staff discussing funeral arrangements

What to do when someone dies

It is quite reasonable to find the whole process really daunting and overwhelming. That is fine, we are here to support you and take you through the process without adding stress and anxiety to an already difficult situation.

It is our responsibility to take away these pressures from you and make all of the funeral arrangements. One of the only things they we cannot generally do on your behalf is to register the death. Other than that, leave it to us.

Passing away in hospital

The hospital will advise the nearest relative or executor of the death. They will tell you when you may call for the Death Certificate and collect any valuables, clothing and any other items. If the deceased was wearing any jewellery, find out whether it has been removed. You will be asked to sign for such items.

The deceased will be taken by the hospital staff to the hospital mortuary. Sometimes relatives or friends ask to see the deceased in the mortuary chapel. This can usually be arranged but we strongly recommend that you wait until the Funeral Director has moved the deceased to their premises and carried out the proper preparation.

Call your chosen Funeral Director and make an appointment to discuss the funeral arrangements.

On very rare occasions the doctor may ask you for your written permission for a post mortem examination. It will be explained to you why the doctor wants this done. You are under no obligation to sign for this.

Passing Away at home

Initially you will need to contact your doctor’s surgery who will attend to establish a death has taken place.

If death occurs outside of normal surgery hours you will be given a number to contact, the “on-call” doctor.

Once the doctor has verified the death you will be advised to contact your chosen funeral director in order to move the deceased to their funeral premises.

This is on the assumption that a sudden death has not occurred.

Your chosen funeral director will require you to provide a contact name & address, and they will confirm when they will be with you.

You will be asked for initial details such as whether the funeral will be a burial or cremation.

Do not worry if you cannot answers any of these questions at this time, your chosen funeral director can arrange a convenient time to make the funeral arrangements.

If a doctor is unable to issue a death certificate a coroner will be contacted.

Unexpected Deaths

If you come across a situation where you find someone who you believe has passed away then you must contact 999 immediately requesting police and ambulance. Obviously be guided by the call handler as to what you should do. The police will attend and investigate the circumstances of the death. Once this has been completed the duty undertaker (who works on behalf of the coroner) will be contacted. You will still one able to use your nominated funeral director to make the funeral arrangements.

Dying Abroad

If your next of kin passes away abroad then the death will require registration in the country of which they have died. You will then obtain a consulate death certificate but you will be required to register the death in the UK.

Medical Certificate

The medical certificate is required as soon as practicable after your loved one has passed away. This is required in order to register the death. It will contain basic detail including name, age, date & location of death and the cause of death. Often the doctor will provide this in an envelope which you will need to take with you to the registry office.

Registering a Death

Registering the death of your loved one must be completed within five working days in England & Wales and it is a legal requirement. You will be required to make an appointment with your local registry office. This will be a telephone appointment so you will not be required to leave the comfort of your home to do this. The process usually takes around thirty minutes. The registrar will also request as much personal information as is possible. This will usually take the form of the following;

  • The date and place of death
  • The full name and any names previously used by the deceased including the maiden name if applicable
  • The date and place of birth
  • Their last address
  • Their occupation
  • The full name, date of birth and occupation of their spouse or civil partner
  • If they were receiving a State Pension or any other benefit

When you register the death, you will receive the following:

  • A certificate for Burial or Cremation (the Green Form) which gives permission for burial or an application for cremation. This enables you to arrange the funeral.
  • A Certificate of Registration of Death (form BD8). This is for use for social security purposes.
  • Both above forms are free of charge but now you can also request extra copies of the death certificate which will be useful for dealing with the deceased person's affairs. These are available at the time for £4 each or if you request them at a later stage they will be £10 each. Be sure to purchase enough copies, you'll be surprised how many you may need.
  • If death has been reported to the coroner, you cannot register the death until you have their permission.

Tell us Once Service

Most Registry Offices now offer a “tell us once” service where they can inform other government departments and local council services that a person has passed away on your behalf.

If you wish to use this service you need to let them know and have with you:

  • National Insurance Number
  • Details of any benefits or services that were being received
  • Driving License or Driving License Number
  • Passport or Passport Number and town/county of birth
  • Blue Badge

Some of the organisations who can be informed are:

Department for Work & Pensions (the pension, disability and carers service, job centre plus)
H M Revenue and Customs (child benefit, child tax credit, working tax credit, personal taxation)
Identify & Passport Service
Housing Benefit Office
Council Tax Benefit Office
Driver & vehicle Licensing Agency

Involvement of the Coroner

If the Coroner is involved in the investigation of the death of your loved one then they will take overriding authority until this is concluded. You will not be required to register the death in the allocated time period. A death will be reported to the coroner if:

  • The cause of death is unknown
  • The death was violent or unnatural
  • The death was sudden and unexplained
  • The deceased was not visited by a medical practitioner during their final illness
  • The medical certificate isn't available
  • The deceased wasn't seen by the doctor who signed the medical certificate within 14 days before death or after they died
  • The death occurred during an operation or before the person came out of anaesthetic
  • The medical certificate suggests the death may have been caused by an industrial disease or industrial poisoning

Post mortems are to establish the cause of death. If there is an inquest due to an unnatural or uncertain cause of death then this is a legal process to establish the cause of death. The inquest can be some time after the passing of your loved one but the Coroners team will issue an interim death certificate.

Who needs to be notified

The following is a non exhaustive list of people to inform when your loved one has passed away;

  • Relatives and friends
  • The funeral director/registry office
  • Employer/school
  • Mortgage provider or landlord
  • Utility companies (electricity, gas and water)
  • T.V/Broadband & mobile phone providers
  • Bank and building societies
  • Insurance companies (life, car and travel)
  • Credit card providers (if applicable)      

Tell Us Once Service

  • HM Revenue and Customs for tax purposes
  • Passport agency
  • DVLA if the deceased held a driving license
  • Pension providers
  • Local council for council tax and Electoral Register

Bringing your loved one into our care

If your loved one passed away in hospital ,or the Coroner has been involved, then we must wait until the bereavement or coroner’s team have spoken to you. Essentially they require two main pieces of information; 
a.    the name of the funeral director making the arrangements
b.    whether your loved one is to be buried or cremated

Once this is completed the Bereavement/Coroner’s team will then contact the funeral director of your choice. They will then be able to take your loved one into their care.

The funeral director will require the following information;

  • Deceased persons name
  • Deceased persons date of birth
  • Date & Time of death
  • Location of your loved one
  • Burial or Cremation