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What To Do When Someone Dies

Losing someone can feel overwhelming. It’s difficult to know what to do and when.

You may not know where to start and we understand this. What to do when someone dies in the UK, how to register a death and how to plan a funeral are questions that we can answer.

It’s not an experience many of us chat about, but we’ve been helping families for over 100 years, and have made a checklist of things to help you get started.

We’ve put this together to help you deal with the things you need to do right after someone dies, and up to the funeral itself.

There are some things that we all legally must do when someone dies, we’ve put the list in the order that they should happen:

  • Get a medical certificate (contact a doctor or a local hospital)
  • Check if a coroner needs to be informed
  • Register the death to get a death certificate
  • Find out if the person who’s died had any plans or wishes for their funeral
  • Choose and contact a funeral director
  • Let people and companies know
  • Manage the tax affairs/benefits/pension
  • Continue with non-urgent admin when you feel ready

Information you’ll need

  • National Insurance number
  • NHS number
  • Date and place of birth
  • Date of marriage or civil partnership, if appropriate
  • Tax reference number
  • Organ donor card if one is registered

1. Get a medical certificate

If the person died at home, you should call their doctor straight away. The doctor will determine the cause of death and issue the certificate, making it available for you to collect from the surgery.

If they died in a hospital or care home, the staff contact the next of kin and arrange for a doctor to issue the certificate.

2. Check if a coroner needs to be informed

Sometimes, if the doctor cannot determine the cause of death or the person died suddenly and unexpectedly, it may be necessary to get the coroner involved. The doctor will contact the coroner, and you will have to wait until the coroner releases your loved one before planning a date for the funeral.

3. Call the registrar and book an appointment

Next, you need to call the local registrar of births and deaths to make an appointment to go and see them to register the death. It is a criminal offence not to register.

4. Register the death

You need to register the death within 5 days in England and Wales. This includes weekends and Bank Holidays. People who can register are (in order):

  • A relative present at the passing
  • Another close relative from the immediate family
  • Anyone else present at the death
  • The owner or occupier of the building where the death took place who’s aware of the death or
  • The person who’ll be arranging the funeral

You’ll get a green certificate called the Notification or Registration of Death, and you’ll need this before you can start to arrange the funeral. We recommend getting multiple copies, as you’ll need to send originals, not photocopies, to banks, mortgage providers etc.

5. Find out if the person who’s died had any plans or wishes

Check to see if they had a will and a funeral plan, as these can give you information on what they wanted for their funeral.

If you’re not sure what they wanted, talk to other family members and friends to see if they chatted to them about it. One of the main things people tend to know is whether they wanted to be buried or cremated.

If you don’t know, don’t worry. We can help guide you through your choices and options to create the right funeral for them, and you.

6. Choose and contact a funeral director

Choosing a funeral director can feel like a big decision. Check whether the person who died had a funeral plan or left instructions on who to use or talk to family and friends and ask for recommendations.

You can call the funeral director as soon as the person’s been seen by a doctor, or you can wait until you’re ready. They’ll come and collect them and keep them in their care until the funeral.

When you make that first call, you’ll be asked about the person who’s died, where they are, if a doctor has certified the death and whether you know if they want a burial or cremation. You can give as much or as little information as you want, and they can call you at another time if you’re not ready.

7. Letting people and organisations know

You’ll need to let other people and organisations know that the person has died.

Apart from family and friends, these are common examples of people who need to be told:

  • Their employer
  • Anybody providing assistance or care (such as meals on wheels, day centres, home-visit carers and any other social services departments)
  • Solicitor
  • Accountant
  • Their landlord, local authority, or mortgage provider
  • Utility companies if the services are in their name
  • Royal Mail if you need post redirecting
  • Any subscriptions
  • Banks and insurance companies

8. Manage tax affairs/benefits/pension

You’ll need to let HMRC know so they can stop any tax, benefits, and pensions. HMRC have a Tell us once service that lets you tell them about a death, and they inform most government agencies in one go. You’ll need to be, or have permission from, the next of kin, executor or anyone who was claiming joint benefits with them.