Arranging an exhumation

Exhumation means the removal of a body or cremated remains from the ground.

There are multiple reasons why an exhumation may be requested:

  • the family may want to move the remains to a different plot or a different cemetery
  • the family may request to cremate the remains
  • a family wish to repatriate the remains abroad
  • a court orders that the remains are exhumed for forensic examination

It's a criminal offence to exhume or disturb remains without first holding the appropriate license.

Removal of human remains from the ground (including ashes) is rare. It cannot be carried out without a licence and relevant Burial Authority and Environmental Health conditions.

How to request an exhumation

Download and complete an exhumation license application form from the GOV.UK website. There's no charge for an exhumation licence. However, there may be fees charged by the burial authority and whoever carries out the exhumation.

Once your application is approved, contact a specialist exhumation contractor who will advise on the process to follow and costs. They will consult with the relevant Burial Authorities and Environmental Health Department to organise and then carry out the exhumation.

It's advised that you obtain advice and quotes from more than one contractor as charges and services offered will vary.