What to do when someone dies

What to do when someone dies

When someone dies, it can be difficult to know what steps need to be taken, particularly if it is unexpected.

If the person dies in hospital or at a hospice or care home, then staff there will know exactly what needs to be done and can guide you on anything you need to do. If the death occurs at home, then the first step that needs to happen is for the doctor to be called to confirm and certify the death. Either way, you will be provided with a medical certificate confirming the cause of death and allowing you to register the death.

If the doctor is unsure about the cause of death then they will report it to a coroner. A post-mortem may then be needed to ascertain the cause before a medical certificate is issued.

Should someone die while abroad then contact the British Embassy, High Commissioner or nearest Consulate.

Registering a death

You must register a death in England or Wales at a Registry Office within five days, or the Registrar of Deaths in Northern Ireland. A death occurring in Scotland should be registered within eight days by the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages.

Once registered, you will be given the death certificate and it is advisable to purchase additional copies as these may be required by banks, insurance companies and other organisations. The death certificate is also required to enable the deceased’s will to be executed. You will also be given a ‘green certificate’ which should be given to the funeral director to allow for the burial or cremation to take place.

You may also be given Form BD8 which is used to advise Social Security or your local Jobcentre Plus in case the deceased was receiving any benefits or tax credits.

The role of an Executor

The Gazette, a government publication, is the UK’s official public record. They are raising awareness on the placement of deceased estates notices under the Trustee Act 1925 for England, the Trustee Act 1958 for Northern Ireland, and the Confirmation of Executors Act 1823 (Scotland).  

Executors of a will need to know that they can protect themselves from any liability from unidentified creditors, before the deceased’s estate is distributed.  The Gazette has produced a step-by-step guide “what to do when someone dies” to provide advice to executors of wills, which details the administering of a will, valuing an estate, inheritance tax, the probate process, placement of a deceased estates notice and distribution of an estate. It also includes practical advice on who may need to be informed of the death and downloadable checklists to help with the process.

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