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 have put together some information to guide you through the process.
When Someone Dies At Home
If someone dies at home, you should call the family doctor, nearest relative and your Funeral Director. If the death was expected the doctor will attend and confirm death. He will later issue a medical certificate showing the cause of death which is required to register the death. If the death was unexpected or sudden the doctor may inform the coroner which may lead to a delay in registering the death.
When Someone Dies In Hospital, Residential/Nursing Home
If the person dies in hospital, the staff will contact you and guide you through the registration process. Alternitively you may contact your funeral director who will also advise you.
Registering A Death
The registration of the death is done by the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages and you will find the address of the nearest register office in the telephone directory.
When someone dies at home, the death should be registered at the register office for the district where they lived. If the death took place in hospital or in a nursing home it must be registered at the register office for the district in which the hospital or home is situated. In England and Wales, if it is convenient, you can go to a different office to register the death and the details will be passed on to the correct office. You should check the opening hours of the office you wish to go to and make a prior appointment.
Ideally a death should be registered within five days but registration can be delayed if the registrar is told that a medical certificate has been issued. If the death has been reported to the coroner you cannot register it until the coroner's investigations are finished.
It is a criminal offence not to register a death.
The death should be registered by one of the following (in order of priority):-
• a relative who was present at the death
• a relative present during the person's last illness
• a relative living in the district where the death took place
• anyone else present at the death
• an owner or occupier of the building where the death took place and who was aware of the death
• the person arranging the funeral (but not the funeral director).
You cannot delegate responsibility for registering the death to anyone else.
You must take with you the medical certificate of cause of death, since the death cannot be registered until the registrar has seen this. If possible, you should also take the person's NHS medical card and birth and marriage certificates. The registrar will want from you the following information:-
• date and place of death
• the full name of the person (including maiden name) and their last address
• the person's date and place of birth
• the person's occupation and, in the case of a woman who was married or widowed, full name and occupation of her husband
• if the person was still married, the date of birth of their husband or wife
• whether the person was receiving a pension or other social security benefits.
When you have registered the death, the registrar will give you a green certificate (for which there is no charge) to give to your funeral director. This allows either burial or cremation to go ahead.
The registrar will also give you a form to send to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) (In Northern Ireland the Social Security Agency). This allows them to deal with the person's pension and other benefits.
The death certificate (certified copy of entry) is a copy of the entry made by the registrar in the death register. This certificate is needed to deal with money or property left by the person who has died, including dealing with the will. You may need several copies of the certificate, for which there will be a charge of £4.00 per copy.
A coroner is a doctor or lawyer appointed by a local authority to investigate certain deaths. In Northern Ireland, the Lord Chancellor appoints a coroner. A coroner is completely independent of the authority and has a separate office and staff. You will find the address of your local coroner's office in the telephone directory.
In some circumstances, such as a sudden death or when the G.P. has not seen the deceased during the last 14 days, the Coroner may require an investigation. Under such circumstances different procedural requirements and registration procedures will be necessary.
If the death has been referred to a Coroner and a post-mortem examination has established that the death is due to natural causes, the Coroners Officer will arrange for the necessary forms to be at the Registrars Office before you attend. Therefore you will not need to collect any paperwork from either the G.P. or the hospital.
Should the Coroner find the death was not due to natural causes then an inquest would be held to establish:-
• The identity of the deceased
• When, where and how the death occurred
• The cause of death
Usually an inquest will be adjourned to allow the funeral service to take place. Once all relevant facts have been established the inquest will be reopened. During this time the coroner will issue to the funeral director the necessary forms for burial or cremation. It is normal for the Coroners office to send an interim death certificate to the family for bank and insurance purposes.
We understand that a sudden death together with the Coroners involvement can be distressing and we will on your behalf, liaise with the Coroners Office at all stages to keep you informed.