What to do when someone dies
What to do when someone dies
How to register a death, who to notify and what to do next
It can be bewildering to know what to do once a loved one dies, and you may be in shock or overwhelmed by grief, which adds to the difficulties of sorting out the official papers and funeral arrangements. Help is at hand through the expert guidance of the registrars, who record the death, and the funeral directors who will also support you...

How to register a death

A doctor will provide a certificate giving the medical cause of death in the hours after someone dies. A death may be reported to the coroner for a number of reasons and, in these circumstances, the coroner will issue the paperwork. This paperwork is needed to register a death.

A death must be registered within five calendar days - this includes weekends and bank holidays (8 days in Scotland), of the person dying, and the death must be registered with the registration district where it occurred. The death can be registered by:

  • A relative
  • A person present at the death
  • A senior member of the establishment (such as a nursing home) in which the death occurred
  • The occupier of the residence where the death occurred
  • The person arranging the funeral (usually not the funeral director, although they can book the appointment on your behalf).

During the appointment, you'll need to tell the registrar the following:

  • Date and place of death
  • Full name of the person who has died, and any previous or maiden names where appropriate
  • Date and the place of birth of the person who has died
  • Occupation (prior to retirement if applicable) and usual address of the person who had died
  • If the person who has died was married or in a civil partnership, details of the deceased's most recent spouse or legal civil partner including: their full name, date of birth, most recent occupation and whether they're retired
  • If the deceased was receiving any pension or allowance from public funds, other than a state pension from public funds

Proof of Identity and documentation:

You will have to supply proof of identity. These are documents belonging to the deceased, which the registrar may wish to see. Finding or having these documents for the appointment is not mandatory:

  • Birth certificate
  • Marriage or civil partnership certificate
  • NHS medical card
  • Council Tax bill
  • Driving licence
  • Passport
  • Proof of address (e.g., utility bill)

Who to notify

After this is done, the Green Form will be emailed to your appointed funeral director, place of burial or cremation. This gives permission for a burial or an application for cremation, called a Certificate for Burial or Cremation. If the place of burial or cremation is not known at the time of registration, the form will be retained by the Registration Service until notified of where this will be. You will also receive a death certificate, officially known as a Certificate of Registration of Death (Form BD8). Additional death certificates can be bought online at a cost of £11 each.

The registrar will also point you to the online Tell Us Once service chat that helps you to report a death to many government departments in one go. The Tell Us Once service will then notify HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to deal with personal tax issues; the Department of Work and Pensions, who will cancel any Universal Credit and State Pensions and contact some public sector pensions; the Passport Office to cancel the passport; the DVLA to cancel a licence; and the local Council to remove the person from the electoral register, and cancel any housing benefit or Council Tax support.

What to do next

If the deceased owned a vehicle, contact the car insurance company to check that a valid insurance policy remains in place for someone else to drive it.

Dealing with the Estate
After registering the death, you may have to deal with the estate of the person who died (this is their money, property and possessions). If you are named in the person’s will as their executor, another word for administrator, you can start managing the estate. If there is no named executor, you will have to apply for probate, which is the right to have access to bank accounts and manage their affairs. This can be done via post or online via gov.uk/applying-for-probate/apply-for-probate, but you can’t do anything until this has been granted. You don’t need probate if you jointly owned property, money, land and possessions with the deceased person at the time of their death as these will automatically pass to the surviving owner.

As the executor, you need to pay off any outstanding debts or bills of the deceased such as tax owed, benefit overpayments, credit cards, personal loans and household bills. You can use money from the estate to pay for any solicitor’s fees incurred and depending on circumstances you may have to pay inheritance tax. When this is complete, money can be distributed to inheritors as specified in the will. If there is no will, you can distribute this according to legal rules called intestacy, which a solicitor can advise on.

The government website, gov.uk, has information about probate and the Citizens Advice Bureau, which can be accessed via citizensadvice.org.uk, also sets out the process clearly.

Who Else to Notify of a Death
Once you have established which organisations have been contacted on your behalf through the Tell Us Once service, use this list to identify the outstanding companies, departments and individuals to contact and inform them of the death. You can also use the Death Notification Service at deathnotificationservice.co.uk to inform multiple member organisations at once

  • Banks and building societies
  • Insurance companies: life, car, home (buildings and contents), medical, pet, etc.
  • Loan companies
  • Mortgage provider
  • Credit card/score card providers
  • Land Registry
  • Landlord, local authority or housing associations (if the deceased rented the property)
  • Local authority, if they paid Council Tax, had a parking permit, were issued with a Blue Badge or received any Social Services help
  • Utilities companies, TV licence, Royal Mail, if mail needs redirecting
  • Doctor, Dentist, Employer, School/College
  • Social groups to which the deceased belonged
  • Place of worship
  • UK Identity and Passport Service, to return and cancel a passport
  • DVLA, to return any driving licence and car registration documents