First five days guide
After the loss of a loved one it can be very confusing. What to do when someone dies? Follow this guide and checklist it will help you through the process and explain what to do next.
Obtain a medical certificate
Get medical certificate from a GP or from the hospital doctor. You will need this to register the death. If the death has been reported to a coroner (Procurator Fiscal in Scotland) you will not be able to register the death until the coroner has given permission.
How to register a death?
You should try and do this as soon as possible as the death usually needs to be in place before you can confirm a time and date for the funeral. The death is usually registered by a relative of the person who has died but if no relatives are available then the death can be registered by:
- A person who was present at the death
- An administrator from the hospital in which the person died
- The person responsible for arranging the funeral with the funeral director.
The registration is a formal record of the death that is completed by the Registrar of births, deaths and marriages. The person responsible for registering the death will need to visit the local Registrar. If your loved one passed away at home then the death should be registered at the local register office of the district in which they lived. If your loved one passed away in a hospital or nursing home then you will need to register the death at the register office for the district in which the hospital or nursing home is situated.
Ts also possible in England and Wales to go to a different register office and register the death of your loved one. This information can then be passed on to the correct register office. You should check the opening hours of the register office and may need to make an appointment to do this.
You can use the government link below to find the relevant register office for the district required:
Information you will need to take with you to register the passing of your loved one:
- The medical certificate of cause of death issued by the doctor. If a post mortem has taken place then the coroner will send this directly to the registrar
- National Health Service medical card if possible
- The date and place of death
- The full name of your loved one including their maiden name
- Their home address
- Their birth certificate
- Their occupation
- Their marriage certificate (if they were married)
- If the loved one was still married the registrar will need to know the date of birth of their husband or wife
- If they had a pension or was receiving any social security benefits
- Payment method for copies of the death certificate. Cash, credit/debit card or chequebook can be used for payment
Forms you will receive from the registrar;
England and Wales
Once you have registered your loved ones death you will receive a certificate for registration of death. You will need this when handling your loved ones affairs if they were receiving a pension or benefits.
The registrar will also give you a certificate for the burial or cremation – this is known as the green certificate. The green certificate allows for your loved one to be buried or for an application to be made for cremation, you should give this to your funeral director if you are using one as they cannot organise the funeral without this.
The registrar will give a certificate for Registration of Death (form 14), this allows the funeral to take place.
You will also receive a registration or notification of Death (form 36/BD8), you will need this when handling your loved ones affairs if they were receiving a pension or benefits.
The registrar will issue a GRO form which
You will receive a GRO form from the registrar that gives permission for the funeral to take place.
How to apply to cremate the body of a person who has died
The form in the link below is usually completed by the nearest relative or executor of the will.
How to register a death abroad
When a death occurs whilst abroad the death must be registered with the local authorities in the country in which the death has occurred. A loss of a loved one whilst abroad can be made even more distressing by not knowing who to turn to for help. Your tour guide, the local police or the British Embassy, High Commission or Consulate will be able to advise you on what you need to do next and how you register the death of your loved one. If you are on a package holiday you should tell the representative for the tour operator as soon as you can. Some of the larger tour operators have welfare teams that can assist you in making the necessary arrangements.
Take as much documentation as possible about the person who has died and also yourself. This will include the following information:
- Full name
- Date of birth
- Passport number
- Next of kin’s name of the person who has died
What to do If a relative or friend dies whilst abroad and you are in the UK?
If the death has already been reported to a British Embassy, High Commission or Consulate overseas then they will pass the information onto the UK police who will be asked to inform the next of kin as soon as possible. Consular staff will keep in touch with the family until the burial or cremation has taken place overseas or until your loved one has been brought back to the UK.
The rules differ on bringing your loved ones remains home. This depends on whether you are bringing their body home to the UK for a burial or cremation, or bringing their ashes home following a cremation abroad.
How to bring your loved ones body home?
England and Wales:
In order to bring your loved one’s body home you must do the following:
- Get a certified English translation of the death certificate
- Get permission to remove your loved ones body from the country in which they died, this is issued by a coroner.
- If the death of your loved one was violent or unnatural then tell a coroner in England. Seek advice from the British Consulate, Embassy or High Commissions from the country in which your loved one died.
Once your loved ones body is home you need to take the death certificate to the register office in the area in which the funeral will take place. Because the death has already been registered abroad the registrar will give you a ‘certificate of no liability to register’. Give this certificate to the funeral director to allow the funeral to commence.
You must register the death according to the laws of the country where the person died.
If the death happens in England, Wales or abroad, you can either:
- Arrange a local burial or cremation in the country where they died
- Bring the body back to Scotland
If you want to bring the body back to Scotland, you’ll need a death certificate (or equivalent) and permission from the appropriate authorities to move the body out of the country.
Once you have a death certificate, you can use it in Scotland if you need to confirm the person has died – such as with a bank or a funeral director. You may need to get a certified translation of the death certificate if it’s not in English.
If a death occurs outside Northern Ireland, it will be necessary to get authorisation for the body to be removed and brought back to Northern Ireland from the country where the death occurred. The British or Irish Embassy or Consulate will be able to provide advice on this.
A Northern Ireland Coroner has no authority to investigate a death that happens abroad.
If a death has happened on a ship, the Coroner in the place the body comes ashore must send certain details of the death to the Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen.
Help from the British embassy
If the death happened abroad you can also apply to your nearest British Embassy to register the death in the UK and a record of the death will be sent to the UK.
If the death was suspicious, the British embassy will help you speak to local police and get legal advice.
Being told about the death if a person dies while abroad
If the person dies abroad while you’re at home and the death has been reported to the British Consulate, they’ll ask the police to tell the next of kin.
If you hear about the death from anyone else (for example, a tour operator), you should contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office e on 0207 7008 1500 (24 hours) for help with arrangements.
Bringing your loved one’s ashes home
Different countries have different rules for leaving their country with your loved one’s ashes. Contact the British Consulate, British Embassy or High Commission for advice on what you will need to do.
You will need:
- A certified copy of the death certificate.
- The cremation certificate.
- To carry the cremated remains in a non-metallic urn to allow screening.
You will be required to fill in a standard customs form when you arrive back to the UK.
You should also contact the airline you are using to find out whether you can carry your loved one’s ashes within your hand luggage or whether you will have to use your checked in luggage. They may require you to use a non-metallic urn or container in case security needs it to be x-rayed.
Wills and expression of wishes
- Find your loved ones will or any expression of wishes they have left for you. If you can’t find the will check with their solicitors as they may have a copy.
- Before making any funeral arrangements refer to the will or any other document they have left for any special requests that your loved one has made.
Changing a will after death
You can change a person’s will after their death, as long as any beneficiaries left worse off by the changes agree.
If there’s no will the law decides who inherits. You can make changes to the inheritance in the same way as if there’s a will.
Any changes to the will must be completed within 2 years of the death.
You can change a will to:
- Reduce the amount of Inheritance or Capital Gains Tax payable
- Provide for someone who was left out of the will
- Move the deceased’s assets into a trust
- Clear up any uncertainty over the will
To change a will, you’ll need to make a ‘variation’.
You don’t need a formal document or deed – you can write a letter as long as it meets certain conditions.
If the variation means there’s more Inheritance Tax to pay, you must send a copy to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) within 6 months of making it.
You don’t need to send a copy to HMRC if the variation doesn’t change the amount of Inheritance Tax due.
Who to contact after the passing of your loved one
- Family and friends to let them know your loved one has passed away and details of the funeral arrangements (use our special portal to send personal messages and later to advise funeral and other arrangements.
- Their employer or educational authority if they are studying.
- Any health related or other imminent appointments to cancel them, such as hospital or dental appointments.
Over the following weeks – dealing with the estate
In the weeks following the loss of your loved one you will need to handle their finances. Any outstanding debts or assets will need to be sorted. The person appointed to carry out the deceased’s wishes from the will becomes the ‘executor’, who is responsible for this. If there is no will then the deceased’s next of kin becomes the ‘administrator’ who then takes on this role. Banks and other institutions may only deal with the executor or administrator of the deceased. Please visit our legal and other resources here if you need help.
Government Offices to contact
If your loved one was receiving any benefits or tax credits you need to inform the relevant people. If possible, you can use the government organisation ‘Tell Us Once’ who will contact most government organisations in one go. More information on this can be found on the government website.
If this service is not available to you, or you prefer to use it then you will need to contact the following organisations to inform them of your loved ones passing:
- Contact HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) who will work out if the correct amount of tax has been paid by your deceased loved one. They will inform you about what tax they need to collect or repay. You can use the Bereavement Guide tool below to help find the right contacts for your particular circumstances:
- Contact the National Insurance contributions Office to cancel your loved ones NI payments if they were self employed or paying voluntary national insurance.
- Contact the child benefit Office to stop any relevant benefit payouts. This will need to be done within 8 weeks of their death.
- Contact the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to cancel your loved ones benefits, including their state pension. They will also be able to help you with whether you are entitled to any help towards the funeral costs.
DWP Bereavement Service
Telephone: 0345 606 0265
Text phone: 0345 606 0285
Welsh language: 0345 606 0275
- Local authority for council tax, social services and parking permits to stop any benefits.
- The UK Identity and Passport Service to cancel your loved ones passport so it cannot be used by someone else.
- The DVLA to cancel your loved ones driving license and tax. Also talk to DVLA to change over vehicle ownership.
You will also need to contact the relevant financial organisations after your loved one has passed away. Use the list below to help you with organisations you should contact:
- Contact their bank or building society to close any existing accounts and retrieve money or if necessary to pay debts. You should also cancel and standing orders and direct debits that may be running. Also check for any savings account that your loved one may have.
- Contact any credit card or store card companies to close their accounts.
- Contact any relevant insurance companies, including claiming life insurance. Also cancel any insurance policies such as car and home insurance, medical or travel insurance that your loved one may have.
- Contact your loved ones pension company to claim any payments owed and then to close the account down.
It may be helpful to use your loved ones recent statements to help you find a list of relevant companies they have been paying, this will help you find the companies you need to contact.
Property and Utility
- Contact any mortgage and loan provider to close accounts and pay any necessary debts.
- Contact utility companies including electric, gas and water to close down any running accounts. You may need to settle accounts or to reclaim money if any is owed.
- If your loved one lived in rented accommodation, inform the local authority housing association or private landlord.
- Contact necessary TV or internet providers.
- If necessary arrange redirection of post.
- Cancel any clubs or memberships still running.
Check if you need to apply to stay in the UK
If your right to live in the UK depends on your relationship with someone who died you might need to apply for a new visa.