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Things to do after Someone Dies

Having a basic checklist of what to do after someone dies is helpful. Following a structured plan can help to ease the emotional challenge during a time of loss. The information in this guide lists the most important steps to take when someone dies. Find out how to register a death, deal with a coroner, and arrange a funeral.

AFTER A DEATH: You must not delay doing these three important things when someone dies in the United Kingdom. Within the first few days of a death, someone must take on the responsibility to:

  1. Obtain a medical certificate from the hospital or from a General Practitioner. You cannot register a death without a medical certificate.
  2. Make sure the death gets registered within five (5) days (eight days in Scotland). You will not get the documentation needed for a funeral until you register the death.
  3. Arrange the funeral for the deceased person. You can either arrange it yourself or you can use a funeral director.

As a rule, there would be no urgency to deal with the death will, money, and property as a priority. But, you may need to report a death to several government organisations. Using the ‘Tell Us Once‘ service makes this an easy process.

1. How to Register a Death

The next step depends on whether the death got reported to a coroner. In Scotland, it would be the Procurator Fiscal. If so, you would need permission from the coroner to register the death.

If not, you can use the register a death tool to check if you can carry out the registration yourself. The online facility also explains what to do after someone dies.

2. Reporting a Death to a Coroner

There are several reasons why a doctor might report a death to a coroner. Typical examples would include circumstances whereby:

  • A medical certificate is unavailable.
  • A medical practitioner did not visit the deceased person during their final illness.
  • The actual cause of death is unknown.
  • The death was unnatural, violent, sudden or unexplained.
  • The doctor who signed the medical certificate did not see the deceased person within a period of 14 days before death or after they died.
  • The death occurred during a surgical operation or before the person recovered from the anaesthetic.
  • The medical certificate suggests an industrial disease or industrial poisoning may have caused the death.

If the coroner decides that the cause of death is clear and without complication:

  1. The doctor will sign a medical certificate.
  2. You should take the medical certificate to the registrar.
  3. The coroner will issue a certificate to the registrar stating a post-mortem is not necessary.

Post-mortem Examination

A coroner can decide to carry out a post-mortem to determine how the person died. A pathologist at a hospital or a mortuary will perform the autopsy.

You have no right to object to a coroner carrying out a post-mortem. But, you can ask where and when it will take place. The coroner must give you (and the deceased person’s GP) this information.

After a Post-mortem

You must wait for the coroner to release the body before you can hold a funeral. It will get released once all the post-mortem examinations have finished.

As a rule, the body gets released with no inquest. In this case, the coroner would send a ‘Pink Form – form 100B’ to the registrar. It will state the cause of death. If it will be a cremation, the coroner also sends a ‘Certificate of Coroner – form Cremation 6’.

If the Coroner wants to Hold an Inquest

Under the law, a coroner has to hold an inquest if the cause of death remains unknown. The same would apply if:

  • The deceased person could have died a violent or an unnatural death.
  • The deceased person died while in prison or in police custody.

You will be unable to register the death until the inquest has finished. The coroner will then send all the relevant paperwork to the registrar.

In cases such as these, you can get an interim death certificate from the coroner that proves the person is dead. This is important because it lets you inform government organisations about the death. It also means you can apply for probate.

Note: The coroner informs the registrar what to state in the register once the inquest is over.

3. Arranging a Funeral

As a rule, the funeral cannot go ahead until the death gets registered. Even though you can arrange a funeral yourself, most people will use a funeral director.

Choosing a Funeral Director

The general recommendation is to choose a funeral director which follows the codes of practice. That means they will issue you a price list, such as the members of:

  • National Association of Funeral Directors
  • The National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF)
Arranging a Funeral by Yourself

What if you prefer to arrange the funeral yourself? It would be best to contact the Cemeteries and Crematorium Department at your local council for further details.

Funeral Costs

Funerals can be expensive to arrange and the typical costs often include:

  • The fees for the funeral director.
  • Disbursements or third-party costs.
    • These are things that the funeral director will pay for on your behalf. They may include the fees for the crematorium or the cemetery. It might also include a newspaper announcement about the death.
  • Local authority burial charges or cremation fees.

Note: As a rule, a funeral director would list and itemise all these costs in their official quotation.

Paying for a Funeral

There are several ways of covering the cost of a funeral. In some cases,

  • A financial scheme the deceased person had would pay for it (e.g. an insurance policy or a pre-paid funeral plan.)
  • You, other relatives, or friends may cover the costs.
  • Funds from the dead person’s estate would meet the bill (e.g. personal savings). Applying for a ‘grant of representation’ (also called ‘applying for probate‘) is the way to get legal access to the money.

Note: People who are in financial difficulty may qualify to get a Funeral Expenses Payment from the DWP.

Moving a Dead Body for a Funeral Abroad

You cannot move a body overseas for a funeral without permission from a coroner. You need to apply at least four (4) days in advance to move a body abroad. Thus, you would need to find a coroner such as those listed on the ‘Coroners’ Society of England and Wales‘ website.

Note: The process for moving a dead body abroad for a funeral differs in Scotland and in Northern Ireland.


Tell Us Once Service

The ‘Tell Us Once Service‘ is a cross-government facility that makes death or birth notification simple. You can report a death to most government organisations in one occasion.

Benefits and Taxes

The process of dealing with benefits and tax after a death is simple with ‘Tell Us Once’. HMRC and the DWP will contact you about the tax and welfare entitlements of the deceased person.

If a Child or Baby Dies

The death of a child or baby still needs registering in the usual way. But, in some cases you will also need to inform certain government organisations.

Deaths Abroad

You may need to get professional help when dealing with a death overseas of United Kingdom. The first thing to do is register the death with the local authorities in the country where they died.

Checklist of things You Must Do when Someone Dies in United Kingdom