When someone passes away
It is usual for people to be unsure of what to do in the immediate aftermath of a bereavement. We take you through the initial steps and provide advice on other things you may need to think about when someone you know dies.
If a person dies at home:
The first thing you should do is contact your GP, depending on the time of the death, your GP will either help you or you will be directed to the out of hours service in your area and in some cases, the ambulance service.
In any event a doctor will come to your house to formally confirm the death. If the deceased did not have a GP then you should contact the out of hours doctor service or the ambulance service and as a last resort, the police. Where the cause of death is obvious and expected, the person's usual GP should be able to issue a medical certificate of cause of death (often referred to as the death certificate).
The death certificate will be issued and placed in a sealed envelope addressed to the Registrar of births, deaths and marriages free of charge. You will then receive a formal notice which confirms that the doctor has signed the death certificate and gives details about registering a death. If you or the deceased decides the body will be cremated the doctor must also complete a form called the cremation certificate.
If a person dies in hospital or a nursing home:
If the death was expected and has been confirmed by a doctor or a suitably trained member of the nursing team, arrangements will be made to issue the medical certificate of death. It is then your responsibility to collect the certificate along with any belongings that have been left.
If a person dies suddenly or unexpectedly:
The death must be reported to a coroner if it occurs suddenly, unexpectedly or was not due to natural causes. The coroner's officer (usually a uniformed policeman) will visit as soon as possible, record all of the relevant details and report them to the coroner. The body will be taken to a hospital mortuary designated by the coroner.
It is then the coroner's decision to decide whether a post mortem examination or an inquest should be arranged.
If a person dies overseas a local doctor should be found to confirm the death. The procedures involved in reporting a death will differ from country to country but it is essential a local death certificate is obtained. This document is usually acceptable for all official purposes in the UK but may need to be translated. There is no obligation to register the death with the local British Consulate but it would mean that the death is recorded in the UK as well. The British Consulate will also be able to provide advice in arranging a local burial or cremation or in arranging for the body to be repatriated to the UK. If the body is repatriated to the UK the registrar for the district where the funeral will take place must be informed. The registrar must issue a certificate before the burial can take place. The Home Office will be able to give permission if the body is to be cremated.
Registering a death
A person's death should be registered within five days. In most cases, you should register the death in the local area in which the person died as this will prevent any delays in relevant paperwork and funeral arrangements. All the registry offices in our local area require you to make an appointment to see the registrar (for contact details, see Useful Addresses). A majority of the registrar offices do not have a reception desk so you will have to call the office to make an appointment. Registering a death will take about half an hour and the process is relatively easy if you bring all of the correct documents and information with you.
In most cases relatives of the deceased are the ones who will register the death, however friends of the deceased will be allowed if there are no relatives available.
Checklist of documents:
• the medical certificate that has been issued by the GP (the Coroner will normally send this directly to the registrar)
• If available, you should also take the deceased's birth certificate, their NHS medical card and their marriage or civil partnership certificate, if applicable.
• You will need the date and place of death, the deceased’s full name at the time of death and any previous names including maiden surname, date and place of birth, last address, occupation and benefits circumstances.
• The personal details for a living spouse or civil partner.
Documents you will receive:
In most cases the registrar will issue:
• A certificate for burial or cremation for you to give to the Funeral Director (if the Coroner is involved this is not always issued) and a certificate for Social Security Benefits for you to take or send to the local Benefits Agency, along with any pension, income support or other benefit books
There is no charge to register a death, only for certified copies of the death certificate. A copy of the certificate will be required to administer the estate and many companies now insist on certified copies instead of photocopies. If there are several companies that you wish to deal with at the same time, to speed up the administration of the estate you may wish to have several certified copies. Requesting these copies at the time of registering the death is cheaper than asking for them at a later date.
What if the coroner is involved?
Under certain circumstances the death must be reported by the doctor, hospital or registrar to the coroner (England and Wales) or procurator fiscal (Scotland).
As it is the coroner's decision to decide whether a post mortem examination or an inquest should be arranged. you may have to delay your plans for the funeral. In this case there will be no Cause of Death Certificate. The death will be registered once the coroner has made a decision. The time this takes will vary.
Caring for the deceased – looking after your loved one
Once you have entrusted the deceased to us we will take care of them with respect and professionalism. Your loved one will be taken from their place of death to our specialist facilities at our funeral home.
We are able to provide an embalming service if required. Embalming delays the natural processes that take place after death and whilst not essential we think it is an important consideration if you want to visit the person in the chapel of rest. We wash and dress everyone in our care and some people like to provide us with items such as a favourite outfit.
Spending time with the deceased
Some people find it helps to spend time with the person who has died and like to bring a small gift or photograph to put in the coffin. Others find it upsetting to see someone they loved who is now dead. It's a personal choice and we can talk this through with you.
Telling others about the death
You may want to put an announcement in a local or national newspaper to tell people about the death and the details of the funeral. We can help you with drafting and sending a death announcement to a local or national newspaper. After the funeral you can also place a thank you message in a newspaper to thank those who attended and sent donations or flowers.