When someone dies, it’s naturally an upsetting and challenging time. However, there are steps that must be taken following a death, including registering the death and dealing with the estate – which is why we’ve put this guide together, to help explain what to do when someone dies and make it easier to cope at an emotionally difficult time.

What Happens Immediately After the Death?

Register the Death

You must register the death within five days in England and Wales or eight days in Scotland – including the weekend and bank holidays. It is a criminal offence not to register the death with the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages within the set timelines.

The process for this will depend on the circumstances of the death – where the death occurred and if a coroner needs to be involved.

For more detailed information on Registering a death please visit. How to Register a Death in the UK.

Deaths In Hospital

If the person died in hospital and their death was expected, the doctor will issue the medical certificate with the cause of death.

Deaths At Home

If someone dies at home, you should call the person’s doctor surgery or NHS 111 to ask for a medical professional to visit to verify the death. They need to issue a medical certificate that states the cause of death.

Deaths Abroad

If the death happened when the person was abroad, you need to register the death with the local authorities in the country where it happened. In many countries, you can also register the death with UK authorities. If the body is being brought back to the UK, you need to register the death at the registrar’s office nearest the funeral venue. You will also need to look at repatriation services.

Probate Advice Options

What to do When Someone Dies

When A Coroner Is Needed

A coroner is needed if the cause of death was sudden, violent, suicide, or linked to an accident or attack. The coroner will then decide whether the cause of death is clear, a post-mortem is needed, or to hold an inquest.

If the cause of death cannot be established at the time of death and a post-mortem and / or inquest is required, the Registrar can issue an interim death certificate which can be used to arrange the funeral and to apply for probate. Once the Coroner has established the cause of death they will inform the Registrar who can then issue the Death Certificate.

Who can Register the Death?

The person who registers the death is officially known as ‘the informant’. To register the death, you need to be a relative of the person who died or to meet certain criteria to be qualified by law to register a death. We look at this process on more detail in this guide, How to Register a Death in the UK.

After Registering The Death

Obtaining Death Certificates

When you register the death it’s highly advisable to get copies. You can get copies of the death certificate when you register the death. How many copies will depend on the estate of the deceased. When you start the process of estate administration you will find that most financial and utility institutions require an original copy of the Death Certificate, homemade or digital copies are rarely accepted. You may want to consider how many organisations you will need to tell, this will be a guide as to how many copies you will need.

Arranging For the Removal of The Deceased

If the death is unexpected or suspicious the police may arrange for the body to be collected by a funeral director acting on behalf of the coroner.

If there is no coroner involved, the deceased’s body can normally be collected by an organisation of the family’s choice which could be either a funeral home, mortuary or crematorium. It will depend on the chosen funeral option.

Organ Donation

If the deceased wanted to donate their organs for transplant, the process for arranging this is more straightforward if they are on the NHS Organ Donor Register and carried a donor card. Loved ones will still need to provide consent for this to happen.

If the deceased wanted to leave their body for medical education or research purposes, they must have given consent before they died. A copy of consent should be within their will or amongst their paperwork.

Funeral Arrangements

You can choose to pay for a funeral director to arrange the funeral on your behalf. The funeral Director will manage the entire process on your behalf which for most people, at a time of grief, is the preferred option.

If you don’t want to involve a funeral director, you are permitted to organise the funeral yourself. It is more work and can be emotionally challenging but if you feel you can do it the costs are much lower. To arrange the funeral yourself, contact the Cemeteries and Crematorium Department of your local council to make plans.

Contacting The Relevant People & Organisations

A good place to start this task is to collate a list of people and organisation that will need to be notified. We have created a checklist to help with this task.

There are some useful organisations to help with this task.

Tell Us Once

Tell Us Once allows you to tell the relevant government bodies in one go, rather than individually.

Settld Notification

Settld is an online service that lets you notify financial, household and digital information services in one go rather than per company.

Death Notification Service

This is a free service that enables you to notify banks and building societies at the same time, to save you time and stress.

Telling the Government About the Death

You need to tell all the relevant government departments about the death – either using the Tell Us Once service or by doing so yourself.

If you decide against using Tell Us Once or are unable to as the person died when living abroad, you need to notify the following organisations:

Employer

If the deceased was employed, let the deceased’s employer know that the person has died, so they can update their records and calculate if any pension payment is owed.

Financial Institutions

You need to let the deceased’s financial institutions know the person has died. This includes banks, building societies, mortgage providers, savings accounts and investment accounts plus any credit card and loan companies. Most of the mainstream banks are Members of the Death Notification Service which enables multiple banks to be informed at once.

Insurance Providers

This includes life insurance as there may be a pay-out due. All other insurance providers need to be informed including home and car. Please be aware that most policies terminate on the death of the main policy holder which may leave home and vehicles uninsured (driving an uninsured car is a criminal offence).

Notifying Friends & Family

It’s a good idea to wait until you feel ready to receive messages of condolences, before telling friends and family that the person has died. When you speak to everyone, it’s best to warn them that you have bad/sad news to lessen the shock and to use straightforward language – you may find it easier to deliver the news face to face or over the phone. Text and messages are a harsh way to deliver such news and try and ensure that those closest to the deceased are informed before posting the news of the death on social media.

Finalising The Deceased’s Affairs

Establish if There is a Will

Before finalising the deceased’s affairs, check if they had written a will before they died. A will would contain all their wishes for what happens after they die. It’s important to find a copy of the will as soon as possible as it may contain funeral instructions and on occasion, details of a prepaid funeral plan. If you suspect there is a will but it cannot be located you may need some tips on searching for a will.

Applying For Probate

Firstly, you will need to establish if probate is required. This is outlined in “When is Probate Required in the UK?”

If probate is required and a will exists, you will need to apply for a Grant of Probate. If there is no will and the deceased’s estate is to be distributed according to the Law of Intestacy then an application for Letters of Administration is required.

You can apply for probate online or by post or ask a probate specialist for help. If you wish to get a quote for professional support you can request a consultation with a probate specialist or request an online probate quote.

Valuing The Estate & Paying Inheritance Tax

You need to value the estate before you can apply for probate. To value the estate, first identify all the deceased’s assets and debts to establish an estimate of worth that you then need to report to HMRC who will calculate if inheritance tax is payable. The process can take months or longer if the estate is large or complicated.

If the estate owes inheritance tax, you need to start paying this by the end of the sixth month after the person died and inheritance tax is payable before you apply for probate.

Estate Administration – Dealing with Property & Possessions

All property, possessions and debt of the deceased form their estate, and it is the responsibility of the executor or administrator to distribute the estate to the beneficiaries according to the deceased’s will or rules of intestacy if there is no will.

Financial Matters

All the assets, including money and property, that the deceased owned, need to be settled as part of the estate administration. This includes paying all debts and distributing all assets to those entitled to an inheritance.

Paying Any Outstanding Debts

You must pay any outstanding debts of the deceased had and settle all taxes. This includes paying unpaid bills, credit cards and taxes as well as applying for any tax refund or sorting repayment of overpaid benefits.

Miscellaneous Tasks

Securing Property and Property Maintenance

If the deceased lived in a property, either owned or rented, and that property is now left unoccupied it may require securing and maintaining until the estate is finalised. It may also be advisable to take out unoccupied property insurance or probate property insurance. It’s likely that any property insurance in the deceased’s name will terminate at the date of death which will leave the property unprotected.

Redirecting Post After Someone’s Death

You can redirect the deceased’s post by filing in a Special Circumstances form and taking it to your local Post Office. You need to show a Death Certificate to evidence you have the right to authorise the request.

Stop Receiving Unwanted Mail

You can stop unwanted mail by registering with the Mailing Preference Service (MPS) and the Bereavement Register – both are free and will stop post arriving from those companies that are members of the Direct Marketing Association.

Take Care of Yourself

Finding Support

Bereavement affects us all differently. If you’d like support to cope with your loss, you can find advice on ways to manage grief and bereavement on the NHS website and on the National Bereavement Service website, and The Good Grief Trust website if you’re recently bereaved.

There are people you can speak to for extra support, including through the Marie Curie helpline and by accessing a bereavement counsellor for free with AtaLoss.

Bereavement Benefits

Depending on your situation, you may be able to claim Bereavement Support Payment if your partner has died. You and your partner might be entitled to take time off work, known as Parental Bereavement Leave, and to access benefits, known as Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay.

If you’re bringing up a child whose parents have died, you might be entitled to Guardian’s Allowance.

You can find out more about bereavement benefits and what you may be entitled to, on the Gov.UK website.

Summary

Knowing what to do when someone dies is not easy, especially as it’s naturally an emotional time for loved ones. However, by using our guide you will hopefully gain peace of mind that you’re successfully completing all the necessary tasks.

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