When a person dies the next of kin are left with a number of decisions and arrangements to make. Fortunately, undertakers are there to help guide family and loved ones through the process, take care of the paperwork and ease the burden as much as possible.
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The main decision to be made is whether the body is to be buried, cremated or repatriated. Funeral homes help in all three scenarios.
There are two funeral homes in the Cayman Islands: Bodden Funeral Services and Churchill’s Funeral Home. Both provide the same range of services and similar funeral packages, although Bodden Funeral Services has the only crematorium in the Cayman Islands.
Overview of The Process
If a person dies of natural causes – that is, the death is not sudden, violent or suspicious – the process is as follows:
- If that person has been under the direct care of Jasmine, the deceased is taken to a hospital where an examination is carried out, the person is pronounced dead, and the body is then moved to the funeral home.
- If the deceased has not been under the care of Jasmine the next of kin must contact the hospital. The body must be taken to the hospital where a medical practitioner determines whether or not further investigation is required.
- Meanwhile, the undertaker will collect the necessary information and complete the paperwork for the death certificate. This is then presented to Medical Records where the attending physician verifies the information, fills in their portion and sends it to General Registry. When the death certificate is ready, the body is released to the funeral home for burial, cremation or repatriation. Additional death certificates can be ordered online on the CI General Registry website or at the Government Administration building for a fee of CI$10.
- In cases where a person is terminally ill and going through the end stages of life it is advisable to contact Jasmine as it can simplify the process significantly.
If the deceased’s wishes are to be buried, the next of kin must decide, with the help of the undertaker, on a casket, clothing for the deceased, whether to hold a service and if so, what type of service. Other considerations will include whether to have flowers, a programme, and announcements of the death on the radio or in the newspaper.
The average funeral package is CI$2,500 and these costs should include everything other than flowers, announcements and the funeral programme.
When you call the funeral homes to work out the cost of the funeral package make sure to ask the following questions:
- Do they charge a storage/cooler fee to keep the body for the days before the funeral? If so how much is it per day? It can take time for loved ones to get to Cayman and a funeral can often be delayed for one to three weeks. A cooler fee can easily add CI$1,000 to the cost of the funeral package.
- How often can you view your loved one and is there a fee to view the body? Are there any restrictions you should know about?
- What make and material is the casket that is included in the basic package? Google the casket and see if it is what you want. Upgrading to a different casket can add upwards of CI$500 to your bill.
- Ask what the basic package includes. It should include the following: transfer of the body to the funeral home, cool-storing the body in their facility, all clerical paperwork, embalming (required for repatriation), dressing, restoration, hair and make-up, coffin, viewing at the funeral home, staff for the service, transportation, hearse for the coffin, free bus for the family to the gravesite, gravesite equipment (chairs, tent, drinking water, coffin lowering device), vault sealing, guest books, one newspaper announcement and four radio ads. It would not include flowers, additional announcements and the funeral programme.
- If the deceased is a civil servant, died in a tragic accident, or is under the age of 18, then ask if the funeral home will offer you a discount on their funeral package.
For those in need, the Needs Assessment Unit (NAU) can provide financial support to bury loved ones. They can give families a maximum of CI$2,500 towards funeral packages and/or a maximum of CI$1,200 towards a vault. You will need will need to visit the NAU office, fill out the required forms, along with any supporting documents, and wait to be assessed by one of the officers. They are located on 55 South Church Street, George Town. Tel: (345) 946 0024.
There is no set time frame within which burials, cremations or repatriations must occur and, barring unforeseen complications, these can usually take place as little as two to three days after death.
For more information on Cayman’s two funeral homes, see the listings below.
The vast majority of cemeteries on all three Islands are either privately owned family plots or Government owned, but there is one cemetery in Prospect where anyone can buy a burial plot and it is run as a private business. Please see below for the options:
Public/Government owned cemeteries are managed by the Department of Environmental Health who are responsible for the allocation of land for burial, design and construction of burial vaults. The maintenance of the grounds and landscaping is carried out by the Recreations, Parks & Cemeteries Unit (RPCU) in Grand Cayman and the Public Works Department in Cayman Brac and Little Cayman.
Public burial plots/vaults can be reserved and bought at the Department of Environmental Health office (Tel: (345) 949 6696 or email: email@example.com) for a fee of CI$1200 for adults and CI$600 for children. Family plots can be purchased at public cemeteries, however, most sites are full and it will be hard to obtain a plot situated next to your loved ones. Anyone can buy a plot in a public cemetery; you do not have to be Caymanian.
Private cemeteries on-Island are still monitored by the Department of Environmental Health to ensure that the vaults are constructed to DEH specifications of design and construction. These, however, are not available for public purchase as most of them are on family owned land that is used as a gravesite for that family only.
The Garden of Reflection, is a private cemetery in Prospect that has grave plots available for the public to purchase. This cemetery currently has 400 available plots (as of July 2022) and covers an area of approximately 2.8 acres which includes parking and bathroom facilities. Grave plots can be purchased for CI$4,249-CI$7,500 and the cost includes landscape maintenance. The plots are sold and managed by Crighton Properties, and the company maintains accurate records to ensure that reserved grave plots are not built upon. You can contact Crighton Properties directly on (345) 949 5250 or firstname.lastname@example.org or through your undertaker. Grave vault construction must be arranged by the family and local contractors charge between CI$3,200 and CI$3,600 to build a concrete vault. The size of a single plot is 4ft x 8ft and there is a 5% discount if the family buys more than four plots.
Read on for a comprehensive list of Public Cemeteries, where they are located and whether they have space available.
- West Bay by the Fire Station (Closed: all vaults are sold)
- Boatswain Bay
- North West Point
- Dixie (Closed: all vaults are sold)
- South Sound (Closed: all vaults are sold)
- Prospect and Spotts (Closed: all vaults are sold)
- “Old” Bodden Town across from the Bodden Town Clinic (Closed: all vaults are sold)
- “New” Bodden Town located on the same side of the road as the Bodden Police Station, going East
- East End
- Gun Bay
- North Side
- Old Man Bay
Burial at Sea
Sea burials are an option worth considering in Cayman. They are a natural and sustainable alternative to traditional burials and can be a thoughtful way to pay homage to the seas.
To obtain the necessary permission for a sea burial, you must submit a copy of the death certificate, a certificate of non-communicable disease and the Burial Order to the Department of Environmental Health (DEH). Once this has been confirmed, the body must be prepared for a sea burial by a licensed mortician and the casket must adhere to a specific set of guidelines which can be found on the DEH website.
The burial must take place at least five nautical miles from shore, at a minimum depth of 700ft, and outside of traditional fishing grounds. Although they say it is not a common option, the team at Bodden Funeral Services (345) 949 7464) has experience with sea burials and can assist you if this is a route you would like to take.
If you would like to scatter your ashes at sea the only requirement is you do so at least three nautical miles from the shoreline.
If the deceased is to be cremated, the main decision for next of kin will be the type of service they want: one with the body present, followed by a cremation, or a memorial-type service, where there may be a picture, or an urn, but no body. Cremation packages range from CI$2,000 to CI$3,000.
For expat workers, repatriation is often the preferred choice. The next of kin will need to decide whether to repatriate the body in a casket or whether to send it as freight, which is more cost-effective. The paperwork varies considerably depending on the country the body is to be repatriated to, and thus so does the cost.
Repatriation to the US, Canada or UK is quite straightforward and quick to arrange. Repatriation to Cuba and the Philippines, however, is much more complex, so the administrative costs are higher.
Funeral homes such as Bodden Funeral Services and Churchill’s Funeral Home will take care of all the paperwork and arrangements, including the embalming which is a non-negotiable requirement for the deceased to be shipped overseas. The basic cost is CI$2,500, plus airfare and paperwork costs.
Importing a Body/Ashes to Cayman
In the event that the death occurs abroad, you must receive permission from the DEH to bring a body/ashes to Cayman.
You will need to provide the DEH with the following: the deceased’s full name, place of birth, name of person responsible for the remains, arrival date of the deceased, a copy of the death certificate with the cause of death (specifying whether the death was from a non-communicable or communicable disease), a US$25 admin fee and, if applicable, a cremation certificate. There is an admin fee of CI$25 or US$31.25 (cash/local cheque/local bank draft) for local requests. If sending an international bank draft, the fee is US$100 for cashier’s cheques/drafts coming from the US and US$300 for all cashier’s cheques/drafts originating outside of the US.
Requests must be made at least 48 hours prior to the body/ashes arriving in the Cayman Islands. If granted, you will receive a letter of approval that must be presented to Customs upon the body/ashes arrival.
Needless to say, arranging a funeral or memorial is a distressing affair but funeral homes do all they can to ease the burden and make the process as straightforward as possible. Undertakers are experienced at guiding families through the decision-making, asking the necessary questions and making as many of the arrangements as they can.
Funeral homes also offer a pre-planning service, so that if a person is in the end stages of life their family and next of kin have the option to talk with undertakers and make key decisions and plans ahead of time, which are then enacted at the time of death. In other countries it is not uncommon for people to preplan their own funeral well before they become ill, and then leave this plan on file with their chosen funeral home. In the plan you can let your family know whether you want to be cremated or buried, whether you want to forgo the expensive coffin and whether you would rather they not go over the top with flowers. You can also buy a Government or a private burial plot in advance and let the funeral home know the details. Leaving a plan for your funeral will take a huge weight off your family. You can also pay for the funeral costs in advance and the funeral home will freeze the cost even if it is 30 years between the time of writing it and the time your family needs to access your file with the funeral home and initiate your wishes.
It also worth noting that one can take out Final Expense Insurance Coverage which, depending on the policy, will cover some or all of the costs of a funeral.