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What to do when someone dies

This page will guide you through the process of what to do when someone dies.

When someone dies, our aim is to make things as easy and stress-free as possible with clear information and a dedicated Bereavement Care Team. We can offer you advice on all aspects of burial, cremation, and memorial. We support you in making the right decisions for you and your loved ones. You can reach us during normal office hours.

When someone dies – the first steps:

When someone dies, you need to inform several people and organisations and complete certain documents needed by law. If you are a relative or friend, you can do some of these things yourself. Others will need to be done by the Executor or Administrator of the estate.

If there is no next of kin

Public health funerals are provided by local authorities for people who have passed away and have no next of kin, or whose next of kin, relatives or friends are unable or unwilling to make the necessary arrangements for a funeral. Find out more.

What to do in the first few days

You won’t be able to do everything right away, but in the first few days it’s important to:

  • Get a medical certificate of cause of death signed by a doctor. If the death has been referred to the Coroner you will need to take instructions from the Coroner’s Officers regarding registration of the death. You will need this to register the death.
  • Register the death within 5 days. Once registered, you will receive the documents you need to arrange the funeral.
  • Begin arrangements for the funeral – remember to check the deceased’s Will for any special requests. We have a helpful checklist you might like to look at.
  • Contact a Funeral Director if you intend to use one. If the death occurs at home or in a nursing home, a funeral director will need to move the deceased to a chapel of rest.
  • Inform the family doctor.

As early as possible

  • Contact the executor as soon as you can. This enables them to start the process of obtaining probate if necessary. The executor is usually nominated in the Will.
  • If there is no Will, decide who will apply to administer the deceased’s affairs. Also apply for ‘letters of administration’ if necessary.

Documents you will need in the first few days

To register the death and begin funeral arrangements, you will need to gather the following documents as soon as possible:

  • Medical certificate of the cause of death (MCCD), signed by a doctor, unless the Coroner is involved and there has been a Coroner’s post-mortem.

You don't have to have any of these documents, but you will need to provide information contained in them, so they will be helpful:

  • Birth certificate
  • Marriage/civil partnership certificate
  • NHS number/NHS medical card
  • Organ donor card (if appropriate)

A paper checklist to download

If you prefer a paper checklist, our help sheet, ‘What to do in the first few days’ is available to download.

There is also plenty of helpful information on the government website.

Support for the Bereaved

If you, or someone you know, needs extra support during this difficult time, there are some organisations that can help.