The First Steps

Three white flowers

What must you do when someone dies?

When someone dies, you will need to inform a number of people and organisations and complete certain documents required by law. If you are a relative or a friend you can do some of these things yourself. However, some of these will need to be done by the executor or administrator of the estate. There is plenty of support available to help you through this difficult time.

  • Tell the family Doctor if they are not already aware
  • Contact a Funeral Director, if you intend to use one
  • Obtain a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death signed by a Doctor or if the Coroner is involved take instructions from the Coroner's officers regarding the registration of death
  • Register the death at the Register Office. You'll find details of how to do this in the section entitled Registering a Death
  • Begin arrangements for the funeral, making sure that you check the will for any special requests. Information on what choices are available is in the section about funerals.

As early as possible:

  • Contact the executor as soon as you can to enable him/her to start the process of obtaining probate if necessary. The executor is usually nominated in the will
  • If there is no will, decide who will apply to sort out the deceased's affairs and contact the Probate Registry to apply for 'letters of administration' if necessary.

Documents you will need in the first few days:

You will need to gather together the following documents as soon as possible to register the death and to start the funeral arrangements:

  • Medical certificate of the cause of death, signed by a Doctor unless the Coroner is involved and there has been a Coroner's post mortem
  • Birth certificate *
  • Marriage/civil partnership certificates *
  • NHS number /NHS medical card *.

* Note: It is not necessary to have these documents but you will need to provide information contained within them, e.g. date and place of deceased's birth, spouse / civil partner's full name etc.