What to do when someone dies

In this section

There can be a lot to think about when you're dealing with the loss of a loved one. To help, we’ve put together this easy to follow three-step guide:

Step One - Who to contact

Before you can start making funeral arrangements, there are certain people that you need to tell as soon as possible. Who you need to tell depends on where your loved one has died.

  • When someone dies at home

    If your loved one dies at home there are two people you should contact straight away:
    •    The deceased’s GP
    •    Their nearest relative (next of kin), if that’s not you

    The GP will normally visit the home address, and issue you with a Medical Cause of Death certificate in a sealed envelope. Due to the current situation with COVID-19 if the death is expected, and the cause of death is clear, the GP may not always visit the home.

    The GP will instead issue the Medical Cause of Death certificate by emailing it directly to your local registrar/registration service. Once a certificate has been issued, you should contact us (your chosen local funeral service) and we'll take your loved one into our care.

  • When someone dies in a nursing home

    If your loved one dies in a nursing home, a member of the establishment’s staff will notify the GP on your behalf. The medical certificate will then usually need to be collected from the medical centre/practice local to the nursing home.

    Due to the current situation with COVID-19, the GP will instead issue the Medical Cause of Death Certificate by emailing it directly to your local registrar/registration service.

    It’s a good idea to make sure the nursing home management have details of your chosen Funeral Director.

  • When someone dies in hospital

    If your loved one dies in a hospital, a member of their staff will notify the hospital bereavement services. The hospital bereavement service will email the Medical Cause of Death Certificate directly to the local registrar/registration service.

    You will need to collect the medical certificate from them and contact us so we can take your loved one into our care.

  • When someone dies abroad

    If your loved one has died abroad, the steps you need to take can be different depending on where in the world they are.

    Please contact us and we can help assist you with the repatriation of your loved one.

  • If someone dies under unusual circumstances

    If the death was unexpected, because of an accident, sudden or unknown cause, you should contact the emergency services immediately.

    Do not touch or move anything before they arrive.

    The Coroner will arrange to take your loved one to the hospital. This could mean a delay in registering the death, while the cause of death is established. Advice on this process is available from the Coroner.

    As your Funeral Director, we can help with advice and information, including relevant contact details.

    When the investigation is concluded and the cause of death established, the Coroner will contact you and inform you of the cause of death. A death certificate will be issued by the Registrar once notified by the Coroner.

    The police and other professionals are there to help and guide you when a death occurs in unusual circumstances. It can be difficult to take things in when you’re unprepared for someone dying, so it’s a good idea to write down any information you’re given verbally.

Step Two - Registering a death

  • Who can register a death?

    A death should be registered by a relative within five days of receiving the medical certificate* (eight in Scotland). If it is not possible for this to be done by a relative, the death can be registered by the manager at the care home where they lived, a close family friend or the person arranging the funeral.

    Due to the current COVID-19 situation, if none of the people listed above are available, we (your chosen local funeral service) can also help you to register a death, simply ask your local Funeral Arranger for assistance.

    *In rare cases, the Registrar may refer the death to the Coroner. If this happens, you may have to delay registration until the Coroner has granted permission. If there needs to be an inquest, the Coroner’s Officer will advise you what happens next.

  • How do I register a death?

    To register the death, you should contact a Registrar within the local authority where your loved one passed away, via phone or by pre-registering the death using the online form on your local council website.

    To find the details of your local council visit www.gov.uk/register-offices or alternatively your local Funeral Arranger will be able to help and provide you with details of who you need to contact.

  • What you need to take

    To help avoid delays we recommend you have the following information and documents to hand when you contact the Registrar:

    • The medical certificate stating the date, time and cause of death
    • The person’s full name (and maiden name, where relevant)
    • Their date and place of birth and birth certificate (if you have it)
    • Their last home address
    • If married, the full name of their surviving spouse or civil partner and their date of birth
    • Their occupation and that of their spouse or civil partner
    • Any public pensions or allowances (such as a military pension)
  • What documents will I receive?

    Once you’ve registered the death, two certificates will be issued by the registrar:

    • A Certificate for Burial or Cremation (the green form). This gives permission for a burial or an application for cremation. Your Funeral Director needs this, so that the burial or cremation can take place. Due to the current COVID-19 situation, this form will be emailed directly to your chosen funeral service
       
    • A Certificate of Registration of Death (form BD8, often known as a Death Certificate). This is a certified copy of the entry in the register. You may need it for a number of reasons, including the will of the person who has died, making any pension claims or redeeming insurance policies, savings bond certificates and premium bonds

     

    The Registrar can give you multiple copies of the Death Certificate, although you will need to pay a fee for each additional copy.

  • Coroners and inquests

    The Registrar may refer the death to the Coroner. If this happens, it may delay registering the death until the Coroner has granted permission.

    Sometimes the Coroner will decide that there needs to be an inquest into a death. This inquest is a legal investigation to find out more about how, when and why somebody has died.

    If you’d like more detailed information on the step-by-step process of an inquest, please read the NHS’s introduction and supporting pages here

Step Three - Informing other organisations

There are a number of people and organisations that need to be contacted as soon as possible.

The death should be registered with the local Registrar within five days. Details of the information you will need to take to the Registrar is detailed here. There are also other people and organisations that need to be notified too. They include:

  • Family, friends and loved ones of the person who has died
  • HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) – to deal with tax and cancel any benefits
  • Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) – to cancel any benefits such as income support
  • Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) – to cancel a driving licence
  • Passport Office – to cancel a passport
  • The local council – to cancel housing benefit, council tax benefit, a disabled parking badge, inform council housing services and remove the person from the electoral register
  • Tell Us Once service

    Your local Registrar may tell you about a service called Tell Us Once, which lets you report a death to a number of government organisations in one go.

    If you wish to take advantage of this service, your local Registrar will provide you with a unique reference number to access the service online or by telephone.

    You'll need to provide the following information about your loved one to the Tell Us Once service:

    • Date of birth
    • National Insurance number
    • Driving licence number
    • Passport number
    • Details of any benefits or entitlements they were receiving, e.g. State Pension
    • Details of any local council services they were receiving, e.g. Blue Badge
    • Name and address of their next of kin
    • Name, address and contact details of the person or company dealing with their estate (property, belongings and money), known as the ‘executor’ or ‘administrator’

     

    It’s important to note that you require permission from the next of kin, the executor or administrator, or anyone who was claiming joint benefits or entitlements with your loved one, before you pass on their personal details.