What do I do now?
If the death takes place at home, you should call your GP first. Depending on the nature and time of death, your GP will either guide you or may direct you to the out-of-hours service in your area. In any event, a doctor will come to your house to formally confirm the death.
If the person did not have a GP, you should call the out-of-hours doctor service in your area or call the ambulance services. As a last resort, you can call the police.
Where the cause of death is obvious and expected, the person’s GP should be able to issue a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death (often referred to as the Death Certificate).
The Death Certificate is issued free of charge and will be placed in a sealed envelope addressed to the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages. You will also receive a Formal Notice which confirms that the doctor has signed the Death Certificate and details about registering the death will be provided.
If the body is to be cremated, the doctor must also complete a form called the Cremation Certificate. The doctor will arrange for a second doctor to sign the Certificate. There is a charge for the Cremation Certificate and this will usually be collected by your Funeral Director.
You should then notify the Executors and appoint a Funeral Director.
In Hospital or 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. You will need to collect this along with any belongings.
In the event of sudden or unexpected death or where the doctor looking after the person is unable to issue the Medical Certificate, it may be necessary to report the death to the Coroner. Please see the section on Sudden or Unexpected Death.
If you decide on cremation, please advise the nursing staff so that they can arrange for a second doctor to sign the Cremation Certificate.
You should then notify the Executors and appoint a Funeral Director. The body will be kept in the hospital or nursing home mortuary until arrangements are made for a Funeral Director to collect it.
Suddenly or Unexpectedly
If the death occurs suddenly, unexpectedly or was not due to natural causes, the death must be reported to the Coroner. The Coroner’s Officer (usually a uniformed policeman) will visit as soon as possible, record the relevant details and report them to the Coroner.
The body will be taken to a hospital mortuary designated by the Coroner. The Coroner (called the Procurator Fiscal in Scotland) will then 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. Actual procedures involved in reporting the death will vary from country to country, but in any event a local death certificate should be obtained. This document is usually acceptable for all official purposes in the UK but may need to be translated.
There is no obligation to do so, but death should also be registered at the local British Consulate to ensure that the death is recorded in the UK.
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 is to take place must be informed. The Registrar must issue a certificate before the burial can take place. The Home Office also has to give permission if the body is to be cremated.
If you receive any kind of benefit from the government, you may be entitled to financial help. A good starting point for checking your potential entitlement are the Bereavement Benefits fact sheets at www.direct.gov.uk.
For further information on what to do when death occurs, please go to www.direct.gov.uk.