Guide for Use Following a Death
In the week following a person’s death there are a number of urgent tasks that need to be completed.
1. Immediately following the death
Death at home
You need to inform your GP of the death. Depending on the nature and time of death, your GP will either help or you may be directed to the out of hours service in your area or to the ambulance service. In any event, a doctor will come to your house to formally confirm the death.
If the person did not have a GP, you should call the out of hours doctor service in your area or the ambulance service. As a last resort you should call the police.
Where the cause of death is obvious and expected, the person’s usual GP should be able to issue a medical certificate of cause of death. This certificate is issued free of charge and will be handed to you in a sealed envelope addressed to the registrar of births, deaths and marriages. You will also receive a formal notice which confirms that the doctor has signed the medical certificate of death and which gives details about registering the death.
If the body is to be cremated, the doctor must also complete a form called the cremation certificate. The doctor will arrange for a second doctor to sign part 2 of the certificate. There is a charge for the cremation certificate.
You should then notify the executors and appoint a funeral director. The executors may find it useful to read our guide on their role.
Death in hospital or nursing home
If the death was expected and has been confirmed by a doctor or a suitably trained member of the nursing team, arrangements will be made to issue the medical certificate of cause of death. This you will need to collect along with any belongings.
You will need to advise the nursing staff if the body is to be cremated so that they can arrange for a second doctor to sign the cremation certificate.
You should then notify the executors and appoint a funeral director. The body will be kept in the hospital or nursing home mortuary until arrangements are made for a funeral director to collect it.
If death was sudden or unexpected
In the event of sudden or unexpected death or where the regular doctor looking after the person is unable to issue the medical certificate, it may be necessary to report the death to the coroner. The coroner’s officer (usually a uniformed policeman) will visit as soon as possible, record the relevant details and report them to the Coroner. The body will be taken to a hospital mortuary designated by the coroner.
Please note: three general points
1. You will receive the medical certificate of the cause of death signed by a GP.
2. You will receive the cremation certificate (if appropriate).
3. You also need to check if the deceased person had an organ donor card.
2. Find the will as an utmost priority
Your next priority is to find the will (if you think there is one) and then notify all the executors named in it. The will might have been kept somewhere safe at home, or with the deceased’s solicitor or bank. The other place where people store their will for safekeeping is at the principal registry of the family division of the High Court, or at one of the district registries or probate sub-registries.
If the will is stored with a solicitor, in a bank or at the probate registry you will need to send proof of your identity and a copy of the death certificate (which you will receive when you register the death) in order to receive a copy of the will.
Please note: if there is no will
The next of kin need to agree who in the family are going to act as the administrators (equivalent to the executors where there is a will).
3. Appoint a funeral director
You need to identify the local funeral directors, make a shortlist and, if possible, arrange to meet them before making the actual appointment.
You may want to complete our cost calculator to estimate the cost of the funeral before attending the meetings. You may also want to take our ‘checklist for meetings with funeral directors’ with you.
4. Book funeral service
The executors (or administrators if the person died without a will) need to check to see if the deceased left instructions regarding funeral arrangements. These instructions may be set out in the will or separately. You should note that you are not obliged to follow these instructions. In any event, if there are no clear wishes it’s generally up to the executors or administrators or the nearest relative to decide about funeral arrangements and whether the body is to be cremated or buried.
You should contact the vicar or other officiant that you want to take the funeral service and also the crematorium if the body is to be cremated. Alternatively, you can arrange a funeral service yourself. You won’t, however, be able to finalise the date for the funeral until after the death has been registered.
The vicar or other officiant will be able to assist you in preparing the order of service for the funeral.
You should also check if the person who has died made provision, such as a funeral plan, to pay for the funeral. Otherwise you will be responsible for the costs although they will be payable from the deceased’s estate in due course.
5. Book internment
You will need to book the internment as soon as possible to ensure availability. The deceased may well have left specific wishes as to the type of internment that they wanted. In the absence of such wishes you will be responsible for deciding on the type of internment.
The vicar or the staff at the crematorium will be able to assist with these arrangements.
6. Register the death
Make an appointment at the local registrar’s office to register the death. There is no charge for registering a death. In England and Wales registration of the death needs to be done within 5 days of the death.
The death should be registered by one of the following (in order of priority): a relative 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). You cannot delegate responsibility for registering the death to anyone else.
You must take the medical certificate of death (in the sealed envelope) with you to the registrar’s office. The death cannot be registered until the registrar has seen this.
You need to have the following additional documents (if possible) when you go for the interview with the registrar:
1. Deceased’s birth certificate
2. Deceased’s marriage certificate (if applicable)
3. NHS number/NHS medical card
You need to have the following information when you go for the interview:
1. The deceased person’s full names
2. Any names previously used, including maiden surname
3. The deceased’s date and place of birth (town and county if born in the UK and country if born abroad
4. Their last address
5. Their occupation
6. The date of marriage (if marriage certificate not available)
7. The full name, occupation and date of birth of a surviving spouse or civil partner
8. Whether the deceased was receiving a state pension or any other state benefits
Please note: the registrar will give you 3 documents
At the end of the interview the registrar will give you the following documents:
1. One certified copy of the entry of death in the register (known as the death certificate). You should order for a small charge six additional certified copies.
2. A green certificate which is the order for burial or cremation. Give this to the funeral director.
3. A white certificate which is the social security certificate. You need to send this to the deceased person’s local benefits office.
7. Announce the death in a newspaper
You may wish to make an announcement of the death in a local or national newspaper. Most newspapers will be able to arrange for the announcement to also be made on the internet.
You may be interested to read our guides to making an announcement and writing an obituary.
8. Inform family, friends and specific organisations
You should inform family and friends as your first priority. You will also need to inform the following organisations but this task is less time critical.
- Employer of the deceased, if appropriate
- Post office – redirect mail
- Private landlord
- Council house tenancy/rent
- Return of any rented household appliances
- Voluntary services – meals on wheels etc
- Newsagent regarding deliveries of newspaper and magazines
- Subscriptions for magazines, trade journals
- Clubs, associations, societies, professional memberships etc
- Financial adviser
- Bank account
- Building society account
- Post Office account
- Credit cards
- Debit cards
- Shop cards
- Premium bonds
- Home and contents insurance provider
- Life insurance provider
- Car insurance provider
- State pension
- Private pension provider
- Mortgage provider
- Personal loan provider
- Car finance provider
- Electricity provider
- Gas provider
- Water provider
- Landline provider
- Mobile phone provider
- TV licence
- Council tax
- Hospital, doctors, dentist – cancellation of appointments and return of any equipment
- Parking permits, travel cards, disabled parking badge
- Local library and return books
- HMRC – Tax
- DVLA – vehicle registration documents will need to be returned
- Passport office – passport will need to be returned
Local police force
- Gun licence
Please note: 3 general points
1. Find details relating to the payment to the deceased of benefits (normally Jobcentre Plus office), tax credits (HM Revenue & Customs) and/or state pension (Department for Work and Pensions).
2. You need proof of your relationship to the deceased (eg marriage/civil partnership or birth certificate, child’s birth certificate naming both parents).
3. A spouse or civil partner also needs to have their social security card/national insurance number if you will be claiming/changing benefits.
9. Begin preparations for probate
You need to start gathering all the information relating to the deceased person’s estate in preparation for probate. The application to the probate registry can be made after the funeral.
- Bank and building society account statements
- Investment statements/share certificates
- Personal or company pension account statements
- Life insurance documents (including mortgage cover)
- General insurance policies (home, car, travel, medical etc)
- Relevant correspondence or statements from Jobcentre Plus (for benefits) and/or The Pension Service
Amounts owing by the deceased
- Mortgage statement
- Credit card statements
- Utility/ council tax bills in the deceased’s name
- Rental agreements/statements (private or local authority)
- Other outstanding bills
- Leases, hire purchase agreements or similar (eg for equipment, car or furniture)
- Educational loan statements
- Any other loan statements
Amounts owed to the deceased
- Outstanding invoices if the deceased ran a business
- Written/verbal evidence of other money owed to the deceased
- Property deeds or leases (main home and any other at home or abroad)
- All keys for properties
- Existing valuations of property such as jewellery, paintings etc (a market valuation will be required)
- Any existing inventories of property/possessions
- Safety box deposit information
Employment or self-employment
- PAYE form P60 and latest payslips if the deceased was employed
- Recent tax returns and tax calculation statements (if relevant)
- Company registration documents, accounts, tax and VAT returns if the deceased had a business