What To Do When Someone Dies

If Someone Dies At Home

If someone dies at home, you need to call your family GP immediately. It might also be a good idea to call a relative or close friend to support you. If the death was expected, the doctor will give you a medical certificate showing the cause of death and they’ll also give you a formal notice saying they’ve signed the medical certificate. They should also explain how to register the death. If the person wishes to be cremated, you’ll need a second certificate signed by different doctor which may be charged for. When someone dies at home, the death should be registered at the register office in the district where they lived.

If the death was unexpected, the doctor is not allowed to issue a certificate if they don’t know the cause of death, so they will then notify the Coroner. The body will then be taken to a hospital mortuary, where a post mortem may need to take place.

If the person did not have a GP or you do not know the name of the GP, you should call an ambulance instead. The body will then be taken to a hospital mortuary, where a post mortem may need to take place.

If Someone Dies In Hospital

If someone dies in hospital, the hospital will usually issue a medical certificate and the formal notice. The body will usually be kept in the hospital mortuary until the executors arrange for funeral directors or relatives arrange a chapel of rest, or for the body to be taken home. If the death took place in hospital or in a care home it must be registered at the district in which the hospital or care home is situated. The hospital administrator can do this if there are no relatives.

If Someone Dies Unexpectedly

If someone dies unexpectedly, or the family doctor hasn’t seen them in the last 14 days, the death is reported to a coroner. The coroner may call for a post-mortem or inquest. This may take some time, so the funeral may need to be delayed.

If Someone Dies When Abroad

If someone dies when abroad, the death will need to be registered according to the regulations of that country. You will also need to get a death certificate from the consulate. 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.

Where Do You Register The Death?

The registration of the death is the formal record of the death. It is done by the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages at your local Register Office.

When Should You Register The Death?

A death should be registered within five days, but the deadline can be extended for another nine days if the registrar is told a medical certificate has been issued. If a post mortem is being carried out, you can't register the death until the coroner's investigations are finished. It is vitally important to register the death within the timeframe given, as it is a criminal offence not to do so.

Who Should Register The Death

The death must be registered in person by one of the following:

  • A relative who was present at the death
  • A relative present during the person's last illness
  • A relative living in the district where the death took place
  • Anyone else present at the death
  • An owner or occupier of the building where the death took place and who was aware of the death
  • the person arranging the funeral (but not the funeral director)

If none of these options are possible, contact the Register Office for advice.

What Information Is Needed To Register The Death?

The medical death certificate will be needed, as the death can't be registered until the registrar has seen this. If possible, you should also take the person's NHS medical card and birth and marriage certificates, as these will help with the information the registrar will require:

  • The date and place of death
  • The full name of the person and their last address
  • The person's date and place of birth
  • The person's occupation and, in the case of a woman who was married or widowed, the full name and occupation of her husband
  • If the person was still married, the date of birth of their husband or wife
  • Whether the person was receiving a pension or other social security benefits

Once registered, you will be given a “certificate for burial or cremation”(the green form) to give to the funeral director or whoever is arranging the funeral. This allows the burial or cremation to go ahead. If the person was retired, the registrar will also give you a form to send to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), to allow them to deal with the person's pension and benefits.

What Is The Death Certificate?

The death certificate is a copy of the entry made by the registrar in the death register. You may need several copies of the certificate as it is needed to deal with money or property left by the person, including dealing with the Will, these can be obtained at an extra charge. You will need to inform many people and businesses of the death and many of them will need a copy of the death certificate. You can usually use the government Tell Us Once service to report a death to most government organisations in one go.

Who Should You Inform?

Following a bereavement it is important to sort out the affairs of the deceased. If ignored for too long, outstanding bills, benefits and credit cards can make life even more stressful later. We have collated a general checklist of people to inform which we hope should make the task slightly less daunting and onerous.