What To Do When Someone Dies

The death of a loved one is a traumatic experience. This guide gives you some practical steps that need to be carried out when someone dies.

1.  Informing Family and Friends

Whilst this would seem obvious, this can be the most difficult step to undertake. Do not feel that this is something that you must do yourself.  Ask other family members to assist you if you are uncomfortable or unable to do this. 

2.  Registering the Death

Registration of a death should be dealt with within five days after the person died. You will be given an envelope which contains the medical certificate showing the cause of death.  This will often be given to you from your GP or the hospital where the person died.  The Registrar needs this form to register the death.

You will then need to make an appointment with the Registrar. This is usually the local registry office to where the person died.  At the meeting, you will need to provide certain information to allow the Registrar to issue the death certificate. This includes: 

  • Full name of the deceased together with any other names that they are known by (including maiden name)
  • Date and place of birth
  • The last known address
  • Occupation
  • The full name and occupation of their spouse/civil partner

It is useful if you bring the birth certificate, marriage certificate and NHS medical card to the appointment but these are not necessary to register the death.

If the death was unexpected it may be that the matter is sent to the Coroner to establish the cause of death. The registration of the death (and in rare occasions the funeral) can be delayed until the Coroner’s inquest is complete. An interim death certificate may be issued by the Coroner until the inquest has been completed to allow you to administer the estate in the meantime.

There is a fee for obtaining the death certificate – currently £3.50 per copy.

For more detailed information on how to register a death please see our page here 

3.  Arranging the Funeral

After registering the death, you will be given a ‘Green Form’ (the Certificate for Burial or Cremation). This needs to be taken to your chosen funeral director.

Most people have never had to organise a funeral before so it can seem a daunting process. The funeral directors are there to help you and will guide you through the arrangements.

You should check to see whether the person who died has already put in place a funeral plan. Many people keep details with their Will.  The Will may also contain specific funeral wishes although this is usually just gives a preference between burial and cremation. Details of how to obtain a Will are given below.

Payment of the funeral comes from the estate of the person who died. Whilst the assets of the deceased are frozen from the date of death a bank/building society will release money to obtain the death certificates and to arrange payment of the funeral. Once you have the invoice from the funeral director, you can take this into a bank where the deceased has an account and they will arrange for a cheque to be released payable to the funeral director.

4.  Obtaining the Will

A Will is a confidential document so the information cannot be released to anyone other than the person who made the Will. When someone has died, the Executors named in the Will are entitled to it. If this is being held by a firm of solicitors there are some formalities that need to be complied with before the Will can be released.

Firstly, the Solicitor will need to see a copy of the death certificate (or interim death certificate). The medical certificate that needs to be taken to register the death cannot be accepted.

The Will can only be given to the Executor. Where there is more than one Executor, the Will should be released to all of them. If they are unable to collect the Will together, written authority to release the Will is needed.

Proof of the Executors’ identity is required. This would be in the form of some photo identification (e.g. passport or photo driving licence) together with proof of address (e.g. bank statement or recent utility bill). The marriage certificate will also be required if the maiden name is mentioned on the Will.

5.  Administering the Estate

Initially, you would need to gather together as much information about the assets and liabilities in the estate so that the relevant companies can be informed of the death. 

You will also need to advise all pension providers and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) so that all pensions and benefit payments can be stopped. It is common that some payments are made after the date of death if the relevant agencies are not informed quickly enough. If this is the case, any overpayments need to be repaid.

A Grant of Probate (or its equivalent if there is no Will) may be required. The steps required to administer an estate vary greatly depending on the size of the estate, the type of assets in the estate, who the assets pass to and whether or not Inheritance Tax is payable. 

The Income Tax position of the person who died also needs to be finalised. This can mean completing a Tax Return for the previous tax year if not already submitted. The tax position from the start of the tax year to the date of death also needs to be dealt with together with the Income Tax and Capital Gains Tax position from the date of death until the administration of the estate has finished.

Our specialist team are happy to assist in the administration of an estate. We can help you with the administration of an estate from start to finish, or we can deal with those aspects that you are unable to deal with yourself. Should you have any queries or to discuss the matter further please do not hesitate to contact us.