Make a will and do things your way

Published: 11/07/2013

Every now and then a story surfaces that, despite its saddening undertones, actually makes you smile. This is exactly what happened when we heard the story of Tony Bryan, a retired builder who thought funerals were a waste of money!

“My father thought the price of funerals was astronomical and a waste of money,” comments Tony’s son Nick.

“He was a practical man with a wicked sense of humour. He used to collect old bits of wood and joke that he’d make his own coffin. I’d tell him to get cracking because he wasn’t getting any younger.”

Sadly Tony died age 73. However his friends and family pulled together and made sure he got a very fitting send off without breaking the bank.

His son crafted a coffin in the shape of a skip, his grandchildren painted it yellow and his daughters made wreaths with flowers picked from their own garden. The ‘skip’ was then loaded onto Tony’s lorry so he could bid one final farewell to his hometown of Worcester before being buried in his back garden.

Personal to you

When you make a Will you have the opportunity to also write a Letter of Wishes where you can give instructions about the gifts you want to make, when and how they are given to your beneficiaries and any specific details about your funeral. This can be anything from the music you want playing to the flowers you’d like or even to be buried in a skip in your own back garden like Tony.

The driving force behind Tony’s wishes was simple – funerals are an expensive business. Taking into consideration all the elements – the hire of the hearse, the purchase of a headstone as well as flowers and catering – funeral can cost anywhere between £4000 and £6000.

As a result thousands of families have taken out loans or used their credit cards to pay for a loved one’s funeral.

So, believe it or not, Tony’s request is not all that uncommon; as many as 2000 people are buried this way each year. There are however certain regulations you must meet in order to be able to have a garden burial. These include:

  • Mortgage of the property is paid off
  • The land is privately owned
  • Complete an Environmental Agency authorised form
  • Ensure the grave is more than:
        - 10 metres from a ditch
        - 30 metres from a spring or running water
        - 50 metres (minimum) from a well or borehole
        - Deep enough to prevent wildlife from digging up the body.
  • Record the position of the grave in the deeds of the property (be aware this could affect the price of the property should it ever go on to be sold and the new owner can exhume the body).

    While definitely not everyone’s top choice, it certainly was for Tony

    “It was hard work,” said Nick, “but we had the satisfaction of knowing we’d honoured his wishes. The funeral didn’t cost much and the way everyone rallied round to create a wonderful and personal celebration of dad’s life was priceless.

    “Dad would say, “Just chuck me in a hole at the back garden in a cardboard box”. And in many ways that’s what we did, along with a load of his tools and his work clothes.

    “He’s buried in his favourite part of the garden, where he loved to tinker.”

Content correct at time of publication

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