When Someone Dies

Information on how to fulfill any legal requirements and guidance on the necessary paperwork.

If someone dies at home

Call the family doctor and nearest relative. If the death was expected, the doctor will give you a medical certificate showing the cause of death. They’ll also give you a formal notice that states they’ve signed the medical certificate and explain to you how to register the death. If the person is to be cremated, you’ll need two certificates signed by different doctors.

If someone dies in hospital

The hospital will usually issue a medical certificate and formal notice. The body will often be kept in the hospital mortuary until the funeral directors or relatives arrange a chapel of rest, or for the body to be taken home.

Unexpected death

If someone dies unexpectedly, or the family doctor hasn’t seen them in the last 14 days, the death is reported to a coroner. A coroner is a doctor or lawyer responsible for investigating unexpected deaths. They may call for a post-mortem or inquest, which could delay the funeral.

Death abroad

If someone dies abroad, you will need to register the death according to the regulations of the country and get a consulate death certificate. Register it with the British Consul in the country too, so a record can be kept in the UK.

The GOV.UK website offers two leaflets which explain the practical support British consular staff can offer and what you need to do.

Register the death

The first thing to do in the event of a death is to contact the GP or hospital doctor. They will certify the death and provide the Medical Certificate of Death. Then you will need to book an appointment with a registrar to deliver the certificate, usually within 5 days of the death. This process can be sped along by asking the registrar if they have any cancellations.

If it is difficult to attend the office in the district where the death happened, it is possible to register the death by ‘declaration’ at any register office in England or Wales. However, as the death will not be registered there, the funeral arrangements could be delayed if you choose to do this. Please note: that before the registration can take place, a death certificate issued by the doctor (or by the Coroner, if there has been a post mortem) must be seen by the Registrar.

Arrange care of the body

The deceased can be kept in a local mortuary, or can be left where they are or kept at home ahead of the funeral.

You do not have to employ the services of a funeral director – even if there was a previous arrangement or the body is already in a funeral director’s mortuary. What happens is up to you.

You may like to employ someone to support you with logistics. A funeral arranger or undertaker can manage your experience. Some may also be able to help you care for the body yourself.

Think about arranging a funeral

A funeral is about bringing people together to confront the sadness of what has happened, and then move forward collectively. Traditional and alternative funerals enable the loved one’s family to be a part of the final farewell.

In the immediate event of a person’s death, it can be helpful to give some consideration to funeral arrangements, but there’s no need to be too concerned with details right away. A funeral arranger can guide you through the options and processes.

To begin with, simply reflect upon the sort of event which would best represent the deceased. Think about funerals you’ve been to: What worked? What didn’t? Could there be an element of participation or creativity How can this be reflected and discovered in the way we say goodbye?

“Very helpful advice for us to organise a family funeral. All went very smoothly. Would highly recommend.”

Francis Ward