WHEN SOMEONE DIES AT HOME AND IT WAS EXPECTED
The death must be verified, usually by a GP, nurse or paramedic, who will also try to identify its cause. Once this has been established a registered doctor can complete a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death (MCCD).
A SUDDEN OR UNEXPECTED DEATH
If the cause of death is unclear or if there are unusual circumstances, the doctor will report the death to the coroner who may need to investigate further or request a post mortem or an inquest. This may take time and the funeral may need to be delayed. For further details on what happens if this is the case, view the Government information about when a death is reported to a coroner.
WHEN SOMEONE DIES IN HOSPITAL
A doctor at the hospital will confirm the death and the hospital will usually issue a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death (MCCD). The deceased will be moved to the hospital mortuary until a decision has been made about where it will lay at rest until the funeral (usually a Chapel of Rest or at home).
WHEN SOMEONE DIES ABROAD
If the person has died whilst abroad, register the death according to the regulations in that country. Contact the British Consul in the country and they will issue a Consulate Death Certificate. If a death occurs on a ship or aeroplane, it must be registered in the country in which the craft is registered.
For further details, view the Government information about a death abroad.
WHEN TO REGISTER A DEATH
The death should be registered within 5 days of the person dying (or 8 days in Scotland) - this includes weekends and public holidays.
WHO CAN REGISTER A DEATH
To register the death you must be either:
- a relative
- someone who was present at the death
- the person responsible for making funeral arrangements
- the executor (the person/s named by the deceased to carry out the terms of their Will)
- the administrator (appointed if there is no Will)
HOW AND WHERE TO REGISTER A DEATH
Contact the registry office closest to the place where the person died. To find a local Registry Office and make an appointment, search the Government website here.
If you are registering a stillbirth, this needs to be done within 42 days. If you wish, you can name the baby in the register. For further details view the Government information about registering a stillbirth.
WHAT THE REGISTRAR WILL ISSUE
1. A DEATH CERTIFICATE
You may need to order multiple original copies of the Death Certificate to send to organisations such as banks, legal and insurance companies Photocopies are not permitted unless they are certified by a lawyer and this can be expensive, so it is worth working out how many are needed beforehand.
Each original Death Certificate at time of registration costs £11.00 in England & Wales, £8.00 in Northern Ireland and £10.00 in Scotland.
2. CERTIFICATE FOR BURIAL OR CREMATION ('GREEN FORM')
The Registrar will issue a free Certificate for Burial or Cremation (GR021 in N. Ireland). This authorises the funeral to take place and must be given to the Funeral Director, crematorium or burial authority. The funeral cannot take place without this.
3. NOTIFICATION OF DEATH FORM (DB8)
Lastly, they will issue a free Registration or Notification of Death (DB8) form that must be filled in and send to the Department of Works & Pensions (Form 3344SI in Scotland, form 36/BD8 in N Ireland). The section below explains who else you need to inform and how to do this.
REQUIRED & USEFUL DOCUMENTATION
As well as the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death, it may be helpful to have other forms of identification belonging to the deceased to hand.
The registrar will need the following information:
- details of their full name and any previous names (maiden name)
- their date and place of birth (plus Birth Certificate, if possible)
- their last address (plus proof, if possible)
- their occupation
- dates of marriage/s or civil partnership/s
- whether they were getting a state pension or other benefits
- date and place of death
Other useful documents and information:
- NHS medical card
- National Insurance number
- driving licence
- the full name, date of birth and occupation of a surviving or late spouse or civil partner (including their NI number)
- Child Benefit number
- Tax Reference number
- organ donation information
To find more information and guidance, visit Government information - what to do after a death.
WHO TO INFORM AND HOW TO DO IT
The person’s death must be reported to various government organisations. This needs to be done as soon as possible after receiving the death certificate.
In most areas of the UK you can use the Government's 'Tell Us Once' service, which will inform all the relevant departments for you. Often the Registrar will fill in the form to access this service, or they will provide a reference number for your to use online or by phone.
If this service is not available where the deceased lived, you will need to contact the various government organisations yourself (see below). For more information on how to do this, see the Government website.
- Department for Work and Pensions (DWP Bereavement Service)
- HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC)
- National Insurance (NI) Contributions Office
- Child Benefit Office
- Tax Credit Office
- Passport Office
- Personal, Workplace and Armed Forces Pensions
- Local Council
- DVLA (if the person had a driving licence)
Here is a list of other organisations you may need to inform. Not all will be relevant to you and it is not exhaustive, but you can add to it as necessary. Remember, some of these will want to see original or certified copies of the Death Certificate.
- financial adviser
- bit coin
- credit card provider
- insurers (household, mortgage, life, health, car, travel, pet)
- mortgage provider
- DVLA (change of name & apply for new tax)
- car loan
- utility provider (electricity, gas, water)
- Office of the Public Guardian (to cancel or alter powers of attorney)
- mobile phone
- landline telephone
- newspapers & magazines
- social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc)
- TV and media subscriptions (Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc)
- books, audiobooks, music subscriptions
- on-line gaming subscriptions
- on-line photo/data storage (ICloud, etc)
- home security systems
- antivirus (Norton, etc)
- gym or healthclub membership
- loyalty cards
This list appears on our What To Do When Someone Dies checklist which you can print off and use to help you keep track of who you have informed.
At a later date, you may want to use the Bereavement Register to help stop unwanted mail.
Another useful free resource is Life Ledger which allows families to close, freeze or switch all of the accounts connected to the deceased from one place.
Check whether the deceased has written a Will and/or a Letter of Wishes.
IF THERE IS A WILL
If there is a Will, you will need to contact the executors. They are usually responsible for applying for probate (see below) and then settling the financial affairs of the person who has died (paying outstanding taxes and debts, then distributing the remaining estate to those who are entitled to it). For further details, view the Government information about wills, probate and inheritance.
IF THERE IS NO WILL
If someone dies intestate (without a valid Will), the next of kin will need to apply to be an administrator of the estate. This is the same as applying for probate. For further details, view the Government information on dying intestate.
Either the next of kin or the executor can register the death, appoint a Funeral Director and arrange the funeral. If there is no next of kin, the executor should undertake these tasks and vice versa. If there is neither an executor nor next of kin, usually the local County Council will be responsible for making the necessary arrangements.
WHAT IS A LETTER OF WISHES?
A Letter of Wishes is a supplementary document which gives additional information on what the deceased would like to happen after their death. This might include, for example, arrangements for their funeral or perhaps special requests regarding distribution of their personal possessions.
Whilst a Letter of Wishes is not legally binding, most relatives or friends will, as much as is possible or practical, want to comply with the wishes of the person who has died.
WHAT IS PROBATE?
Probate is the legal and financial processes involved in dealing with the property, money and possessions (called assets) of a person who has died.
APPLYING FOR PROBATE
When someone dies, their assets are usually automatically frozen. Therefore, the executors (if there is a will) or administrators (if there is no will) will need to apply to the Probate Registry for permission to sort out (administer) the estate.
It is not always necessary to apply for probate; for example if the property, land, shares or money was jointly owned, or if the value of the assets fall below a specified level. The Estates Administration Act states that probate should be obtained on all estates that exceed £5,000, but it is generally left to the various institutions that hold the assets to set the level beyond which they require a Grant.
For further details, see the Government information on applying for probate.
WHAT THE PROBATE REGISTRY WILL DO
Once the original documents have been sent to the probate office, a grant of probate will usually be issued within four weeks. However, it may take longer, so do not make firm plans until you have receive the grant.
Depending on the circumstances, the Probate Registry will issue one of the following:
- if the deceased left a will and appointed executors, a grant of probate (or Letters of Administration) will give the executors the legal right to administer the estate;
- if the deceased left a will but didn’t appoint executors, a grant of letters of administration with a will is issued;
- if they died intestate (with no will), then a grant of letters of administration will be issued.
THE PROBATE PROCESS AND ADMINISTERING THE ESTATE
The key steps in the process are:
- check whether there is a will
- value the estate and report it to HMRC
- if required, pay any inheritance tax
- collect the assets of the estate
- pay off debts
- keep a record of how possessions, money and property will be split
- pass the estate on to the people named in the will
To apply for probate, go to the Government website.
There are probate specialists and lawyers who can help you navigate the probate process, but they can be expensive. Money Helper has information on how much they charge and when to consider using a specialist.
To find companies or organisations who can help you with probate, please visit Probate & Legal Advice in the Providers section of whiteballoon.