- Obtain a medical certificate
When a death occurs at the hospital, your doctor will confirm the death and issue the medical certificate. This is required so you can register the death.
If the doctor is unsure of the cause of death, a coroner will be involved to undertake an investigation. However, if the coroner finds no need to investigate, the doctor can issue a death certificate with the hospital bereavement office to confirm the cause. If the coroner’s investigation is still taking place, this may delay acquiring the medical certificate.
When a death occurs at a nursing home or private residence and the death is expected (and therefore the coroner will not be involved), you will need to collect the medical certificate from the home’s administrative staff.
Once the certificate has been acquired, the deceased’s body will be kept at the hospital’s morgue for the post mortem until funeral arrangements have been made, where the funeral director will collect the body and take them to the chapel of rest. If the deceased died at home, you should contact their GP.
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.
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.
Check the deceased’s details as to whether they have elected for organ donation. This is a time-sensitive process, so it’s best to get in touch with the hospital straight away if the person who died is a registered donor.
The hospital staff will double-check with you that the deceased didn’t change their mind about donating their organs before they died and that you don’t object to the donation. If your loved one did not register for organ donation, it is your decision on which organs should be transplanted.
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.
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.
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.
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
- 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: the dentist, the optician
- amend subscriptions and charity where regular donations have been made