What to do when someone dies
When someone dies, it can be a very emotional and confusing time. If you are responsible for making the funeral arrangements, it can be difficult to know what you need to do. Besides letting family and friends know, there are practical arrangements you will need to take when someone dies such as registering the death and notifying certain organisations.
Simplicity Cremations are here to walk you through the first steps after death, guiding and assisting on all you will need to do. We’ve created this guide that explains what to do when someone dies.
What do I need to do straightaway if someone dies at home?
What to do if someone dies at home and their death was expected
During the day
When someone dies at home and the death was expected, for example due a terminal illness, the person’s GP should be called. If you are unable to contact their GP for any reason, you should call the NHS helpline on 111.
If you loved one passes away at home during the night, you should call the NHS helpline (dial 111) and they will advise you on what to do next. You can alternatively wait until the next morning to call the person’s GP.
What to do if someone dies at home and their death was expected
If someone dies at home and the death was unexpected, you should call 999 as soon as possible and ask for an ambulance. The operator will provide you with instructions and establish whether you can try to resuscitate the person. Upon arrival, the paramedics will attempt resuscitation or confirm the death.
If the cause of death is unknown or the death was unexpected, the police or paramedics will arrange for the collection of the deceased and transport into the coroner’s care. You will be able to arrange for your loved one’s collection from the coroners by your chosen funeral provider, when the coroner releases the body upon completion of their investigation.
In both instances, if you are not the person’s next of kin or a close relative, they should be notified as soon as possible.
Has someone passed away at home?
If your loved one passes away at home and the death was expected, you will need to contact your chosen funeral provider to arrange for the collection of their body. If your loved one has been taken into the coroner’s care, you will not be able to arrange for their collection until the coroner releases the body.
At Simplicity, we can collect your loved one at any hour of the day.
*Please note, if your loved one passes away at home, in a care home or hospice there will be a charge of £250 for their collection to cover their care in our quality mortuary facilities. If you would like you loved one to be collected out of 9am-5pm on working weekdays, there will also be an out of hours charge of £195.
What to do if someone dies in hospital
Medical staff will contact you to advise you of your loved one’s death and be there to support you with the immediate next steps you need to take.
When someone dies in hospital, their body will usually be held in the hospital mortuary until collection has been arranged with your chosen funeral provider. This gives you a few days to start making funeral arrangements.
After your loved one’s death, you will need to get a medical certificate, register the death and arrange the funeral.
What to do when someone dies: step by step
Step 1: Get a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death (MCCD)
A Medical Certificate of Cause of Death (MCCD) includes the deceased’s name, age, place of death and cause of death, and will be issued by a doctor that will confirm the death, if the cause is known.
If the person died at home, their GP will issue this personally (or you may be asked to collect it from the GP’s receptionist). If the person died in hospital or a care home, the staff will provide you with the MCCD.
If a doctor is unsure about how the person died, the death is unexpected or suspicious, or their doctor had not seen the deceased in the 14 days prior to their death, the coroner (or procurator fiscal if in Scotland) may be contacted so that a post-mortem or inquest can be carried out. This may take some time, which can delay funeral arrangements.
If you are planning to cremate your loved one rather than bury them, please make their GP or the hospital aware of this as different forms will need to be obtained, which will need to be signed by two different doctors. The first form is known as the Certificate of Medical Attendant (or Form 4). This is often signed by the same doctor who issued the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death. The second form is known as the Confirmatory Medical Certificate (or Form CR5), This form is completed by a different doctor, who will check and confirm the details provided by the first*. There is a fee of £164 for the completion of these forms, this covers the cost of the two forms and is composed of two payments of £82. These fees are not applicable in all cases, for instance in the death is referred to a coroner.
*Please note, this process has been revised to reflect the temporary changes to the Cremation (England and Wales) Regulations 2008 provided for in the Coronavirus Act 2020 which came into force on 26 March 2020. The requirement for the Confirmatory Medical Certificate (Form CR5) has been temporarily removed. The amended Regulations and revised guidance will be in force until further notice.
Step 2: Register the death
The next step in the process when someone dies is to register the death. You will need to do this within:
• 5 days if you’re in England and Wales
• 8 days if you’re in Scotland
This includes weekends and bank holidays. In most cases, you will need to be a relative of the deceased, someone who was present at the death or someone with recognised authority over the proceedings (such as the person’s executor or other legal representative) to be able to register the death.
If the death has been reported to the coroner, you cannot register the death until the coroner’s investigations (a post-mortem or inquest) are complete.
In England and Wales, its best to use the register office closest to where the person died, as you’ll be given the documents you need on the day. You can use a different register office, but the documents will sent to the office in the area where the person has died before they are issued to you – which may cause a delay. In Scotland, the death can be registered in any district or council registration office.
Most register offices will only see you by appointment, so it’s best to call in advance to book a time. It usually takes around half an hour to register a death.
Take the following documents belonging to the deceased, if available:
- Medical Certificate of Cause of Death (provided to by the person’s GP or the hospital)
- birth certificate
- marriage or civil partnership certificate
- NHS medical card
The registrar will need to know:
- the person’s full name
- maiden name (if applicable)
- their date of birth
- their place of birth
- their last address
- their occupation
- the full name, date of birth and occupation of their spouse
- if they were receiving a state pension or benefits
Before you go to the register office, it is helpful to think about how many copies of the death certificate you might need as many of the organisations in step 4 of this process will need a death certificate (original, certified copies and not photocopies). You can buy certified copies for a small charge at the time of registration. You can also buy copies at a later time, but they may cost more.
We have created a guide which includes more information on how to register a death.
The funeral can only take place after the cause of death has been confirmed and the death is registered. When you register the death, the registrar will also provide you with a green certificate will allows a burial or cremation to go ahead. You will need to give this form to your chosen funeral provider.
Step 3: Arrange the funeral
The next step to take when someone dies is to decide on the type of funeral the deceased would have wanted, as you will likely have already contacted your chosen funeral provider to collect your loved one’s body.
When it comes to arranging a funeral, there are a number of decisions for you to make, including whether the deceased would have wanted a burial or cremation and a funeral with or without a service. The deceased may had a funeral plan or have left details about their funeral wishes in their will, or alongside other paperwork they have left behind. You are under no obligation to follow their wishes, but when someone has left their funeral wishes, most families decide to honour these.
Opting for a Simplicity Cremation as your funeral provider will mean you do not have to engage with the services of a Funeral Director or visit a funeral home, saving both your time and money at what will be an emotional time for you and your family. The process of arranging a Simplicity Cremation can be started with one simple phone call to our expert team. Our funerals are available from £995 throughout the whole of mainland Great Britain.
Learn more about arranging a funeral with Simplicity.
Step 4: Notify the government and relevant organisations
In the following weeks, you’ll need to start advising various organisations of your loved one’s death. Many people are unsure who you need to inform when someone dies, so we have listed the most common considerations below.
You can notify several government offices in one go using the Tell Us Once service. This is a free service and available in most areas of England, Wales and Scotland. If this service isn’t available to you, you’ll need to contact the relevant departments directly.
If you're notifying organisations individually, contact:
- HM Revenues and Customs (HMRC)
- Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)
- Passport Office
- Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency
- Local Council
It’s important to inform banks and other financial providers of a death. The Death Notification Service is the simplest way to do this as it notifies a number of banks and building societies at the same time.
Property and bills
You will also need to notify organisations with which the person was a named account holder. Including:
- Mortgage providers or landlord
- Utility and communications providers
- Insurance providers
- Private pensions
You may also consider redirecting the post of the person who has died by filling in a Special Circumstances form and taking it to your local Post Office.
What to do when someone dies checklist
Download our free what to do when someone dies checklist to guide you through the process.
What should I do next?
In the weeks and months following your loved one’s death, there will also be other things you may need to take care of such as commencing estate proceedings, decide what to do with their social media accounts and even arranging a memorial service if you wish. We’ve created a what to do after the funeral guide to help you.