What Should You Do When Someone Dies?

What to do when someone dies

Whether it was expected or sudden, dealing with the death of a family member or loved one can be one of the hardest things we have to face in our lifetime. For those who are responsible for making the funeral arrangements, we have created this step-by-step guide to what to do when someone dies to help make a difficult time a little easier.

1. Get a medical certificate

After the death of a loved one, it is necessary to obtain a medical certificate that confirms the cause of death. If the death was expected and has happened at home, seek professional medical assistance; a doctor can sign the medical certificate.

If the death occurred at a care home or hospital, the staff there will help to organise the medical certificate. If the death of your loved one was unexpected, a medical certificate will not be issued immediately as a coroner in England and Wales, or a procurator fiscal in Scotland, may be needed to determine the cause of death.

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2. Care of the body

After the death of a loved one, and once a medical cause of death certificate has been obtained from a GP or hospital doctor, the next step is to care for the body. The body is most often transferred from home to a place of rest or local funeral home, usually referred to as a ‘first call’ funeral home.

If you require the immediate assistance of a funeral director, do not hesitate to call us on 0800 090 2336.

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3. Register the death

After the medical certificate has been issued and the body moved to where it will stay until the funeral, the next thing to do is to register the death of your loved one. In England and Wales, a death must be registered within five days. In Scotland, the death must be registered within eight days.

Typically, it is a relative of the deceased who registers the death, but anyone present when the death occurred, the deceased’s legal representative or executor, or anyone who has the information required can register a death.

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4. Arrange the funeral

After the death of your loved one has been registered, you can complete the funeral arrangements. People often include instructions for their funeral in their will or a final letter, but if the deceased did not explicitly plan their funeral before their passing, the responsibility of arranging the funeral often falls to relatives or close friends. If you have engaged a funeral director to care for the body of your loved one, they can offer advice and assistance on funeral arrangements.

If you require the immediate assistance of a funeral director, do not hesitate to call us on 0800 090 2336.

Read more

5. Inform authorities and agencies

There are many formalities to be undertaken following the death of a loved one with a number of authorities and agencies needing to be informed of the death. Government bodies from pensions to passports, financial institutions and insurance providers, local authorities and landlords all need to be contacted. The task can seem daunting, but there may be some central services you can use to make it easier.

Read more

6. Financial arrangements

Once the funeral has been arranged and the relevant authorities have been informed of your loved one’s death, it is important to deal with any outstanding financial arrangements. This can be a lengthy process, sometimes talking years to complete. The quickest way to a speedy resolution is to find a valid Will that appoints executors who can obtain a grant of probate that allows the estate to be administered.

If you require the immediate assistance of a funeral director, do not hesitate to call us on 0800 090 2336.

Read more

Medical certificate

After the death of a loved one, it is necessary to obtain a medical certificate that confirms the cause of death. If the death was expected and has happened at home, seek professional medical assistance; a doctor or district nurse can sign the medical certificate. If the death occurred at a care home or hospital, the staff there will help to organise the medical certificate.

A medical certificate confirming the cause of death is required to register a death and can usually be obtained by calling the deceased’s GP or district nurse if they have passed away at home. Medical staff at a hospital or care home can supply the certificate if the person has died there. This process is an important part of what to do when someone dies as this officially confirms the decreased status of the individual.

The certificates are free and can usually be issued immediately unless the deceased’s cause of death is undetermined. In this case, a coroner in England and Wales or procurator fiscal in Scotland is required to establish the cause of death before the death can be officially registered.

In cases where there is no doctor available to write a medical certificate but there are other medical staff present, they can confirm someone’s death via a temporary ‘verification of death’ which must be followed by an official medical certificate.

The doctor providing the medical certificate will also write a formal notice to say that the medical certificate has been signed and will give you advice on how to register the death. The death certificate – required to settle the affairs of the deceased - is a separate document that is only available after the death has been officially registered.

Care of the body

After the death of a loved one, and once a medical cause of death certificate has been obtained from a GP or hospital doctor, the next step is to care for the body, an essential part of what to do when someone dies. The body is most often transferred from home to a place of rest or local funeral home, usually referred to as a ‘first call’ funeral home.

If you require the immediate assistance of a funeral director, do not hesitate to call us on 0800 090 2336.

Once you have received the medical certificate from the deceased’s GP or hospital doctor, you can arrange for the body to be moved to a temporary place of rest, while funeral arrangements are made. Many funeral directors in the LocalFuneral.co.uk network have private chapels of rest and viewing rooms and you can arrange to view your loved one directly with your chosen funeral director.

If your loved one has died at home, it is possible to keep the body there and some people choose to look after the body themselves for a short while, allowing them to prepare the body for the funeral. In some situations, a funeral director might recommend embalming if the body is going to be at home for longer than a few days. In the case of a sudden or unexpected death, where the authorities need to establish a cause of death, the body will be transported to a morgue. Once the cause of death has been established, arrangements can be made to move the body to the funeral home, or even a crematorium or cemetery if funeral arrangements have been made.

Register the death

After the medical certificate has been issued and the body moved to where it will stay until the funeral, the next thing to do is to register the death of your loved one. In England and Wales, a death must be registered within five days. In Scotland, the death must be registered within eight days.

Typically, it is a relative of the deceased who registers the death, but anyone present when the death occurred, the deceased’s legal representative or executor or anyone who has the information required can register a death. Registering the death of the individual is important aspect of what to do when someone dies.

You must have a medical certificate stating the cause of death when you go to register a death. Take it to your nearest Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages along with the following information:

  • Full name (maiden name or any previous names if applicable)
  • Place and date of birth
  • Place and date of death
  • Last address
  • Occupation
  • Full name, date of birth and occupation of their spouse.

You can still register a death without the following documents but having them may ease the process.

  • Proof of address
  • The deceased's birth and marriage certificate
  • The deceased's NHS medical card
  • Documents relating to State pension or benefits.

Using the registrar in the area where your loved one passed away will allow you to receive any documents you need on the day from the registrar. It is generally recommended to make appointments to register deaths and it should take no longer than 30 minutes.

Once you have registered a death, you will be given two certificates, both required before you can complete funeral arrangements. The Certificate for Burial or Cremation gives permission for burial or cremation; the Death Certificate, required for the funeral to proceed, but also to begin settling the estate of the deceased. You can buy additional copies of the death certificates, needed for the will and any claims to pensions, savings or insurance.

Arranging the funeral

After the death of your loved one has been registered, you can complete the funeral arrangements. People often include instructions for their funeral in their will or a final letter, but if the deceased did not explicitly plan their funeral before their passing, responsibility of arranging the funeral often falls to relatives or close friends. If you have engaged a funeral director to care for the body of your loved one, they can offer advice and assistance on funeral arrangements.

If you require the assistance of a funeral director, do not hesitate to call us on 0800 090 2336.

The first thing to consider when arranging a funeral is the final wishes of the deceased. It can seem a little overwhelming to try to organise a service that reflects what your loved one wanted, but your funeral director can help. You may also want the assistance of a religious or spiritual adviser depending on the deceased’s personal beliefs.

There are many decisions to be made when arranging a funeral:

  • The style of service
  • The type of coffin
  • The venue
  • Flowers
  • Music
  • Readings
  • Who to invite.

Some of these decisions will have an impact on the final cost of the funeral and your funeral director will be able to advise you.

It is important to remember that the person who arranges the funeral is responsible for paying the final bill. Family members can choose to pay funeral fees themselves, the deceased may have a pre-paid funeral plan or money from the estate can be used in certain circumstances. Help with funeral costs is available if you are struggling to cover costs but there are strict rules in place about who is eligible to receive financial assistance.

Inform authorities and agencies

There are many formalities to be undertaken following the death of a loved one with a number of authorities and agencies needing to be informed of the death. Government bodies from pensions to passports, financial institutions and insurance providers, local authorities and landlords all need to be contacted. The task can seem daunting, but there may be some central services you can use to make it easier.

If it is available in your area you may be able to use the ‘Tell Us Once’ service to notify government organisations in one go. The services covered can include:

  • Local libraries
  • Electoral services
  • Council tax
  • Income tax
  • Department of Work and Pensions
  • Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA)
  • UK Passport Agency

If your local authority doesn't offer a ‘Tell Us Once’ service, you will need to contact these departments individually and return any documents that they require - driver's licences need to be returned to the DVLA and passports to HM Passport Office.

It is important to inform the deceased’s landlord of their death as soon as possible. If you were living with the deceased prior to their death and the lease is in their name, you must let your landlord know so that it can be updated. You will also need to contact any companies that you make regular payments to and change any bills to your name.

You must inform financial institutions where the deceased held accounts to put a freeze on any accounts and protect the deceased’s estate. These include banks, credit card companies, pension providers and insurers. It is generally easy to inform them, with a simple phone call usually being enough, although they will require further documentation before any monies can be transferred.

Registering with the Bereavement Register will allow you to ease the burden of dealing with the deceased’s post by arranging redirection if necessary.

Financial arrangements

Once the funeral has been arranged and the relevant authorities have been informed of your loved one’s death, it is important to deal with any outstanding financial arrangements. This can be a lengthy process, sometimes talking years to complete. The quickest way to a speedy resolution is to find a valid Will that appoints executors who can obtain a grant of probate that allows the estate to be administered.

Once the funeral has been arranged and the relevant authorities have been informed of your loved one’s death, it is important to deal with any outstanding financial arrangements. This can be a lengthy process, sometimes talking years to complete. The quickest way to a speedy resolution is to find a valid Will that appoints executors who can obtain a grant of probate that allows the estate to be administered.

Finding someone’s Will is important, with the original and most recent document required to carry out probate. It can be tricky to find, involving a search of deceased’s personal papers. If you cannot find the Will, you can pay a £40 fee to search the National Will Register. If a will has not been made, and the deceased has died intestate, there are rules and guidelines that will be followed to establish who receives what from any estate.

An executor, or executors, must be established; typically, family or close friends of the deceased. The executor is required to sign key documents and help take the lead in coordinating probate. People nominated as executors in a Will may renounce their role if they prefer not to take on the responsibility.

As executor you can choose to obtain a grant of probate yourself, or delegate the task to a solicitor. Doing this yourself requires applying for a grant of probate, by sending a form with the will and death certificate to the Probate Registry. Once the probate process is complete, all of the deceased’s assets will be bound together in a special bank account, before being finally paid out to the beneficiaries named in the Will.

Sources

Age UK What do to when Someone Dies
Bereavement Advice Centre Managing the estate
Bereavement Advice Centre Arranging a funeral
Bereavement Advice Centre Who to inform when someone dies
Cancer Research UK After someone dies
Citizens Advice What do to after a death
Money Advice Service What do to when Someone Dies
National Records of Scotland Registering a death
UK Government Organisations you need to contact
Which? Getting a medical certificate
Which? What to do when someone dies