It’s tough enough when you lose a loved one without having to sit down and research all the things that need to be done, so here is a simple guide to what happens, and to the practical steps you’ll need to take….
When someone dies, whether at home or in a hospital or nursing home, a medical professional has to confirm the death, at which point the body can be moved to a mortuary or funeral home. A doctor also has to issue a Medical Certificate giving the cause of death – in some circumstances, they will report the death to the Coroner to carry out further investigations. For more information click here.
Registering the death
This is something that is required by law, generally within five days of the death. For full details of who should register, where to go (usually the Registrar’s office of the local authority) and what paperwork to take with you, click here.
Once registration is complete, you will be able to buy copies of the Death Certificate (costs vary in to different local authorities) and it’s usually a good idea to buy several. This is because each of the banks/building societies where the person had an account, any pension providers, insurance companies etc. will need a copy … and it’s more expensive if you have to go back and buy more copies at a later date.
The Registrar will also give you a Certificate for Burial or Cremation. Often called the ‘green form’ this is free of charge and must be given to the Funeral Director to allow the funeral to go ahead.
You may also be given a Certificate of Registration of Death – sometimes called the ‘white form’ it applies when the person who died was receiving a pension or benefits. All you need to do is complete the details and send it off to the address on the reverse of the form.
The Will and other important papers
The next thing to be done is to find out if the person has left a valid Will. It’s important for two reasons – firstly because they may have specified what funeral arrangements they would like, and secondly because it will set out who should now receive their assets (money, property etc.).
If you can’t find a Will, you can contact local Will Writers and Solicitors in the area to see if they have a copy, or try searching national Will registers like Certainty (certainty.co.uk).
At this stage, it’s also a good idea to gather together other important paperwork such as pension details, insurance policies, bank and building society details etc. as you’ll need them to complete the task of finalising the person’s affairs.
If there is no Will click here.
Arranging the funeral
If the person who has died hasn’t left instructions, or organised a pre-paid funeral, the family or close friends will need to contact a Funeral Director who can help them sort all the arrangements and details: burial or cremation, religious or non-religious, music, flowers, readings etc. It’s a good idea to make sure your chosen Funeral Director is a member of a recognised Trade Association such as the National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD) or National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF).
Sorting out the ‘Estate’
All the possessions of the person who’s died – their money, property, contents of their home etc. is collectively called their ‘Estate’. Dealing with this, paying any debts, tax and finally transferring what is left to beneficiaries of the Will is called ‘Estate Administration’ and is carried out by someone named in their Will as their ‘Executor.’
This can take a lot of time and effort, and it’s important to remember that the Executor is personally liable for any mistakes they make during the process, so a lot of people choose to appoint a specialist legal firm like Will Makers of the Midlands to do the work on their behalf.
When the Coroner is involved
When a loved one dies unexpectedly, or some of the circumstances surrounding the death are unclear or unknown, a Coroner – a special investigator appointed by the Local Authority – may be called in.
It’s not at all unusual, in fact almost half of all deaths in the UK are reported to a Coroner – and it is their job is to find out how, when and where the person died for official records, as well as for the benefit of the bereaved.
One of the first thing’s a Coroner may do is to order a Post Mortem – a medical examination of the body to determine the cause of death. While this and any other investigations are going on, Funeral Directors are not allowed to start embalming or any other preservative work on the body in preparation for the funeral and it will only be possible to set a date for the funeral once the investigations are complete.
If the Post Mortem reveals that the death was due to natural causes, the Coroner will release the body, the death can be registered and the funeral can take place.
However, if further investigations are required, an Inquest will be held – a formal inquiry into the death. Again, this will need to be completed before the death can be registered and the funeral can take place.
If you’re not sure about anything, give us a call us on 01952 305 105 – we’re here to help.(back to top ↑)
Registering a death
Registering a death is straightforward – but there are quite a few things to remember. The professionals you’ll meet at the Register Office understand that it is a difficult time and will explain how it works and what you need to do, but here is a guide to help you prepare…
Who should Register a death?
It’s usually a relative who is required to register a death. If there are no relatives, or they are not available for some reason, the Registrar will allow someone who was present at the death – perhaps a hospital representative, an occupant of the house where the death occurred or maybe the person arranging the funeral – to register the death.
Where should it be Registered?
If the person died at home, you should go to the Register Office for the district where they lived. If the death took place in hospital or in a nursing home, it’s the Register Office for the district in which the hospital or home is situated. In England and Wales, you can go to a different office to register the death and the details will be passed on to the correct office, but that can cause delays. It’s always a good idea to check the opening hours of the office you wish to go to, and whether you need to make an appointment.
When should a death be Registered?
A death should generally be registered within five days (Unless the death has been reported to the Coroner in which case you have to wait until the Coroner’s investigations are complete.
What to take with you – the Registrar will want to see the Medical Certificate which gives the cause of death, and if possible, you should also take the person’s NHS Medical Card and Birth and Marriage Certificates. The Registrar will also want to know:
- date and place of death
- the full name of the person (including any maiden name) and their last address
- the person’s date and place of birth (the town or county is fine if the full address isn’t known, or just the country of they weren’t born in the UK)
- the person’s occupation (or if they are retired, their former occupation) and, in the case of a woman who was married or widowed, the full name and occupation of her husband
- details of the person’s husband, wife or civil partner
- whether the person was receiving a pension or other social security benefits.