The First Steps
What must you do when someone dies?
When someone dies, you will need to inform a number of people and organisations and complete certain documents needed by law. If you are a relative or friend you can do some of these things yourself. Others will need to be done by the executor or administrator of the estate. There is plenty of support available to help you through this difficult time.
What to do in the first few days?
You won't be able to do everything right away, but in the first few days it's important, if you can, to:
- tell the family doctor
- contact a funeral director, if you intend to use one – if the death occurs at home or in a nursing home the funeral director will need to be contacted to take the deceased to a Chapel of Rest
- begin arrangements for the funeral – you should check the will for any special requests. Information on what choices are available is in the section about funerals
- obtain a medical certificate of cause of death signed by a doctor or, if the coroner is involved, you will need to contact the coroner's office for advice regarding registration of the death
- register the death at the register office. You'll find details of how to do this in the section on registration.
As early as possible
- contact the executor as soon as you can to enable him/her to start the process of obtaining probate if necessary. The executor is usually nominated in the will
- if there is no will, decide who will apply to sort out the deceased's affairs and contact the Probate Registry to apply for 'letters of administration' if necessary.
Documents you will need in the first few days
You'll need to gather together the following documents as soon as possible – to enable registration of the death and to start funeral arrangements.
- medical certificate of the cause of death, signed by a doctor unless the coroner is involved and there has been a coroner's post mortem
- birth certificate ★
- marriage/civil partnership certificates ★
- NHS Number/NHS Medical Card ★
- Organ donor card (if appropriate).
★ It is not necessary to have these documents but you will need to provide information contained within them, e.g. date and place of deceased's birth, spouse/civil partner's full name etc.