When you lose someone close to you, there are certain procedures which need to be followed. If the death was expected and it’s clear what the cause of their death was, the process is more straightforward, whereas an unexpected death can be more complex. There’s a lot to deal with when someone dies, both in terms of the financial and legal issues, as well as the emotional side. The following step-by-step advice will help you follow the right procedures during this difficult time.
Get a Medical Certificate
The first thing you need to do is get a medical certificate – if the individual died in hospital, you’ll be issued this automatically, whereas if they died at home, you will need to contact their GP. If a coroner’s inquest is required, you will receive the certificate afterwards when the cause of death has been determined.
Register the Death
If you’re based in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, you are required to register the death within five days – for those based in Scotland, it is within eight days. This is delayed if there’s a coroner’s inquest though. This can be done at the Register Office in England or Wales, the District Registration Office in Northern Ireland, or the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages in Scotland.
To register a death, you’ll need the medical certificate which states the cause of death, along with their full name, date and place of birth, last address and their occupation. You will also need the full name, date of birth and occupation of their late or surviving spouse or partner if they were married.
Arrange the Funeral
When you have registered the death, you can begin arranging the funeral. You should check if the individual had a pre-paid funeral plan in place – you can use the Funeral Planning Authority tracker to ask registered providers if they have a funeral plan in place for your loved one. If they had a funeral plan, many of the costs and decisions will have already been arranged.
It can be beneficial to ask family or friends for recommendations, or if the individual was in a care home, there may be funeral directors they have worked with before who the staff can recommend. You don’t have to have the help of a funeral director if you don’t want to, but it can be challenging to know how best to go about organising a funeral without.
You will also need to decide how the funeral will be paid for – there are several ways to pay for the funeral, from paying for it yourself, using a life insurance policy or pension scheme if they paid into one, or using money from the person’s estate. The funeral costs will take precedence over any other expenses which need to come out of the estate.
Notify Organisations and Government Departments
In the weeks following their death, you will need to inform their landlord or mortgage provider, and any companies they had accounts with such as their utility providers and local council. You’ll also need to contact the Passport Office to cancel their passport, the DVLA to cancel their driving license if they had one, and their pension provider. Most local authorities are connected to the government’s Tell Us Once service, although this is not available in Northern Ireland.
Inform Insurers and Creditors
Soon after receiving the death certificate, or within a month of their death, you should also inform any insurance companies, bank or building societies, or credit card companies that your loved one was a member of. The companies may owe money to the person who died, or the individual may have owned money to these companies – if there are outstanding debts, payment arrangements will need to be set up.
Deal with the Estate
If the person who has died had a will, the named executor will handle the requests of the deceased. If there’s no will, a relative will often be appointed in the role of ‘administrator’ to deal with their estate and belongings. There are many legal obligations as a result of someone dying, many of which are time-sensitive, so it can be helpful to have the services of a legal professional when dealing with them.