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What to do after a death

As with the Wills and Probate sections, we are not pretending to know all the legalities and form filling necessary after a death has occurred, and so all of the information on the following pages is from the government's public services website.

Below you will find sections on -

* What to do when someone dies
* Registering a Death
* Documents and information needed when somebody dies
* When somebody dies in Hospital
* Coroners, Post-Mortems and Inquests
* When somebody Dies Abroad

There is also a very comprehensive booklet from the Department of Work and Pensions that covers just about every question you can think of on this subject.

DWP1027 What to do After a Death in England and Wales

Or for Scotland;

D49S What to do After a Death in Scotland


What to do when someone dies

When someone dies there are many decisions and arrangements to make, all of which can be difficult in a time of grief. To help, we've put together this checklist to guide you through the process.

Getting started

Before you start, it would be useful to have the following information to hand about the person who has died.

* National Insurance number
* NHS number
* date and place of birth
* date of marriage or civil partnership (if appropriate)
* tax reference number

What to do in the first five days

There are a few steps that need to be taken shortly after the death. In many cases the hospital or GP involved will help you with these early steps:

* notify the family GP
* register the death at a registrar's office
* find the will - the deceased person’s solicitor may have a copy if you can't find one
* begin funeral arrangements - you will need to check the will for any special requests
* if relevant, complete form BD8 given to you when you register the death and send to the local    Jobcentre Plus or Social Security
* if the person who has died was receiving any benefits or tax credits, advise the offices that were    making the payments - if you can't find relevant correspondence, use the links below to the tax    credit helpline and Jobcentre plus

If there is a will

* contact the executor if this isn’t you (usually nominated in the will to sort out the deceased's    affairs) to enable them to start the process of obtaining probate

If there is no will

* decide who will apply to sort out the deceased's affairs
* contact the Probate Registry to apply for 'letters of administration'

Link to what to do if there is no will
Link to what is probate

Who else to contact

As well as informing people who are close to the person, in many cases you'll need to close down accounts, or cancel or change insurance details, subscriptions, agreements, payments or direct debits.

Here’s a list to help you keep track; just cross through the ones that don’t apply:

* relatives and friends
* employer
* school
* solicitor/accountant

Government organisations

* the relevant tax office
* National Insurance contributions office if they were self-employed (to cancel payments)
* Child Benefit office (at latest within eight weeks)
* local authority if they paid council tax, had a parking permit, were issued with a blue badge for    disabled parking, or received social services help, attended day care or similar
* UK Identity and Passport Service, to return and cancel a passport
* DVLA, to return any driving licence, cancel car tax or return
* car registration documents/change ownership

Financial organisations

* general insurance companies - contents, car, travel, medical etc
* any other company with which the deceased may have had rental, hire purchase or loan    agreements
* if the deceased was the first named on an insurance policy, make contact as early as possible to    check that you are still insured
* pension providers/life insurance companies
* banks and building societies
* mortgage provider
* hire purchase or loan companies
* credit card providers/store cards

Utilities and household contacts

* landlord or local authority if they rented a property
* any private organisation/agency providing home help
* utility companies if accounts were in the deceased's name
* Royal Mail, if mail needs re-directing
* TV/internet companies with which the deceased had subscriptions

Other useful contacts

* Bereavement Register and Deceased Preference Service to remove the deceased's name from    mailing lists and databases
* clubs, trade unions, associations with seasonal membership for cancellation and refunds
* church/regular place of worship
* social groups to which the deceased belonged
* dentist
* creditors - anyone to whom the deceased owed money
* debtors - anyone who owed the deceased money

* Register with the Bereavement Register Opens new window
* Deceased Preference Service Opens new window

Benefits and financial help

You may be able to claim certain benefits and one-off payments if you lived with or were dependent on the deceased. Time limits apply, so contact your nearest Jobcentre Plus office as soon as possible to find out.

* contact Jobcentre Plus
* make a claim for Bereavement Allowance
* make a claim for Widowed Parent’s Allowance
* make a claim for a Bereavement Payment
* make a claim for a Funeral Payment
* check your current benefits and tax credits

* Find your local Jobcentre Plus office here

Making a new will

Surviving relatives and friends of the deceased may need to make a new will. It's important to ask a solicitor about this.

Click here for more information on Making a Will

Bereavement – counselling and support

Everyone deals with bereavement in their own way. If you or someone you know needs counselling or support, ask your family doctor or contact an organisation such as Cruse Bereavement Care. Their aim is to promote the well-being of bereaved people and provides counselling and support. The organisation also offers information, advice, education and training services.

* Cruse Bereavement Care Opens new window


Registering a Death

You normally need to register a person's death within five days, and when someone you love has died this can seem like a daunting task. This page gives an overview of what you'll need to do.

When and where to register a death

In England and Wales, you normally need to register the death within five days. It's best to go to the registrar's office in the area in which the person died, otherwise it may take longer to get the necessary documents and this could delay the funeral arrangements.

Registering the death will take about half an hour; you may need to make an appointment beforehand. You'll find contact details for local register offices in the local area phone book or you can search online.

Who can register a death

If the person died in a house or hospital, the death can be registered by:

* a relative
* someone present at the death
* an occupant of the house
* an official from the hospital
* the person making the arrangements with the funeral directors

Deaths that occurred anywhere else can be registered by:

* a relative
* someone present at the death
* the person who found the body
* the person in charge of the body
* the person making the arrangements with the funeral directors

Most deaths are registered by a relative. The registrar would normally only allow other people if there are no relatives available.

Stillbirth

A stillbirth normally needs to be registered within 42 days, and at latest within three months. In many cases this can be done either at the hospital or at the local register office.

Documents and information you will need

Documents

When registering a death, you'll need to take the following:

* medical certificate of the cause of death (signed by a doctor)

And if available:

* birth certificate
* marriage/civil partnership certificates
* NHS Medical Card

Information

You’ll need to tell the registrar:

* the person’s full name at time of death
* any names previously used, including maiden surname
* the person’s date and place of birth (town and county if born in the UK and country if born abroad)
* their last address
* their occupation
* the full name, date of birth and occupation of a surviving spouse or civil partner
* whether they were receiving a state pension or any other state benefit

Documents you will receive

If a post-mortem is not being held, the registrar will issue you with:

* a Certificate for Burial or Cremation (called the 'green form'), giving permission for the body to be    buried or for an application for cremation to be made
* a Certificate of Registration of Death (form BD8), issued for social security purposes if the person    received a State pension or benefits (please read the information on the back, complete and return    it, if it applies)

You'll be able to buy one or more Death Certificates at this time, the price varies from local authority to local authority. These will be needed by the executor or administrator when sorting out the person's affairs.

The registrar will also give you a booklet called 'What to do after a death'. This offers advice on probate and other administrative issues that will need to be done around this time.

If a post-mortem is needed, the coroner will issue any necessary documents as quickly as possible afterwards.

If there is an error in a death record, details can be changed or added. Ideally the person who registered the death should arrange this with the office where the death was registered. You may be asked to provide documentary evidence to prove an error was made.

Removing a body from England or Wales

There is no restriction on moving a body within England and Wales, but you need to notify the coroner for the district concerned if you want to move a body to Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands, or overseas.

To do this you will need a form (Form 104 - Notice to a coroner of intention to remove a body out of England), which can be provided by a coroner or registrar. You will then need to give the completed form to the coroner, and enclose any certificate for burial or cremation that has already been issued to you.

The coroner will acknowledge receiving that notice, and will let you know when the body can be moved - usually four clear days from when the notice was received. However in urgent situations, the whole process can usually be fast-tracked.

If the death is referred to a coroner

In a small number of cases - where the cause of death is unclear, sudden or suspicious - the doctor or hospital or registrar will report the death to the coroner. The coroner must then decide whether there should be further investigation. The registrar cannot register the death until the coroner's decision is made.

Other things that need to be done

Not everything can be done straight away, particularly as this is a very difficult time for people to cope with, but it is important to:

* make sure everyone who needs to know is told
* arrange to see the deceased's solicitor and read the will as soon as possible; this will tell you if    there are any special funeral requests and who the executors are
* start arranging the funeral
* collect all the information and documents you will need

More useful links

* Registering a death for Scottish residents Opens new window
* Registering a death for residents of Northern Ireland Opens new window
* What to do after a death - Link to Citizens Advice Bureau page Opens new window


Documents and information needed when somebody dies

Check the lists here of all the documents and information needed after someone dies, both to notify the required people/organisations immediately after the death and as part of the longer term probate process.

Documents/information needed in the first five days

You'll need to gather together the following documents and information as soon as possible - to enable registration of the death and to start funeral arrangements.

Documents

* medical certificate of the cause of death (signed by a doctor)

and if available:

* birth certificate
* marriage/civil partnership certificates
* NHS Number/NHS Medical Card

Information

* the person who has died's full names at death
* any names previously used, including maiden surname
* the deceased's date and place of birth (town and county if born in the UK and country if born    abroad
* their last address
* their occupation
* date of marriage/civil partnership if certificate not available
* the full name, occupation and date of birth of a surviving spouse or civil partner
* whether the deceased was receiving a state pension or any other state benefits

Other documents/information, if relevant:

* organ donor card
* religion

Documents needed in order to notify benefits/tax credits offices

* correspondence confirming payment to the deceased of benefits (normally Jobcentre Plus office),    tax credits (HM Revenue & Customs) and/or State Pension (Department for Work and Pensions)
* Child Benefit Number (if relevant)

Documents relating to a partner or relative

* proof of your relationship to the deceased (eg marriage/civil partnership or birth certificate, child's    birth certificate naming both parents)
* your social security card/National Insurance number if you will be claiming/changing benefits

Documents/information needed by the person sorting out the deceased's affairs

The personal representative is the person formally responsible for sorting out the deceased person's estate, paying any taxes and debts and distributing the estate. They will need the following documents (where relevant):

Documents needed by the personal representative:

* sealed copies of the grant of representation (probate/letters of administration)

Documents relating to the death:

* the will if there is one
* death certificate (often needed when requesting access to funds; it's best to order at least two    extra certified copies when registering the death)

Savings/investments related:

* bank and building society account statements
* investment statements/share certificates
* personal or company pension account statements

Insurance:

* life insurance documents (including mortgage cover)
* general insurance policies (home, car, travel, medical etc)

State pension/benefits:

* relevant correspondence or statements from Jobcentre Plus (for benefits) and/or The Pension    Service

Amounts owing by the deceased:

* mortgage statement
* credit card statements
* utility/ Council Tax bills in the deceased's name
* rental agreements/statements (private or local authority)
* other outstanding bills
* leases, hire purchase agreements or similar (eg for equipment, car or furniture)
* educational loan statements
* any other loan statements

Amounts owed to the deceased:

* outstanding invoices if the deceased ran a business
* written/verbal evidence of other money owed to the deceased

Property

* property deeds or leases (main home and any other at home or abroad)
* property keys

Other possessions:

* existing valuations of property such as jewellery, paintings and similar (though an up to date *    market valuation will be required)
* any existing inventories of property/possessions
* safety box deposit information

Employment or self-employment:

* PAYE form P60 and latest payslips if the deceased was employed
* recent tax returns and tax calculation statements (if relevant)

Business related:

* company registration documents, accounts, tax and VAT returns if they had a business

Other documents/information

The following documents and information will be required by the personal representative or close relative in order to contact relatives and friends or to return documents to relevant organisations:

* address book/information listing close friends and relatives who will need to be informed
* passport
* vehicle registration documents if the deceased owned a car
* driving licence/parking permits/travel cards/Blue Badge for disabled parking
* membership cards or documents/correspondence showing membership of clubs, associations,    Trade Unions and similar


When somebody dies in Hospital

When someone dies in hospital or a care home

Staff who have been caring for the person who has died will know what to do and will provide you with emotional and practical support after the death.

What happens first?

The person who has died will need to be formally identified by the person named by them as the next of kin. The next of kin may also need to give permission for a hospital post-mortem examination if the cause of the death has to be confirmed; however, a coroner's post-mortem examination may be carried out without consent.

The body will then be laid out and kept in the hospital mortuary until you arrange for the funeral directors, family or whoever you chose to collect it. If you choose, funeral directors will take the body to their chapel of rest until the funeral takes place.

Staff in the hospital or care home will keep safe the possessions that the person who has died had in hospital until the person administering the estate arranges for them to be collected. They'll issue a receipt when the possessions are collected.

The medical certificate

A doctor at the hospital will give you a medical certificate that shows the cause of death. This has to be produced before the death can be registered. They will give you the medical certificate in a sealed envelope addressed to the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages. You'll also be given information on how to register the death.

If the body is to be cremated, two doctors will sign the medical certificate to show the body has been examined. There will be a charge for this.

Organ and body donation

If you know that the person who has died wanted to donate organs or their body to medical science, it’s best to tell hospital or care home staff promptly. Each hospital and care home will have their own policies for dealing with this. (Click here to go to our additional information pages on Organ and Body Donation)

Hospital staff may approach you if they feel others could be helped through organ donation. Organs will not be taken without your permission.

If the deceased wanted their body to be donated to medical science, contact the Human Tissue Authority (HTA). Not all bodies will be accepted – for example, if there has been a post-mortem examination or if organs have been removed.

What you should do next

You must register the person's death at a local register office within five days. An appointment is usually needed. You'll need to take the medical certificate with you. After registering the death you'll be given a death certificate, which means you can go ahead with the funeral.

It's also advisable to:

* make sure everyone who needs to know is told
* try to find out whether a will has been made
* arrange to see the deceased's solicitor and read the will as soon as possible
* begin to make arrangements for the funeral

If you are not happy with the hospital or care home service

If you're unhappy with any part of the service you get from the care home or hospital, you must first go through the hospital or care-home complaints procedure.

If you're still unhappy after this, you can contact the Health Service Ombudsman, who can carry out an independent investigation. The helpline for the Ombudsman is 0345 015 4033 (open Monday to Friday 9.00 am to 8.00 pm and Saturday 9.00 am to 1.00 pm).

If the hospital or care home is privately run you can take your complaint to the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI) helpline 0845 015 0120 (open Monday to Friday, 8.30 am to 5.30 pm).

* The Health Service Ombudsman Opens new window
* How to complain to the Commission for Social Care Inspection Opens new window

Bereavement - counselling and support

Everyone deals with bereavement in their own way. If you or someone you know needs counselling or support, ask your family doctor or contact a relevant organisation.

Your local authority may provide support and advice about the arrangements that need to be made after a bereavement, such as registering the death and obtaining a death certificate.

Cruse Bereavement Care's aim is to promote the well-being of bereaved people and provides counselling and support. The organisation also offers information, advice, education and training services.

* Cruse Bereavement Care Opens new window


Coroners, Post-Mortems and Inquests

The coroner is a doctor or lawyer responsible for investigating deaths in particular situations and can also arrange for a post-mortem examination of the body, if necessary. An inquest is a legal inquiry into the causes and circumstances of a death.

When a death will be reported to the coroner

If death occurs in any of the following circumstances, the doctor may report it to the coroner:

* after an accident or injury
* following an industrial disease
* during a surgical operation
* before recovery from an anaesthetic
* if the cause of death is unknown
* if the death was violent or unnatural - for example, suicide, accident or drug or alcohol overdose
* if the death was sudden and unexplained - for instance, a sudden infant death (cot death)

In addition to this, if the deceased was not seen by the doctor issuing the medical certificate after he or she died, or during the 14 days before the death, the death must be reported to the coroner.

Anyone who is concerned about the cause of a death can inform a coroner about it, but in most cases a death will be reported to the coroner by a doctor or the police.

What happens once a death is reported to the coroner

The coroner may be the only person able to certify the cause of death. The doctor will write on the Formal Notice that the death has been referred to the coroner. The Formal Notice is issued to you by the attending doctor and is a document which explains how you register the death.

The coroner will then decide whether there should be further investigation into the death - and the registrar cannot register the death until notified of the coroner's decision. This means that the funeral will usually also be delayed. Where a post-mortem has taken place, the coroner must give permission for cremation.

Post-mortems

In some cases, the coroner will need to order a post-mortem. This is a medical examination of the body to find out more about the cause of death. In these cases, the body will be taken to hospital for this to be carried out.

You do not have the right to object to a post-mortem ordered by the coroner, but you should tell the coroner if you have religious or other strong objections. In cases where a death is reported to a coroner because the person had not seen a doctor in the previous 14 days (28 in Northern Ireland) the coroner will consult with there deceased person's doctor and will usually not need to order a post-mortem.

If a post-mortem shows that death was due to natural causes, the coroner will issue a notification of this (called a Pink Form B - Form 100), so that the death can be registered. The notification is usually sent directly to the registrar, but in some cases, it may be given to you to deliver. If the body is to be cremated, the coroner will also give you the form which allows this to take place (called Certificate for Cremation - Form E).

Inquests

An inquest is a legal inquiry into the medical cause and circumstances of a death. It is held in public - sometimes with a jury - by a coroner, in cases where the death was:

* violent or unnatural
* took place in prison or police custody

or when

* the cause of death is still uncertain after a post-mortem

Coroners hold inquests in these circumstances even if the death occurred abroad (and the body is returned to Britain). If a body is lost (usually at sea) a coroner can hold an inquest by order of the Secretary of State if death is likely to have occurred in or near a coroner's area of jurisdiction.

If an inquest is held, the coroner must inform:

* the married or civil partner of the deceased
* the nearest relative (if different from the above)

and

* the personal representative (if different from the above)

Relatives can also attend an inquest and ask questions of witnesses - these questions can only be about the medical cause and circumstances of the death. Relatives can also ask a lawyer to represent them, but there is no legal aid available for this.

It may be particularly important to have a lawyer to represent you if the death was caused by a road accident, an accident at work, or other circumstances which could lead to a claim for compensation. You cannot get legal aid for this.


When somebody Dies Abroad

When someone dies abroad, the death may seem more distressing because of the complications of being away from home and dealing with strangers, but you can get help from the British authorities in the UK and overseas.

Finding out about the death

If a close relative or friend dies while you're in the UK

If the death has been reported to the British Consulate in the country where the person died, they will ask the UK police to inform the next of kin.

If you hear of the death from anyone else, for example a tour operator, you should contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) on 020 7008 1500 (open 24 hours).

Consular staff in London will keep in touch with the family and the Consulate abroad until burial or cremation overseas or until the deceased has been brought back to the UK. They'll also tell the British Consul of your wishes for the funeral and take details of who'll be responsible for paying the costs involved, such as bringing the body back to the UK.

If the person dies while you're abroad with them

The British Consul will support you by offering practical advice and help with funeral arrangements and other formalities such as inquests.

If the person died while on a package holiday, the tour operator will be able to contact funeral directors and British Consular staff for you.

* Foreign and Commonwealth Office guidance on death abroad Opens new window
* Find British Consulates around the world Opens new window


Registering the death where the person died

You will need to register the death according to local regulations and get a Death Certificate. The local police, British Consul or tour guide can advise you on how to do this.

You can also often register the death at the British Consulate as well. You don't have to do this, but if you do you can buy a UK-style death certificate, and the record will be sent to the General Register Office within 12 months. You will be able to get a copy of the record later from the General Register Office or from the British Consul in the country concerned.

If the person who died was a serving member of the British armed forces, their commanding officer can also request the registration.

It's not possible to register the death with the British authorities in a number of countries including: the Ascension Islands, Australia, Bermuda, Canada, Cayman Islands, Christmas Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Irish Republic, Nevis, New Zealand, St. Helena, South Africa, Turks & Cacos Islands, Virgin Islands (UK)

If the body is to be brought back to England or Wales and is to be cremated, this must be reported to the coroner since they need to issue a Certificate for Cremation (form E).

Documents you'll need to register the death

When registering the death, you should take information about yourself and the deceased including:

* full name
* date of birth
* passport number
* where and when the passport was issued
* details of the next of kin, if you're not their closest relative

Bringing the body home

If you wish to bring the body back to the UK, British Consular staff will help by putting you in touch with an international funeral director. The body will need to be embalmed and placed in a zinc-lined coffin before it can be removed from the country. It may take some time to bring the body home, especially if a post-mortem examination is held.

Documents you will need

Before you can bring the body home, you'll need the following documents:

* a certified English translation of the foreign death certificate from the country in which the person    died
* authorisation to remove the deceased's body from the country
* a certificate of embalming

The British Consul can help to arrange the above documentation.

* The Association of Translation Companies Opens new window


Funeral costs

If the deceased's funeral costs are covered by travel insurance, contact the insurance company promptly. They'll be able to contact the funeral directors for you and make the necessary arrangements.

If the deceased's funeral costs are not covered by insurance, you'll be expected to pay all the costs including hospital bills and repatriation (bringing home) of the body and possessions.

Arranging the funeral in the UK

You'll need to take an authenticated translation of the death certificate to the register office in the area you intend to hold the funeral. The register will then issue a 'certificate of no liability to register'. This certificate is usually given to the funeral director to enable the funeral to go ahead. The certificate is not required if a coroner has issued a Certificate E for Cremation or an Order for Burial.

If you wish to have the body cremated you'll need a Cremation Order (or a form E if there was a post-mortem), before you start planning the funeral. For more information call the Coroner's Division on 020 340 6659/6660, open Monday to Friday 9.00 am to 5.00 pm.

Having the funeral abroad

You can arrange for the burial or cremation in the country the person where died. The British Consulate can give you advice about this.

* Download guidance on death overseas - Foreign and Commonwealth Office Opens new window

Deaths in disasters abroad

If the deceased has been killed in a disaster abroad, natural or otherwise, ask the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for help. They will provide support and advice. The main enquiry number is 020 7008 1500. They are open 24 hours a day.

The deceased will need to be identified and you may be asked for information about them including a physical description, name and address of the person's UK doctor or dentist. The police may also need a photograph and/or fingerprint samples from the deceased's house.

* More information on deaths in disasters abroad Opens new window

 
 
 
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