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Stopping someone from attending a funeral is a difficult decision to make. But if they’re likely to cause a disruption it may be better if they pay their respects another way. Here we help you navigate this difficult situation so you can say goodbye to your loved one in the way you’d like.

Can you legally stop someone from attending a funeral in the UK?

You can’t stop someone from attending a funeral in the UK. There’s no legal way of banning someone because funerals take place in public places. The only exception is if the person who’s banned from the funeral has a restraining order against them or has threatened someone attending the funeral. In this case the police may get involved.

So can anyone attend a funeral?

Funerals are generally public events. And if the service has been announced in a local newspaper or on social media, for example, then anyone may attend to pay their respects. Often families welcome this. It’s a good way of making sure that everyone who knew the person can say goodbye, even if they haven’t seen them for a long time. But if the family specify that the funeral is private then it’s best for people not to attend unless they’re invited.

Who decides who can attend a funeral?

If the person who died left a will then the executor of the will is responsible for organising the funeral. Ultimately they’ll decide who should attend even if they get help from other family members or friends to arrange the funeral.

The executor of the will may find that the person who died left clear instructions in their will on who should or shouldn’t attend their funeral. Or they may have had a conversation with the person who died about their final wishes. If the person didn’t leave a will behind then the next of kin is responsible for organising the funeral and deciding who should attend.

Can you ban someone from your own funeral?

You can’t exactly ban someone from your own funeral. But if you’re planning your own funeral and talking about it with close family members you might want to discuss who should be invited – and who shouldn’t. This will be dealt with by them or whoever you name as executor in your will. So having this conversation ahead of time will help them prepare and figure out how to deal with the situation when the time comes.

How to handle stopping someone attending a funeral

Stopping someone attending a funeral can be a difficult situation to manage. So here are a few suggestions that might help:

  • Don’t put a funeral notice in the newspaper or online. Privately invite the people you want to attend instead.
  • If you do have funeral notices or obituaries published make sure they say that the funeral service is by invitation only.
  • Tell your funeral director about the situation especially if the person is likely to show up unannounced. Talk to them about how things should be handled if possible. You or your funeral director may also need to talk to the venue to make them aware of the situation.
  • Speak to other family members and friends attending the funeral. Figure out what to do if the person shows up at the service and how best to handle it.
  • If it’s an option, speak with the person who’s not invited to the funeral and tell them your reasons for not having them there. This may not be possible depending on your personal circumstances, but it may be a way of reaching a compromise. For example, could they visit the person’s resting place on a separate occasion?
  • Consider having a private wake or memorial service after the funeral. You could have a simple funeral service that’s open to everyone and focus more on the wake or memorial instead. That way can you choose who you want to get together with to remember your loved one.

This is a tough situation to manage. Hopefully we’ve helped you figure out the best approach for you and your family so you can say goodbye to your loved one in the most peaceful way possible.

Funeral Choice is a free resource that provides you with a list of funeral directors near you. You can also find other funeral planning advice on our site.