Step by Step Guide: What to do when someone dies

Step by Step Guide: What to do when someone dies


When someone dies here are the things that you typically need to do in the first few days

 

Death at home: Call the doctor to verify the death
Death in hospital: Make an appointment with the Bereavement Office
Contact your chosen funeral director, if you have one
Make an appointment with the Registrar
Collect the medical certificate of cause of death from the doctor or hospital
Register the death
Arrange the funeral

 

Death at home: Call the doctor to verify the death

 

Providing the deceased was seen by the doctor within the last 14 days in England, Wales, Scotland, and within the last 28 days in Northern Ireland, the doctor will give you permission for the deceased to be taken into care by your chosen funeral director, if you are using one. Alternatively, you can choose to keep the deceased at home. For more advice on how to care for the body at home, speak to your funeral director or contact the Natural Death Centre. The doctor will ask you to collect the medical certificate of cause of death in a few days. This will enable you to register the death and formally arrange the funeral.

Where the death is sudden or unexplained, or where the deceased was not been seen by the doctor within the last 14 days in England, Wales, Scotland, or within the last 28 days in Northern Ireland, the doctor will notify the coroner or procurator fiscal (Scotland). The deceased will be moved to a hospital by the coroner’s contracted funeral director or by your chosen funeral director.

 

Death in hospital: Make an appointment with the Bereavement Office

 

The hospital staff will organise the completion of the medical certificate, documenting the cause of death, so that you can register the death and formally arrange the funeral. You will need to make an appointment with the Bereavement Office to collect this certificate, together with the deceased’s belongings.

here the death is sudden or unexplained, the doctor will notify the coroner or procurator fiscal (Scotland). You will need to make an appointment with the Bereavement Office to collect the deceased’s belongings.

 

Choose your funeral director

 

Call your chosen funeral director and arrange for the deceased to be taken into their care, or ask for their advice about keeping the body at home.

If you need help selecting your funeral director, see our guide: How do I choose the right funeral director?

If the death has been reported to the coroner, the body will first be taken to a hospital mortuary to await a possible post mortem. If the death occurred at home, the body will be moved by the coroner’s contracted funeral director, or by your preferred funeral director. The body cannot be taken from the hospital into care anywhere else without authorisation. The Coroner’s Officer will keep you informed at every stage.

If you need help selecting your funeral director, see our guide: How do I choose the right funeral director?

 

Collect the medical certificate of cause of death

 

Make an appointment to collect the medical certificate from the doctor’s surgery, or if the death occurred in hospital contact the Bereavement Office there to collect the certificate together with the deceased’s belongings. This certificate will enable you to register the death and formally arrange the funeral.

If the coroner is satisfied that no further investigation is needed into the cause of death, make an appointment to collect the medical certificate from the doctor’s surgery, or if the death occurred in hospital contact the Bereavement Office there to collect the certificate together with the deceased’s belongings. This certificate will enable you to register the death and formally arrange the funeral.

If the coroner orders further investigation into the death and is satisfied that the cause of death is due to natural causes, you will be contacted by the Coroner’s Office to advise when you can register the death. You will not receive a medical certificate in this instance.

If the coroner orders further investigation into the death and is not satisfied that the cause of death is due to natural causes, an inquest (investigation into the cause of death) will be opened. You will not receive a medical certificate in this instance.

As the inquest can take several weeks or months to conclude, the coroner will issue a form direct to the funeral director allowing the cremation or burial to proceed. A Certificate of Fact of Death is issued to you. This interim death certificate takes the place of a certified copy of the death certificate (see Register the death).

 

Register the death

 

Make an appointment with the Register Office for Births, Deaths and Marriages. Registering a death has to be done within five days in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and within eight days in Scotland. The appointment normally lasts around 25 minutes.

The registrar will give you a certified copy of the death certificate and the necessary documentation that allows the cremation or burial to go ahead. You may also be given form BD8. This is the formal notice of registration of a death, which should be sent to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) as soon as possible. It enables the DWP to make an assessment on state pensions and benefits, which will then be forwarded by them to HM Revenue and Customs.

The death certificate will enable you to

  • Notify the deceased’s asset holders
  • Apply for probate
  • Use the Tell Us Once service offered by some Registrars. This service lets you report a death to most government organisations with a single contact.

It’s advisable to go to the register office in the area in which the person died, otherwise there may be a delay in getting the documents you need to continue with the funeral arrangements.

No inquest:

Where you have been advised by the Coroner’s Officer that there is to be no inquest into the cause of death, make an appointment with the Register Office for Births, Deaths and Marriages to register the death. The appointment normally last around 25 minutes.

The registrar will give you a certified copy of the death certificate and the necessary documentation that allows the cremation or burial to go ahead. You may also be given form BD8. This is the formal notice of registration of a death, which should be sent to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) as soon as possible. It enables the DWP to make an assessment on state pensions and benefits, which will then be forwarded by them to HM Revenue and Customs.

The death certificate will enable you to

  • Notify the deceased’s asset holders
  • Apply for probate
  • Use the Tell Us Once service offered by some Registrars. This service lets you report a death to most government organisations with a single contact.

Inquest closed:

Where there has been an inquest into the cause of death and the inquest is now closed (as advised by the Coroner’s Officer), make an appointment with the Register Office for Births, Deaths and Marriages to register the death. The appointment normally lasts around 25 minutes.

The registrar will give you a certified copy of the death certificate.

The death certificate will enable you to

  • Notify the deceased’s asset holders
  • Apply for probate
  • Use the Tell Us Once service offered by some Registrars. This service lets you report a death to most government organisations in one go.

 

Tip
Before you see the registrar, think about the number of death certificates you may need to buy in order to deal with the deceased’s estate. Certificates purchased after the appointment will usually be more expensive. Death certificates are often returned, but having several certified copies will avoid any delay in sorting out the deceased’s affairs.

 

Start arranging the funeral

 

Contact your chosen funeral director as soon as possible.

The funeral arrangements can begin before the death is registered, but the cremation or burial arrangements can’t be confirmed until the registrar has issued the death certificate.

You can, of course, arrange the funeral yourself. Contact your local council’s cemeteries and crematorium department for help and advice.

Contact your chosen funeral director as soon as possible.

The funeral arrangements can begin before the death is registered, but can only be confirmed once the coroner has issued the paperwork to the funeral director, giving them permission for the burial or cremation to proceed.

You can, of course, arrange the funeral yourself. Contact your local council’s cemeteries and crematorium department for help and advice.

 

Before you begin the funeral arrangements check whether the deceased left any specific funeral wishes or financial provision for the funeral costs – otherwise you could end up paying for the funeral unnecessarily. Specifically, look to see if they had a prepaid funeral plan, a death in service benefit, or left behind any specific funeral wishes in their will or in any other document.

 

Editor

Kim Bird is the founder of the comparison and review site About the Funeral and Editor of the bereavement support and funeral planning magazine, Day by Day.

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