What to do when someone dies
In addition to arranging a funeral, in general there are 3 things you need to do when someone dies:
- Get a medical certificate of death
- Register the death
- Notify people and organisations of the death
Getting a Medical Certificate
When someone dies at home, your first point of contact should be the deceased’s doctor who if satisfied with the cause of death will issue the medical certificate of death, often referred to as a Death Certificate. If someone dies in hospital, the hospital staff will arrange this for you.
This signed document shows the cause of death and is required to register the death.
If someone dies unexpectedly, the doctor may report the death to a coroner. For more information on when a coroner is required go to GOV.UK
Registering a Death
It is important to register the death within 5 days. It can take up to 30 minutes so it may be worth making an appointment at your local council’s Registrar’s Office first. In addition to the signed medical certificate showing the cause of death, if possible you should also take the following documentation belonging to the person who has died :
- Birth certificate
- Marriage or civil partnership certificate
- NHS medical card
It is also worth knowing that a relative, someone who was present at the death, an administrator from the hospital or the person making arrangements with the funeral director can register the death.
The registrar will complete the process with you and ask you for the following information:
- The person’s full name at the time of death Any names used previously such as maiden name Their date and place of birth Their last address Their occupation The full name, date of birth and occupation of a surviving or last spouse or civil partner Whether they were getting a state pension or any other benefits
Once completed you will get the following documents:
- A Certificate giving permission for burial or cremation
- A Certificate of registration of death – a blank form that should be completed and sent to the Department for Work and Pensions.
In addition to letting family and friends know the news, there are also a number of organisations that may need to be contacted:
- HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC)
- National Insurance Contributions office
- Child Benefit Office
- Tax Credit Office
- Local Authority (for council tax / blue disability
- badge / social services care)
- UK Identity and Passport Service (to cancel a passport)
- DVLA (to return a driving licence or cancel any car tax)
- Car Registration documents (for changing ownership)
- General insurance companies (buildings and contents,car, medical or travel insurance)
- Loan, hire or rental companies
- Pension providers and life insurance companies
- Banks and building societies
- Mortgage provider
- Credit and store card providers
- Landlord or local authority if the property is rented
- Any home help agencies
- Utility companies
- Royal mail
- Telephone / internet suppliers
If you are contacting organisations on behalf of a partner or spouse, don’t forget to make sure you are still covered on any insurance policies or utility services
What to do when someone dies Abroad
All deaths must be registered in the country where the person died. This process can differ depending on the country but the British Consulate should be able to help. They can also give advice about arranging the funeral in that country or bringing the person who has died back home.
If you are bringing the deceased back home you will need a certified English translation of the death certificate and permission from a coroner. Again the British Consulate will be able to guide you on the process.
Depending on the situation, any hospital and repatriation costs may be covered by the deceased’s travel insurance. If not, a friend or family member will be expected to pay all the costs.
Once back home, you should take the death certificate to the register office in the area where the funeral is taking place. The registrar will give you a ‘certificate of no liability to register’ so the funeral director can proceed with arrangements.
Bereavement is one of the hardest things we will ever face and affects us all in different ways.
It can feel like a never ending mixture of emotions; pain, anger, depression and guilt. And just when you think you are getting stronger, a birthday or anniversary comes around and wham, it feels as though it just happened yesterday.
There is no right or wrong way to grieve; no specified timeframes on how long it will take for you to feel stronger. It takes time. You need to learn to cope and adjust. Life has changed but the grief and pain should lessen.
The important thing is not to go through this on your own. Whether you turn to friends, family or a bereavement counsellor, sharing your feelings of grief and talking about the person who has died is vital.
For more help and guidance go to our bereavement support section.