What to do immediately after someone dies
If your loved one died at home
If your loved one has died at home and their death was expected, you should call the doctor who will sign a medical certificate confirming the cause of death. If the death occurs outside of doctors opening hours then you need to call either the out of hours GP service or the emergency services.
If the death was unexpected or you do not know the name of the persons GP, you should call the emergency services. A doctor cannot issue a medical certificate if they are unsure about the cause of death. When this happens, the death must be reported to a coroner and the body taken for post-mortem.
You can then contact your chosen Funeral Director. Or your loved one may have had a Funeral Plan with their chosen Funeral Director, so contact them. They will have a 24 hour contact telephone number, so it doesn’t matter what time it is when you phone them.
If your loved one died in hospital
If the death has happened in a hospital, the doctor there will issue the certificate. The hospital will also be able to hold your loved one’s body until you arrange for it to be moved, for example, to a Chapel of Rest. In some cases, the doctor may decide to refer the matter to the coroner.
If you contact your chosen Funeral Director as soon as you can they will then liaise with the hospital about collecting your loved one to then take into their care.
If your loved one died abroad and you are also abroad
If you’re abroad with someone and they pass away, the first steps you need to take are:
• Contact the nearest British Embassy (or High Commision/Consulate)
• If you’re on an organized tour let the organizers know what has happened.
• If you’re staying in a resort let a representative know.
• If you’re not staying at accommodation that is booked under an organization then let the local police know as they will be able to help you get in touch with the nearest British Embassy.
If your loved one died abroad but you are at home in the UK
If your loved one is abroad and has passed away but you are in the UK, the British Consulate is legally obligated to contact their next-of-kin. You may find out from the Embassy itself, or the police force may be instructed to tell you. If another person informs you, for example a holiday representative, then it is important that you contact the Foreign and Commonwealth office. They will then keep you up to date with what’s going on and you can then start to make arrangements.
Register your loved ones death
When someone dies the last thing on your mind will be to consider the practical things. But one of the first practical things that needs to be taken care of is to register their death. Don’t worry, registering a death in the UK is quite simple.
We will run through a simple step-by-step guide of what you need to know and do.
How long do you have to register a death?
If you’re in England the time limit for registering a death is five days.
However, if the coroner is investigating the death, you can’t register it until they give you permission.
Where to register a death
If you’re loved one passed away at home, then ideally you need to register their death at a Registrar office in the same district as your loved one’s house.
If they passed away in a nursing home or hospital you will need to refer to their district Registrar office.
All of the above aren’t always practical if you live far away from the deceased. Any Registrar office in the country can be used, but choosing one too far from the loved ones residence can cause paperwork delays and risk missing the five-day limit.
It’s important to call ahead and make an appointment, as Registrar offices tend to be quite busy places.
You must register your loved ones death in the country where they passed away.
If your loved one has passed away abroad, your nearest British Embassy will be able to help guide you through this. It’s important to note that you must also register the death with the foreign and commonwealth office in the UK.
Who can register a death?
Usually, a close relative would be the one to register a death. This person is also known as the informant.
If a close relative is not available to do so, the following are also allowed to register the death:
• Any relative (including in-laws)
• Any person present when the person died.
• Someone who lives at, or is responsible for, the address where the person died.
• The person who is taking care of the funeral arrangements, but not a funeral director.
You cannot delegate responsibility for registering the death to anyone else.
What do you need to register a death>
The only document you really need to register a death is a ‘Medical Certificate of Cause of Death’. This is given to you by the hospital or the GP who tended to the person when they died and lists your loved ones cause, date and place of death, as well as name and age.
Other documentation is not essential for registering a death, however providing as much additional information as possible can help speed up the process.
It helps the registration if you can also present these (but don’t worry if you can’t as its not essential):
• The deceased’s NHS medical card
• Birth and marriage/civil partnership certificates
• Driving license
• Council Tax Bill
• Proof of address and passport
You will also need to provide the registrar with the following information:
• The full name of the person that died.
• Their full home address
• Their date and place of birth
• Details of where and when the person died
• Their occupation, if applicable
• If they were receiving any benefits, inc. pensions or allowance from public funds.
• The name, occupation and date of birth of their spouse or civil partner, if applicable.
Bringing supporting documents for the above is useful but not vital.
What documents will you receive from the registrar?
You will receive a green certificate for burial or cremation, which should be given to the Funeral Director. There is no charge for the certificate.
The Registrar will also give you a form to send to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). This allows them to deal with the persons pensions and other benefits.
The final thing you will be given is the Death Certificate. This will require a small fee. You may require this for legal reasons, and several copies would be useful as you will probably need them for dealing with the estate, insurances, banks, pensions etc. Photocopies are not usually accepted.
What happens if a coroner is involved when registering a death?
When a loved one sadly dies unexpectedly, someone is unhappy about the cause of death, or the loved one hasn’t been to their Doctors within the last 2 weeks then a coroner may be called to investigate the death. It is their duty to identify how, when and where the person died for official records, as well as giving some level of understanding to friends and family of the deceased.
If this is the case, the death must be reported by the doctor, hospital or Registrar to the coroner.
A death reported to a coroner cannot be registered until the coroner’s investigations are complete and a certificate has been issued allowing registration to take place.
A coroner can investigate a death if the body is in their district, even though the death took place somewhere else, for example, abroad.
Unfortunately, this may delay your funeral plans as a post-mortem or inquest will usually take place. Where a post-mortem has taken place, the coroner must give permission for the cremation.
How to bring my loved ones body back from abroad to the UK?
You will need to register the death according to local regulations and get a Death Certificate. The local police, British Consulate or tour guide can advise you on how to do this.
If a loved one dies abroad, most families will go through the process of bringing the body or ashes home for a funeral in the UK. This process is known as body repatriation.
Once you have informed the nearest British Embassy of your loved ones death, and registered their death at the local registrar office. You will then need to get the Death Certificate translated and liaise with the coroner.
Also, check whether your loved one had travel insurance which may include repatriation insurance. Repatriating a body can be costly, so its important to check whether this is covered in the insurance policy.
You will then be able to start liaising with your chosen Funeral Director who can help guide you through the next steps.
What happens next?
Once you’ve finished registering a death, your next steps are:
• Contact your chosen Funeral Director who will be able to arrange for your loved one to be collected and brought into their care at the soonest time available.
• Work with your Funeral Director to arrange the funeral.
• Notify others – full list in ‘Practical Matters’ section