What to do when someone dies

What you need to do straight away

If someone dies at home and their death was expected

Call the family doctor and nearest relative. If the death was expected, for example due to a terminal illness, in most instances the doctor will issue a medical certificate of the cause of death to allow the death to be registered at the Register Office. A Death Certificate will then be provided.

Having spoken with the GP practice and when you feel ready to do so, you can contact a funeral director

If someone dies at home unexpectedly

Call 111 immediately and ask for advice.

An unexpected death may need to be reported to a coroner. A coroner is a doctor or lawyer responsible for investigating unexpected deaths. They may call for a post-mortem or inquest to find out the cause of death. This may take some time, so the funeral may need to be delayed.

If someone dies in hospital The hospital will usually issue a medical certificate and formal notice. They will support you with the next steps you need to take.

The body will usually be kept in the hospital mortuary until the funeral director or relatives arrange a chapel of rest, or for the body to be taken home.

If someone dies abroad

The GOV.UK website offers two leaflets which explain the practical support British consular staff can offer and what you need to do. Click the button to learn more.

How do I register a death?

You need to register the death within 5 days. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to do that:

Step 1: Find a register office.

Your nearest register office. You can use any register office, but it is best to use the one in the area where the person died.

Step 2: Get the information ready

When you go to the register office, you will need to take with you the medical certificate showing the cause of death, signed by a doctor. If possible, also take the person’s:

  • birth certificate
  • NHS medical card or number
  • marriage or civil partnership certificate
  • driving licence
  • proof of their address.

You will have to tell the registrar:

  • the person’s full name (and any other names they had, such as a maiden name)
  • the person’s date and place of birth
  • their date and place of death
  • their usual address
  • their most recent occupation
  • whether or not they were receiving any benefits, including State Pension, and the name, occupation, and date of birth of their spouse or civil partner.

Step 3: What they will give you

When you have provided the required information, the registrar will give you:

  • a certificate for burial or cremation (known as the Green Form)
  • a certificate of registration of death (form BD8). You should fill this out and return it in the pre-paid envelope if the person was receiving State Pension or any benefits (this will not be necessary if you are using the Government's “Tell Us Once” service).
  • leaflets about bereavement benefits
  • a death certificate, for which there will be a charge.

Step 4: Getting extra certificates

If you need to you can buy extra death certificates – these will be needed for the will and any claims to pensions, savings, etc.

It is best to pay for several copies because copies requested later may be more expensive. Ordinary photocopies are not accepted by some organisations, such as banks or life insurance companies.

Step 5: Updating records

The “Tell Us Once” service can be used to report a death to several government departments in one go. The service is offered by most local authorities. You can arrange for an appointment to take place when you register the death, or you can access the service online or over the phone.

You will need to get a “Tell Us Once” reference number from the registrar.

Who will be handling the deceased, what vehicles will you be using?

When someone dies, you must get in touch with certain organisations to let them know as soon as possible.

(TIP: You may be able to use the “Tell Us Once” service to do some of this if it is available in your area)

The government departments that can be contacted in one go include:

  • local services such as libraries, electoral services, and council tax services
  • the tax office
  • the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA)
  • the UK Passport Agency
  • HMRC for tax purposes.

If your local authority does not offer the “Tell Us Once service”, you will need to contact these departments yourself.

You will need to return their driver's licence to the DVLA and the passport to HM Passport Office.

You may need to contact other organisations as well, such as:

  • pension scheme provider
  • insurance company
  • bank and building society
  • employer
  • mortgage provider, housing association or council housing office
  • social services
  • utility companies
  • GP, dentist, optician, and anyone else providing medical care
  • any charities, organisations, or magazine subscriptions the deceased person made regular payments to
  • the Bereavement Register, which removes their details from mailing lists and stops most advertising mail.

Where is the deceased kept?

You should send any Lasting Power of Attorney or Enduring Power of Attorney they had back to the Office of the Public Guardian, along with a death certificate, if you were their attorney.

Find out more about Power of Attorney

A power of attorney may include specific wishes

How do I go about arranging a funeral?

The person who died may have left funeral instructions in their will or a letter about their wishes.

If there are no clear wishes, the executor or nearest relative will usually decide if the body will be cremated or buried and what type of funeral will take place.

Go Direct Cremations is a subsidiary of Aquatorium Ltd. They specialise in arranging cremations without ceremony, or known as direct cremation.

Arranging a funeral without a funeral director

You do not have to use a funeral director if you do not want to.  If you prefer you can have a ‘do-it-yourself’ funeral.  This may involve a direct cremation or cremation without ceremony.

Go Direct Cremations specialise in this type of service and will arrange this for you.  They may be contacted on 0333 4444 524

Paying for a funeral

Arranging a funeral can not only be stressful - it can also be expensive. If you are paying for the funeral, think carefully about what you can afford.

The funeral can be paid for by:

  • The estate of the deceased
  • You or other family members or friends
  • A lump sum from a life insurance policy or pension scheme
  • A pre-paid funeral plan
  • Funds the deceased had in a bank or building society, although they don’t have to release the money until probate (the legal process of distributing the money, property and possessions of the person who has died) is granted. If there is a delay, you may need to pay the costs in the meantime.

Help with funeral costs

You may be able to get assistance from the Government if you are on a low income and meet the criteria.

There are strict rules about who can get help and how much you will receive. You must be claiming Pension Credit or certain other means-tested benefits and had a close relationship with the person who died – for example, you may have been their partner. For full details go to:

If you do not qualify for a Funeral Payment - or it does not cover the full costs of the funeral, you may be able to get a Budgeting Loan from the Social Fund. These are interest-free loans of between £100 and £1500 that you repay from your benefits.

COVID-19: guidance for arranging or attending funerals
during the coronavirus pandemic.

During COVID19 it is not possible to conduct funerals and cremations as before. Attendance at funerals either in church or at a crematorium is limited to 25 persons.

Further reading

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