Our simple guide shows you how to cope with the paperwork when someone passes on.
When someone dies, even in the face of grief, there are a host of practicalities you must tend to, such as finding and instructing a funeral director, arranging a service and deciding on burial or cremation.
Our checklist will remind you what must be done, although not every item will apply in every situation.
Who should I call?
If someone dies at home, tell the family doctor as soon as possible. If the death was expected, they can issue a medical certificate detailing the cause of death, along with a formal notification of death. You’ll need the certificate to register the death; if you are considering cremation, you’ll need a second doctor’s signature. If someone dies in hospital, a doctor there will usually issue the certificate and death notice. This might be a good time to tell close family and friends.
How do I register a death?
Make an appointment at the nearest register office – you have to register deaths within five days (eight in Scotland). Take the signed medical certificate and, if you can find them, the deceased’s birth certificate, National Insurance number and marriage (or civil partnership) certificate. If someone dies abroad, the death can be registered with the national authorities and the British consul.
What paperwork will I receive?
The register office will issue a death certificate for a small fee, a certificate for burial or cremation (the “green form”) for the funeral director, a certificate (BD8) to send to the Department for Work and Pensions and details of any bereavement benefits. You can buy extra death certificates, which you may need for banks, insurers and so on. It can save you both time and money to obtain all this paperwork at once and reduce the administrative burden.
How do I make funeral arrangements?
Find out if the deceased had any specific requests. Ask friends to recommend funeral directors and check they are accredited with the National Association of Funeral Directors or National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors.
If you want to plan the funeral yourself, contact your local authority. Some people have insurance to help with funeral costs or will have prepaid them. Funeral directors can arrange for the body to be laid in a chapel of rest.
How do I let the authorities know about a death?
If it’s available in your area, use the government’s Tell Us Once service – ask the registrar for a reference number. This lets you report a death to most government organisations in one go. You’ll need date of birth, National Insurance number, driving licence number, vehicle registration and passport number. You’ll also need pension and benefit details, name and address of the next of kin, contact details for whoever is dealing with the “estate” (property, belongings and money) and details of any public or armed forces pensions.
What if Tell Us Once isn’t available?
Notify the tax office (HMRC), National Insurance office, appropriate benefits offices and the Department for Work and Pensions to cancel state or military pensions. Return the deceased’s passport and driving licence to the authorities and tell the local council. If you are unsure about pensions, the government offers a tracing service.
Who else must I inform?
Get help to contact wider family and friends. Tell private pension providers, banks, building societies, credit-card providers, employers, mortgage providers, social services, utility companies, GPs, dentists and anyone such as magazines or charities receiving regular payments. The bereavement register can stop the deceased’s post. You might want to close social-media accounts. Medical staff can collect medicines no longer needed.
Wills and estate: what next?
If a person has left a will, it should specify what happens to their estate and name ‘executors’ to carry out the wishes of the deceased. If there’s no will, next of kin can apply for the legal right to manage the estate , access bank accounts and so on. Through the will, the estate is distributed to beneficiaries and any debts paid off.