trust should also submit any details of the expenses it has
incurred in respect of the funeral, and copy receipts.
What action does the Treasury Solicitor take?
After investigating next of kin issues, being granted probate
and becoming administrator of the deceased's estate, the Treasury
Solicitor will take the opportunity to consider the above
information provided by the Trust. As the administrator of the
estate, the Treasury Solicitor will reimburse the Trust's expenses.
There should usually be no problem in the Trust recovering
reasonable costs associated with the funeral.
What happens to the deceased's personal effects held by the
Personal effects which require attention will include any items
brought by or for the patient from home, their clothes, and any
jewellery removed during preparation of the body. Where there is a
confirmed next of kin, personal effects will need to be returned to
them. More valuable items will constitute part of the patient's
estate, and therefore need to be passed to the executor or
administrator (which may or may not be the next of kin).
Importantly, the Trust should document what happens to the
Can funeral costs be recovered from personal effects held by
Where a Trust has arranged and paid for a funeral it should pay
the funeral expenses itself, and should not take it from any monies
or items belonging to the deceased which are held by the hospital.
To do so could be construed as theft. The Trust will be able to
recoup the costs it incurs according to the procedure set out
Trusts should continue to have regard to the Department of
Health Guidance "When a patient dies: Advice on Developing
Bereavement Services in the NHS". Trusts may wish to consider
incorporating the overarching principles of the Guidance into a
more local policy.
Please contact Sumayyah Malna or Clementine Robertshaw for