As death is such a part of everyday life, there is a tendency to take for granted that everyone knows the practical things that need to be done when someone dies. But often it is too easy to get overcome by grief and notifying friends and family to forget the important procedures that need to be followed. Listed below are some of the most important steps you need to take.

1. Obtain a Medical Certificate

In the first few days after someone dies you must get a medical certificate from a GP or hospital doctor to confirm the death. If you don’t get one of these, you will not be able to register the death.

2. Register the Death

You should ensure you register the death within 5 days (8 days in Scotland) in order to get the documents you need to organise a funeral. You can register the death at your local Register Office or use the Government’s online tool http://www.gov.uk/register-a-death

[Note: if the death has been reported to the Coroner, you will need to wait until the Coroner gives permission for the death to be registered]

To find a local Register Office you can enter your postcode in this tool http://www.gov.uk/register-offices

3. Arrange the send off

For many people this will be a traditional burial or cremation arranged through a funeral director. However, there are many other options available and you can organise a funeral yourself if you wish.

Alternative options might include a direct cremation (like David Bowie), a humanist ceremony or a woodland burial.

If the deceased was not religious, you can opt for a non-church service to be led by a funeral celebrant rather than a vicar or priest.

Hopefully the deceased will have made their final wishes known so that you can arrange it in line with their preferences.

If you decide to arrange a funeral yourself, the Cemeteries and Crematorium Department of your local Council will be able to help.

Other useful contacts include:

The Good Funeral Guide – https://www.goodfuneralguide.co.uk/

The British Humanist Association – http://www.humanism.org.uk/

Institute of Civil Funerals – http://www.iocf.org.uk/

National Association of Funeral Directors – https://nafd.org.uk/

4. Notify the Relevant Authorities

When someone dies, a lot of different government departments may be notified. To make it easier, the Government has launched a “Tell Us Once” service that lets you tell many of them at the same time. This includes HMRC (tax), DWP (benefits), Passport Office, DVLA (driving licence), your local Council (eg. Council Tax, blue badge schemes, housing benefit) and any public sector/armed forces pension schemes.

When you register the death, the registrar should be able to tell you if the Tell Us Once service is available in your area. To use it you will need the deceased’s:

  • date of birth
  • National Insurance number
  • driving licence number
  • vehicle registration number
  • passport number

You’ll also need:

  • details of any benefits or entitlements they were getting, for example State Pension
  • details of any local council services they were getting, for example Blue Badge
  • the name and address of their next of kin
  • the name and address of any surviving spouse or civil partner
  • the name, address and contact details of the person or company dealing with their estate (property, belongings and money), known as their ‘executor’ or ‘administrator’
  • details of any public sector or armed forces pension schemes they were getting or paying in to

Please note that you will need permission from the next of kin, the executor, the administrator or anyone who was claiming joint benefits or entitlements with the person who died, before you pass on their details.

If you don’t use the Tell Us Once Service, or it is not yet available in your area, you may need to contact some or all of the following organisations individually

  • HMRC – HMRC also has a useful online bereavement questionnaire to help you understand which forms you need to fill in and where to send them. http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/tools/bereavement/calculator.htm
  • National Insurance Contributions Office
  • Child Benefit Office
  • Tax Credit Office
  • Department for Work & Pensions
  • Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA)
  • Their local Council