What to do when someone dies

To help through this difficult time, here are a few things to know and do when someone dies. There are different processes for how and where the death occurred and these are outlined below. Firstly, inform the doctor that death has taken place, as soon as possible. If the death has occurred at home, then the doctor may write out a Medical Certificate of Death when visiting the house or may request that you collect it from the surgery. The certificate is free. Try to find out if the deceased has left a will as there may be instructions for their funeral. If cremation is expected, the doctor should be told as they may wish to arrange for an independent doctor to visit the house before the deceased is removed.

Once you have the Medical Certificate, a Funeral Director may be asked to take the deceased into their care.

Medical Certificate in other circumstances


The Medical Certificate of Death will be given to you by the hospital. Their office dealing with these matters will inform you when it may be collected and also indicate when and which Registrar’s office you should attend. A Funeral Director may be asked to take the deceased into their care and deal with the paperwork.

Nursing home

A nursing home will probably seek the family’s permission for the deceased to be taken to our Funeral Home as soon as possible. The doctor will be informed by them and the Medical Certificate will either be left at the home or collected from the surgery. You’ll need to ensure who does this and how many copies are necessary.


If the deceased wasn’t under the care of a doctor, dies suddenly or was not being treated at hospital, then almost certainly the facts will be reported to the Coroner. I can advise on the Coroner’s procedure but an early call is recommended.

Register the death

A relative should register the death. If a relative can’t register the death, you can do it if you:

• were there at the time of death
• are an administrator from the hospital (if the person died in hospital.)
• are in charge of making funeral arrangements

You have to register the death within five days for England, Wales or Northern Ireland and within eight days for Scotland.If there’s a coroner’s inquest (or Procurator Fiscal in Scotland) registration is delayed until the inquest concludes. Depending on which country the deceased lived in, you must register the death:

• In England and Wales – at the Register Office
• In Northern Ireland – at the District Registration Office
• In Scotland – at the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages

Registering a death is free. However, to get a certificate you’ll pay £4 in England and Wales or £8 in Northern Ireland. It costs more if you want more copies. As you will probably need to deal with several organisations at the same time, it may be cheaper if you have more copies sooner rather than later. These days more detail of proof of identity is required so you’ll need the following information about the deceased:

• medical certificate with the cause of death
• full name including any previous names (e.g. maiden name)
• date and place of birth
• last address and occupation
• full name, date of birth and occupation of their surviving/late spouse or civil partner if they were married.

If available, you should also take their:

• birth certificate
• marriage or civil partnership certificate
• National Insurance number
• NHS medical card
• proof of address e.g. utility bill
• driving license• passport
It’s sensible to take your own photo identification (e.g. a driving licence) to show proof of your own identity.

When you’ve registered the death, you’ll receive:

• a Certificate for Burial or Cremation (the ‘green form’) – gives permission for burial or an application for cremation
• a Certificate of Registration of Death (form BD8) – you may need to fill this out and return it if the person was getting a State Pension or benefits (the form will come with a pre-paid envelope so you know where to send it)

Arrange the funeral

Once you have registered the death, you can then arrange the funeral. You can do this through a funeral director, organise it yourself or give me a call.

If you’d like to know a bit more or just ask some questions, use the button below to book a free phone call or send an email and I’ll answer them.