What to Do When Someone Dies

Practical Steps Following the Loss Of A Loved One

Although it can be a very difficult and emotional time, there are certain procedures which need to be followed after someone has died. If the death was expected and the cause of their passing is clear, the process is reasonably straightforward. An unexpected death can be more complex as a coroner’s inquest may be required which can delay the release of a medical certificate.

There’s a lot to deal with after someone has died. There are financial arrangements, legal issues, and plenty of emotions to process too. Here we will guide you through the practical steps following the loss of a loved one, that need to be taken in the days and weeks after someone has died. This step-by-step advice will help you follow the right procedures during this difficult time.

Get a Medical Certificate

The first thing you need to do is get a medical certificate – if the individual died in hospital, you’ll be issued this automatically, whereas if they died at home, you will need to contact their GP. If a coroner’s inquest is required, you will receive the certificate afterwards when the cause of death has been determined.

Register the Death

If you’re based in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, you are required to register the death within five days – for those based in Scotland, it is within eight days. Although, if a coroner’s inquest is necessary this requirement may be postponed. Registering the death of a loved one can be done at a Register Office in England or Wales, the District Registration Office in Northern Ireland, or the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages in Scotland.

To register a death, you’ll need the medical certificate which should state the cause of death, along with the deceased’s full name, date and place of birth, last address and occupation. You will also need the full name, date of birth and occupation of their late or surviving spouse or partner if they were married.

Arrange the Funeral

After the loss of a loved one, and having registered their death, you may begin arranging the funeral. Arranging a funeral can be difficult emotionally but it can also begin the process of healing. Organising the celebration of someone’s life can be the first step in coming to terms with a loved one’s passing and bringing together those who also loved them.

Arranging a Pre-Paid Funeral

Firstly, you should check if the individual had a pre-paid funeral plan in place. If they had a pre-paid funeral plan, many of the costs and decisions will have already been arranged.

Choosing a Funeral Provider

It can be beneficial to ask family or friends for funeral provider recommendations. Alternatively, if the individual was in a care home, there may be funeral directors they have worked with before who staff can recommend. You don’t have to have the help of a funeral director if you don’t want to, but it can be challenging to know how best to go about organising a funeral without a professional.

You will also need to decide how the funeral will be paid for if a pre-paid funeral plan is not in place. There are several ways to pay for the funeral of a loved one, from paying for it yourself, using their life insurance policy or pension scheme, or using money from the person’s estate. Funeral costs will take precedence over any other expenses that need to be drawn from the estate.

Notify Organisations and Government Departments

In the weeks after someone has died, you will need to inform their landlord or mortgage provider, as well as any other companies or organisations they had accounts with, such as utility providers and their local council. You’ll also need to contact the Passport Office to cancel their passport, the DVLA to cancel their driving license if they had one, and their pension provider. Most local authorities are connected to the government’s Tell Us Once service and this scheme can make the process far simpler. Unfortunately, this service is not available in Northern Ireland.

Inform Insurers and Creditors

Soon after receiving the death certificate, or within a month of the death, you should inform any insurance companies, bank or building societies, or credit card companies that your loved one was a customer of. Financial institutions could owe money to the person who has died, or the individual may have owned money to these companies. If there are outstanding debts, payment arrangements will need to be set up.

Deal with the Estate

Following the loss of a loved one, somebody must be appointed to deal with the estate. The estate refers to everything owned by a person after they have died. If your loved one had a will, the named executor will handle the requests of the deceased. If there’s no will, a relative will often be appointed in the role of ‘administrator’ to deal with their estate and belongings. There are many legal obligations as a result of someone dying, many of which are time-sensitive, so it can be helpful to have the services of a legal professional when dealing with executing a will.