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Losing a loved one is one of the most difficult experiences in life. It can be overwhelming and confusing to know what to do in the immediate aftermath of a death. 

This article provides a  guide on what to do when someone dies in the UK, from registering the death to arranging the funeral and dealing with the deceased’s estate.

We hope that it will provide you with some helpful information and support during this difficult time. 

When Someone Dies at Home

The occurrence of a death at home necessitates various considerations, contingent on the nature and expectation of the passing. The procedures to follow may differ based on whether the death happens during daytime or nighttime hours.

Expected death at home

Remain calm, the person is at peace and no longer feeling the effects of illness.
There is no immediate rush to have the deceased person taken into the care of your appointed Funeral Director.  You may have family and friends who wish to visit to pay their last respects.

The deceased person’s death has to be verified by a healthcare professional prior to the Funeral Director collecting the deceased.

Note the time of death so you can inform the medical professional when they arrive to verify the death.

Some additional steps may be helpful depending on whether the death occurred during the day or at night:

  • During the day

If your loved one passed away during the day and the death was anticipated, such as from a terminal illness, you may have already had time to prepare for this event. You should contact their GP or the NHS helpline (dial 111) as soon as possible.  When the healthcare professional contacts you, they will give you an estimated time of visit.  Do not be alarmed if they cannot come immediately as it may take a number of hours.

While waiting for the healthcare professional’s arrival, you may want to contact family or friends to join you. You may also choose this time to be alone with the deceased.

  • At Night

Whether your loved one passed away during the day or at night, you should contact the NHS helpline (dial 111) for guidance on the next steps. If you are not the next of kin or a close relative, notify them promptly. You can wait until the morning before contacting their GP.

In both instances, if you are not the next of kin or a close relative, you should ensure they are notified immediately.

If the doctor knows the cause of death, they will provide a medical certificate of cause of death (MCCD) allowing you to register the death.  You should contact your appointed Funeral Director when you are ready for the deceased to be taken into their care, typically attendance time is 1-2 hours depending on time of day, distance etc.

Unexpected death at home

Should a death occur unexpectedly, it is imperative to immediately contact the Police and Ambulance services by dialling 999. The operator will guide you through the necessary steps, including assessing the possibility of resuscitation. Upon their arrival, paramedics will either undertake resuscitation efforts or verify the death.

In instances where the cause of death remains unclear, it is crucial to preserve the scene, barring any resuscitation attempts. The Police will coordinate with a funeral director to transport the deceased for the Coroner’s examination in cases of unforeseen deaths.

Should there be uncertainty regarding the cause of death by a medical professional, even in apparent natural circumstances, or if the death was sudden or unnatural, the coroner will be notified. The coroner may then conduct a post-mortem examination or an inquest to ascertain the cause of death. Following this, the necessary documentation for registering the death will be issued.

It is important to note that funeral arrangements cannot commence until the Coroner’s inquest has been completed and the cause of death established.  You may however wish to speak with your appointed Funeral Director in advance of the Coroner releasing the deceased for burial or cremation.

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When Someone Dies in a Care Home

Should a death occur within a care home setting, rest assured that the staff are well-versed in the necessary protocols. They are equipped to guide you through the subsequent steps. Care home personnel are trained to handle such situations with the utmost care and respect, ensuring your loved one is treated with dignity. Typically, the deceased will be respectfully moved to their room or an appropriate private area to rest peacefully. This is done while awaiting the notification of family members, the issuance of the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death (MCCD), and the arrival of a funeral director for the collection of the body.

In the event that you are not present at the time of your loved one’s passing, the care home staff will promptly inform you. You are welcome to visit the care home to spend time with your loved one after their passing, should you wish.

Many care homes now like to keep a record of whether your loved one is to be buried or cremated in the event of their death, they may also take note of the funeral director you may wish to appoint. 

Care Home Protocol: 

  • The care home staff will arrange for the death to be verified by a medical professional.
  • Staff will contact the GP Surgery to certify the death allowing the doctor to issue a medical certificate of cause of death (MCCD).
  • If the doctor cannot determine the exact cause of death, even if it appears to be from natural causes, or in cases of sudden or unnatural death, they will inform the Coroner. The Coroner might then decide to conduct a post-mortem or an inquest to establish the cause of death.
  • Staff should arrange for any personal effects to be kept safe and then returned to the family. They would usually request that the items are signed for to acknowledge receipt that they have been returned safely 

When Someone Dies in Hospital

If your loved one passes away in hospital, then the next of kin will be informed immediately.

Many hospitals have staff who specialise in bereavement matters and will be on hand to explain procedures and next steps to you.

Hospital Protocol:

  • If the cause of death is clear, a hospital doctor will typically provide a medical certificate. However, if the cause of death is uncertain or unconfirmed, the hospital will seek consent from the next of kin for a post-mortem examination. 
  • Should the deceased be destined for cremation, please inform the doctor. 
  • The deceased will remain in the hospital mortuary until arrangements are made for a chosen funeral director to collect them.
  • You may need to sign a hospital authorisation form to enable the funeral director to take the deceased into their care
  • Any personal possessions will be kept safe by hospital staff until the next of kin collects them. The hospital staff will issue a receipt when the possessions are collected.

Offering Support in Funeral Arrangements

Feeling overwhelmed with organising a funeral? We’re here to help. Contact us for guidance and support to honour your loved one. You’re not alone.

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What To Do When You Have A Medical Certificate Of Death

Once you have a medical certificate of death, you need to register the death at a registry office. You can book your appointment online or by phone. You must register the death within 5 days (8 in Scotland), this includes weekends and bank holidays.

It is important to provide the Registrar with as much information about the deceased as possible.  It is important you take the medical certificate of cause of death (MCCD) with you.

You will need to provide the following information:

  • The deceased’s full name, date of birth, place and date of death
  • Their full address and occupation
  • Their marital status and the name of their spouse or partner (if any)
  • The name and address of their informant (usually the person registering the death)

It may be helpful if you have the following documents with you:

  • Birth Certificate
  • Driving licence
  • Passport
  • Marriage Certificate
  • Council tax bill

Registering the death is free, however you do have to pay for death certificates.  The cost of a certified copy varies by location, however, it is usually between £8 and £12.  Your local registry office will be able to confirm the cost.

The registration process should take approximately 30 minutes.

Arranging the funeral

Once you have registered the death, you can start to arrange the funeral. You can choose to use a funeral director or to arrange the funeral yourself. If you are using a funeral director, they will be able to help you with all aspects of the funeral, from choosing a coffin to arranging the cremation or burial. 

Contact us today to learn more about our funeral arrangement services. We are here to help you arrange a funeral for your loved one, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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Notifying other organisations

Once you have registered the death, you will need to notify a number of other organisations, including:

  • The deceased’s employer.
  • Their banks and building societies.
  • Their pension provider.
  • Their insurance company.
  • Their utility companies.
  • Any other organisations that they had regular dealings with.

You can use the Tell Us Once government service to notify multiple government departments and organisations about the death in one go.

Other practical matters

In addition to the above, there are a number of other practical matters that you may need to deal with after someone dies, such as:

  • Dealing with the deceased’s estate.
  • Cancelling their passport and driving licence.
  • Closing their social media accounts.
  • Returning any library books or other borrowed items.

Losing a loved one is a difficult experience, and it can be overwhelming to know what to do in the immediate aftermath of a death. 

We hope that this information has been helpful and supportive. Please remember that you are not alone during this difficult time. There are a number of organisations that can provide support and guidance.

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