What to do when someone dies
Last reviewed on 10 June 2016
When someone dies there are certain things that need to be done straightaway while others can wait until after the funeral.
Getting a medical certificate
The first thing you need to do is get a medical certificate for the person who has died from either their GP or hospital doctor.
The doctor may report the death to a coroner (a doctor or lawyer who investigates unexpected deaths) if the death was unexpected or violent, the person hadn’t seen their GP in the last 14 days or the cause of death is not clear. If the coroner (known as a procurator fiscal in Scotland) decides a post-mortem or inquest is necessary this will have to take place before the medical certificate is available. Once the certificate is issued then the death can be registered and the funeral take place.
If the person dies abroad the death should be registered with the British Consul and the relevant authorities in that country. You can find out more about this on Gov.uk.
Registering a death
You can register a death if you are a relative, present at the death, live at the same address as the person who died, an administrator from the hospital or the person making arrangements with the funeral directors.
You need to register the death within five days (eight in Scotland) and the service is free. You can do this at any register office but if you use the one local to where the person died you will get all the documents you need on the same day.
Take the medical certificate (and if the death was referred to the coroner any documents they gave you) to the registrar. Also take the deceased’s:
* birth certificate (if you don’t have this then details of their full name, date and place of birth)
* marriage/civil partnership certificate (if applicable)
* details of their address, occupation and spouse or civil partner
* National Insurance number
* NHS medical card.
Registering the death takes around 30 minutes. You’ll be given one free death certificate and you can buy extra copies which will be useful when dealing with the deceased’s affairs.
You will then be given a Certificate or Registration of Death (form BD8). You may need to fill this in if the deceased received a state pension or any other benefits that now need to be stopped.
You'll also get a Certificate for Burial or Cremation (a green form) which you need to go ahead with a burial or to apply for a cremation.
Tell Us Once
When you register the death you should also be told about the Government’s Tell Us Once scheme. You’ll be given a number so you can register for this online and the service will then contact the organisations below to tell them of the death. This saves you having to contact all these organisations individually.
* HM Revenue & Customs (tax and benefits)
* Department for Work and Pensions (cancel benefits)
* Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (cancel driving licence)
* Passport Office (cancel passport)
* Local authority (cancel housing benefit, a Blue Badge, inform council housing services and remove from electoral register).
Organising the funeral
Funerals usually take place within a week or two of the death. But if the coroner is investigating the death the funeral may have to be delayed.
If you want to arrange the funeral yourself you’ll need to contact the Cemeteries and Crematorium Department of your local authority.
You'll need to give the funeral director or local authority the death certificate you received when you registered the death.
Funerals can be expensive and whoever arranges the funeral is usually responsible for paying for it. If the deceased made provisions for their funeral (perhaps they took out a funeral plan) this may cover the cost. Alternatively, their bank may release money to cover the costs.
If this isn’t possible then you will have to pay for the funeral and reclaim the money later from the deceased’s estate. Funeral costs are paid out from estates ahead of other debts (except any secured debts such as a mortgage).
If there is no money available to pay for the funeral you may be able to apply to the Funeral Payment scheme for financial assistance by completing form SF200. You must apply within three months of the funeral to get this.
The rules are different if the person died outside the UK.
The deceased’s family may also be entitled to other state benefits such as Bereavement Allowance and Widowed Parent’s Allowance.
Sorting out the will
Once the funeral is over everything the deceased owned and all their debts will need to be sorted out. If they wrote a will and said who their executors were, they will deal with this. If no executors were named in the will, the named executors don’t wish to act, or there is no will then the will is sorted out by an administrator. The administrator is typically a close relative or beneficiary of the deceased’s will.
Executors and administrators are known as personal representatives. They are legally responsible for sorting out the deceased’s estate (everything they owned less their debts). As part of this they need to contact a whole range of organisations to tell them about the death. This is likely to include the deceased’s bank, mortgage provider, pension provider, insurers (life, house, car and pet insurers), their employer (they may have life cover at work), any organisations they had savings and investments with and so forth.
The Money Advice Service has letter templates which you can use to write to these various organisations.