What to do after someone dies

What to do after someone dies

  1. Get a medical certificate from a GP or hospital doctor. You’ll need this to register the death.
  2. Register the death within 5 days (8 days in Scotland). You’ll then get the documents you need for the funeral.
  3. Arrange the funeral – you can use a funeral director or arrange it yourself.

You may be able to use the Tell Us Once service to report a death to most government organisations in one go.

How to register a death

When somebody dies, you normally need to register their death within five days. The death has to be registered at a register office and takes about half an hour. It can be quicker to go to the register office in the area where the person you cared for died. If you go to another area it may take longer to get the documents needed and slow down the funeral arrangements.

Before a death can be formally registered, a doctor will need to issue a medical certificate giving the cause of death. In hospital, this is usually done by a hospital doctor. If the person has not been seen by a hospital doctor, their GP may be able to issue a certificate instead.

When you get the medical certificate which confirms that the person has died, ask for the address of the local register office. You can search for the local register office online, or look in the local phone book. Many register offices only see people by appointment, so phone before you go and make an appointment if you need to.

In most cases a death is registered by a relative. If the person you cared for doesn’t have any family who can register their death, the registrar will allow other people to do this. As long as the person died at home or in hospital, their death can be registered by someone who was with them when they died, someone who lived in the same house, an official from the hospital, or the person who is arranging the funeral with the funeral directors.

What documents do I need to register a death?

You will need to take some documents with you when you go to register a death.

You need:

  • the medical certificate, showing the cause of death and signed by a doctor

 

The following are not essential, but if you can find them, you should also take the person’s:

  • birth certificate
  • marriage or civil partnership certificate
  • their NHS medical card

What other information will the registrar need?

The registrar will require the following information from you:

  • the person’s full name as it was when they died
  • any names they used in the past, including their maiden name
  • their date and place of birth (town and county if born in the UK and country if born abroad)
  • their last address
  • their occupation
  • the full name, date of birth and occupation of their surviving wife, husband or civil partner
  • details of any state pension or other state benefit they were receiving

Death certificates

Once the death has been registered, the registrar will give you two important documents. One is a Certificate for Burial and Cremation, also known as the green form. This gives permission for the person’s body to be buried or for an application for cremation to be made. Give this to the funeral director.

You will also be given a Certificate of Registration of Death (form BD8, also known as a death certificate). This is for use in social security matters; for instance, dealing with the deceased person’s state pension or other benefits.

You can buy extra copies of the death certificate when you register a death. You will need these to give to the executor or administrator who is dealing with affairs such as the person’s will. The registrar will give you a booklet that contains advice on several subjects, including paying for the funeral, probate and property, and other practical advice including what to do if the person you cared for died abroad, or in Scotland or Northern Ireland. For more information see GOV.UK: what to do after someone dies.

When a death is reported to a coroner

A doctor may report the death to a coroner if the:

  • cause of death is unknown
  • death was violent or unnatural
  • death was sudden and unexplained
  • person who died was not visited by a medical practitioner during their final illness
  • medical certificate isn’t available
  • person who died wasn’t seen by the doctor who signed the medical certificate within 14 days before death or after they died
  • death occurred during an operation or before the person came out of anaesthetic
  • medical certificate suggests the death may have been caused by an industrial disease or industrial poisoning

The coroner may decide that the cause of death is clear. In this case:

  1. The doctor signs a medical certificate.
  2. You take the medical certificate to the registrar.
  3. The coroner issues a certificate to the registrar stating a post-mortem isn’t needed.

Post-mortems

The coroner may decide a post-mortem is needed to find out how the person died. This can be done either in a hospital or mortuary.

You can’t object to a coroner’s post-mortem – but if you’ve asked the coroner must tell you (and the person’s GP) when and where the examination will take place.

After the post-mortem

The coroner will release the body for a funeral once they have completed the post-mortem examinations and no further examinations are needed.

If the body is released with no inquest, the coroner will send a form (‘Pink Form – form 100B’) to the registrar stating the cause of death.

The coroner will also send a ‘Certificate of Coroner – form Cremation 6’ if the body is to be cremated.

If the coroner decides to hold an inquest

A coroner must hold an inquest if the cause of death is still unknown, or if the person:

  • possibly died a violent or unnatural death
  • died in prison or police custody

You can’t register the death until after the inquest. The coroner is responsible for sending the relevant paperwork to the registrar.

The death can’t be registered until after the inquest, but the coroner can give you an interim death certificate to prove the person is dead. You can use this to let organisations know of the death and apply for probate.

When the inquest is over the coroner will tell the registrar what to put in the register.

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54 Camberwell Road, London, SE5 0EN
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