What to do When Someone Dies

If Someone Dies at Home

Call the family doctor and nearest relative immediately. If the death was expected, the doctor will give you a medical certificate showing the cause of death. They’ll also give you a formal notice saying they’ve signed the medical certificate and telling you how to register the death. If the person is to be cremated, you’ll need two certificates signed by different doctors.

If Someone Dies in Hospital

The hospital will usually issue a medical certificate and formal notice. The body will usually be kept in the hospital mortuary until the funeral directors or relatives arrange a chapel of rest, or for the body to be taken home.

Unexpected Death

If someone dies unexpectedly, or the family doctor hasn’t seen them in the last 14 days, the death is reported to a coroner. A coroner is a doctor or lawyer responsible for investigating unexpected deaths. They may call for a post-mortem or inquest. This may take some time, so the funeral may need to be delayed. The coroner will ask you which funeral director you would like to use, and will inform you when the funeral director is allowed to bring the deceased in to their care.

Death Abroad

If someone dies abroad, register the death according to the regulations of the country and get a consulate death certificate. Register it with the British Consul in the country too, so a record can be kept in the UK.

The GOV.UK website offers two leaflets which explain the practical support British consular staff can offer and what you need to do.

Registering a Death

You need to register the death within five days. You can use any register office but it’s best to use the one in the area where the person died, otherwise the process might take longer. You’ll need to take with you the medical certificate showing the cause of death, signed by a doctor. If possible, also take the person’s:

  • Birth certificate
  • NHS medical card or number
  • Marriage or civil partnership certificate

You will have to tell the registrar:

  • The person’s full name (and any other names they had, such as a maiden name)
  • The person’s date and place of birth
  • Their date and place of death
  • Their usual address
  • Their most recent occupation
  • Whether or not they were receiving any benefits, including State Pension
  • The name, occupation and date of birth of their spouse or civil partner

The registrar will give you:

  • A certificate for burial or cremation (known as the Green Form)
  • A certificate of registration of death (form BD8). You should fill this out and return it in the pre-paid envelope if the person was receiving State Pension or any benefits

  • Leaflets about bereavement benefits

  • A death certificate, for which there will be a charge

You can buy extra death certificates – these will be needed for the will and any claims to pensions, savings, etc.

It’s best to pay for several copies, as copies required at a later date may be more expensive. Ordinary photocopies aren’t accepted by some organisations, such as banks or life insurance companies.

Who to tell about the death

When someone dies, you must contact certain organisations to inform them as soon as possible. You need to:

You may need to contact other organisations as well, such as:

  • Pension scheme provider
  • Insurance company
  • Bank & Building Society

  • Employer

  • Mortgage provider, housing association or council housing office

  • Social services

  • Utility companies

  • GP, dentist, optician and anyone else providing medical care

  • Any charities, organisations or magazine subscriptions the deceased person made regular payments to

You could also register the name and address of the deceased person with the Bereavement Register, which tries to put a stop to post being sent to people who have died.

Tell Us Once service

The government’s free Tell Us Once service lets you report a death to several government departments in one go, either online or by telephone. You will need a Tell Us Once reference number from the registrar when you register the death.

The service isn’t available in every area. Local authorities that offer the service should explain it to you when you meet with the registrar.

Taking over the purse strings after your partner dies

If you have lost a partner who you depended on to manage your finances, you may suddenly find yourself having to take on a host of financial issues that you’ve never dealt with before. This video from the Money Advice Service explains what you need to do.