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  • Writer's pictureAura Flights

What to do when someone dies?

Updated: Oct 27, 2022

Witnessing someone die or being there during the final stages of someone’s life can be a very upsetting experience. Most of us would respond with shock, distress, or sadness, even more so if we were close to the person that has passed away. As a society we tend to shy away from thoughts and talk of death, preferring not to contemplate it, or learn how to respond to another person’s passing. It’s important to educate ourselves on what procedures need to be taken if someone we know has passed away. Prior to their funeral, or memorial ceremony, many forms need to be filled and people contacted.

The death of a loved one is hard enough without all the paperwork, but there are easier way to navigate things, and many organisations are out there that you can turn to for helpful advice.

What should my immediate response be?

Your immediate response, in terms of what action to take, is highly context dependent. The next steps following a death in the home, or a death in a hospital will be very different. Below is a breakdown of the best way to navigate various circumstances of death.

What do I need to do if someone dies at home?

If someone dies at home you will need to contact a close relative and their family doctor to let them know. Their doctor will give you a medical certificate stating cause of death (if known). They will also inform you how to register their death, but for anyone that is not sure we’ll explain how to do so.

In addition to the above, you will also need to call a funeral director to have the body taken to a funeral home.

How do I register a death?

The death needs to be registered with a registry office within five days. Technically, you can register their death with any registry office, however, their nearest office is probably best. In addition to the medical certificate stating the cause of their death, you will need to take a plethora of documents and ID along with you, so make sure you have the following to speed up the process:

  • Their birth certificate

  • NHS medical card or number

  • Marriage or civil partnership certificate

  • Driving licence

  • Proof of their address

Once at the registry office, you will need to tell the registrar:

  • The person’s full name (and any other names they had, such as a maiden name)

  • The date and place of birth

  • Their address

  • Their most recent occupation

  • The date and location of their death

  • If they were receiving state benefits

  • The name, occupation, and date of birth of their partner

  • In return, the registrar will provide you with the following:

  • A certificate of registration of death (form BD8)

  • A certificate for burial or cremation (the Green Form)

  • Leaflets about bereavement benefits

  • A death certificate (there will be a charge for this)

When purchasing the death certificate, it is best to get several copies because these will be needed for the will, savings, pension claims, etc. Requesting extra copies at a later date can be particularly expensive.

Hand holding a pen signing a document

What happens when a death is unexpected?

If the cause of death is uncertain, call 999. There is a chance they could be resuscitated and the medical personnel at the end of the line will let you know what to do. If resuscitation isn’t an option, police will be told of the news and will arrange for a coroner to come by to not only take the body but ascertain the cause of death through an autopsy.

What to do if someone dies abroad

If someone you know has passed away abroad, their death will need to be registered according to the regulations of that country. You will need to register their death with the British Consul in the country they are in, in order to get a consulate death certificate that can be kept in the UK.

What happens after someone dies at a hospital?

The hospital will issue both a medical certificate as well as a formal notice. The staff that have been caring for the recently deceased will know what to do next. The body will then be held at a hospital mortuary until plans are put in place by a close relative for a funeral director to take the body.

Who do I need to speak to after someone has died?

Beyond immediate family, friends, or a partner, there are many people, businesses, and authorities, that need to be informed of someone's death. There is something called the “Tell Us Once” service that can be used to report a death to several government departments at once (the tax office, library, local council tax services, the DVLA, UK passport agency, HMRC). This is something that is offered by most local authorities. You can arrange for an appointment upon registering their death via the internet or the phone, or you can contact these different organisations separately. However, you will save time and effort with The Tell Us Once service.

Here are some other organisations that may need to be contacted:

  • Insurance companies they have accounts with

  • Pension provider

  • Bank/building society

  • Employer

  • Utility companies

  • Mortgage provider, council housing office or housing association

  • Their GP, dentist, optician and other medical care providers

  • The Bereavement Register - removes their details from various mailing lists to stop advertising mail being sent

  • Any outstanding subscriptions the deceased made regular payments too

What do I do if I have power of attorney over the deceased?

The Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) ceases when the donor dies. You must send the original LPA document, as well as a copy of their death certificate, to the Office of the Public Guardian, as soon as possible.

Power of Attorney document on desk with a judges hammer laid over it

When should I organise the funeral?

As soon as you can. There is a lot to consider when planning a funeral — the budget, the deceased’s wishes, location, whether or not to have a wake, etc. If you are unsure about funeral planning, we have an article explaining how to plan a funeral for you to look through.

If you are struggling with the death of a loved one, there are many bereavement services out there that can provide support at this difficult time. Don’t forget to reach out to those that can provide comfort during your grief. Aura Flights have put together an article about grief and loss which might be of help to you.

Woman placing hand on coffin holding red roses in the other hand


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