When someone dies it is an extremely emotional time. Aside from letting your close ones know about your loss, there are many organisations which must be formally informed about the death.
If you were expecting the death and your loved one died in hospital, it should be a fairly straightforward process. You will be required to contact the legal bodies and administrative organisations to inform them of your loss. For an unexpected death, the coroner will have more involvement and is required to undertake an investigation to confirm the cause of death. This may delay how soon you can finalise the next steps and arrange the funeral.
OBTAIN A MEDICAL CERTIFICATE
When a death occurs at a hospital, the doctor will confirm the death and issue the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death. This is required so you can register the death. The certificate can be collected from the hospital bereavement office.
The hospital will provide bereavement services and advice on how to cope with the death of a loved one. This also includes supporting you in obtaining the relevant paperwork to notify the officials on the death and to return your loved one’s belongings.
When a death occurs at a nursing home or private residence and the death is expected, you will need to collect the medical certificate from deceased’s regular GP.
WHEN IS THE CORONER INVOLVED?
If the the cause of death cannot be ascertained, the Coroner will be involved to undertake an investigation. Circumstances where this may occur include an unexpected death or a death occurring after an accident. However, if the coroner finds no need to investigate further, they will allow a doctor to issue the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death. If the coroner’s investigation is still taking place, this may delay acquiring the medical certificate.
If your loved one passed at home unexpectedly, call 999 straight away. Do not move any belongings or disturb the surrounding area as this can interfere with the investigation. It can be very distressing when someone close dies unexpectedly, though you must allow the paramedics and police to attend the scene so they can ascertain what has happened, and to help you take the next steps to register the death.
TELL FRIENDS AND FAMILY
There’s no right or wrong way to tell family and close friends about the death of a loved one. This may be easier to do in person, on the phone and even over text. Speak sensitively and get in touch with those related, and bear in mind that they may ask questions on the details of how their loved one has died.
REGISTER THE DEATH
Once the cause of death has been confirmed and you have received the medical certificate, the death must be registered within five days. Once you have registered the death you can start planning the funeral.
ARRANGE CARE FOR THE DECEASED’S DEPENDENTS
The deceased may have children, older relatives, and pets who need care. Get in touch with family and friends for help and to ask if they can take care of them while you manage the practical arrangements when someone dies.
VISIT THE DECEASED’S HOME
Check your loved one’s home to make sure that their estate is kept well and their belongings are safe. Lock up their car, and check that items such as credit cards are stored away. If the deceased lived alone, switch on a light and check whether there are any windows left open to avoid the risk of their property becoming a burglary target.
CONTACT THEIR EMPLOYER
You will need to inform the deceased’s employer of their death. Be prepared to ask questions about your loved one’s life insurance, remuneration and their benefits – their employer will be able to provide this information. It’s likely they will ask about funeral arrangements which, if you have not yet started planning, you can update the employer when this has been arranged.
START PLANNING A FUNERAL
Get in touch with a funeral director to start planning the funeral. Once you have confirmed the date of service, get in touch with friends and family of the deceased so they can make their contributions and arrangements.
Check in on the deceased’s home
Re-visit the deceased’s home to check whether there are any plants which need watering, or if there is food left in the fridge which needs cleaning out. This may include cancelling milk delivery and any other items which are sent to the house and could be left outside if no-one is home.
There is no right or wrong time to start sorting out your loved one’s belongings. This is something you can do in your own time and ask friends and family to help out.
Manage your loved one’s administration
Once you have several copies of the death certificate, you can start contacting the relevant organisations to inform them of the death. This list includes contacting:
- the government and local authorities
- Bank accounts and building society
- National insurance
- Insurance company
- Utility bills including council tax services
- the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA)
- the UK Passport Agency
- HM Revenues and Customs (HMRC)
- their pension scheme provider
- the mortgage provider, housing association or council housing office
Once you have got in touch with the deceased’s financial organisations, you should also update the following care providers:
- those who have provided medical care (e.g. the dentist, the optician)
- amend subscriptions and charity where regular donations have been made