What To Do After Someone Dies

Posted: 20/12/2017

Losing a loved one is one of the most difficult life experiences to go through, and unfortunately, it is not only grieving that you will have to deal with, but there will also be different organisations that need to be made aware that someone has died, besides letting friends and family know. Here is a guide that tells you the main things you need to know in the days, weeks and months after someone has passed away.

What you must do straight after a death

As hard as it is, in the first few days after someone’s death it is important that these things are done:

  • Get a medical certificate
  • Arrange the funeral
  • Register the death

Get a medical certificate

Prior to registering the death of someone who has passed away, it is essential to obtain a medical certificate.  This must be issued by a doctor to confirm the cause of death, which will be detailed in an official document called a medical certificate of death (MCOD), this certificate states:

  • The name of the person who has passed
  • Their age
  • The date of death
  • The cause of death
  • The place of death

If there isn’t any ambiguity over the death of the person who has passed, and it was from natural causes, a medical certificate can be issued almost straightaway.

However, this isn’t always the case. If the doctor isn’t entirely sure about the cause of death or has not seen the patient for 14 days (this extends to 28 days in Northern Ireland) the death will be then be reported to a coroner and in this scenario, it will not be possible to issue the medical certificate immediately. This could then go in one of the following directions:

  • If the coroner decides not to pursue an investigation, then the GP can issue a medical certificate
  • If the coroner wants to carry out a post-mortem in order to determine the cause of death, then this means a medical certificate will take longer to be issued as the documents will also need to be passed on to the registrar.

The whereabouts of where your relative died will largely determine who will issue the medical certificate. If the deceased passed away at home, then the GP may give you the certificate personally or it may be possible to collect at the GP’s practice. If your relative passed away in a hospital or a care home, it is likely the medical certificate will be given to the next of kin.

Register the death

It is important that you register the death within 5 days (this extends to 8 days in Scotland). You have the option of doing this online by filling in a form on the GOV.UK website.

You can also use the Tell Us Once tool on the GOV.UK website, which allows you to report a death to many governmental organisations at once. These include:

  • Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)
  • Passport Office
  • HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) but only for personal tax
  • Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA)
  • the local council

You will need these details of the person who has died before registering the death

  • date of birth
  • driving license number
  • passport number
  • National Insurance number
  • vehicle registration number
  • name of next of kin
  • details of any surviving partner of the deceased
  • name of any public sector pensions scheme they paid into or received
  • the details of the person or company (the executor or administrator)  who is dealing with their estate

Arrange the funeral

It is possible to arrange a funeral without a funeral director. This tends to be a less expensive option too. Photo source: Andrew Bingham

The deceased may have left funeral instructions in their will or a letter that stated their wishes once they died.

However, the executor or closest relative to the deceased will be able to decide with the body will be buried or cremated, as well as the sort of funeral it will be.

If it is the latter case, it is best to ask a few different funeral directors for quotations in order to be able to compare prices, as funerals can end up becoming incredibly expensive. It is recommended that you ask for an itemised quote that includes the following:

  • A coffin
  • The funeral director’s service
  • A hearse or another vehicle to the nearest cemetery or crematorium
  • The transfer of the deceased from the place of death to the funeral directors

You should also make sure that the funeral director is a member of either the National Association of Funeral Directors or the National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF).

However, it should be noted that it is possible to organise a funeral without the help of a funeral director. This is known as a do-it-yourself funeral. These tend to be more environmentally friendly, more personalised as well as considerably less expensive. In this case, you will need to contact the council nearest to you, to arrange a funeral at a local crematorium or cemetery.

Paying for a funeral

There are different ways in which a funeral can be paid for:

  • By you, or other family members or friends
  • If you are on a low income, you may be entitled to a Funeral Payment
  • It can be paid with money from the person’s estate. To access this money of the deceased, you must apply for a ‘grant of representation’ which may also be known as ‘applying for probate’

It is important to note that there are strict rules concerning who can receive a Funeral Payment as well as the amount that you will get.  You need to be claims certain means-tested benefits or be claiming pension credit and be close to the person who has passed away, such as their partner or child. One should remember also that a Funeral Payment may not necessarily cover all the costs of a funeral.

If you don’t qualify, it could be worth looking at a Budgeting Loan from the Social Fund. These are loans reaching up to £1500 that is interest-free but can be paid back in time through your benefits.