Losing somebody close to you is incredibly difficult. Nothing can prepare you for bereavement and you may feel confused and overwhelmed. Not only do you have to deal with these distressing emotions, but you also need to organise practical arrangements, such as a funeral and the personal affairs of your loved one.
It can be hard to know where to begin.
To support you at this challenging time, Direct Cremation by Harbour has put together a useful guide for what to do when someone dies. We will walk you through the necessary steps you need to take and answer the questions you may have.
If you would prefer to speak with us directly, we’d be happy to help. You can reach us on 0800 133 7961.
Step One: Obtain a medical certificate
Obtaining a medical certificate is essential. It details the cause of death and enables you to register the death and begin arranging the funeral. A medical certificate is always free.
How you receive one depends on where and how your loved one passes away.
In a hospital or care home
If your loved one passes away in a hospital or care home, they will either send it directly to the local registry office or provide you with the certificate.
If someone dies at home and it is expected, you must call their GP. If you are unable to reach them, ring the NHS helpline on 111. A medical professional needs to come and verify the death. This could be the person’s doctor, or if they are unavailable, an on-call doctor or senior nurse can do this instead.
The doctor who has been looking after the person who has died will issue the medical certificate of cause of death. The doctor’s surgery will then send it to the local registry office or contact you when it is ready to collect.
However, if a family member or friend dies at home unexpectedly, you need to call both an ambulance and the police on 999.
In some cases, the medical personnel who arrive at your house will contact a coroner (or procurator fiscal in Scotland). This will happen if:
- The doctor is unsure about the cause of death
- The deceased died suddenly and had not been in a doctor’s care during the past 14 days
- The death is unnatural
The coroner or procurator fiscal might authorise a post mortem examination to determine the cause of death. They will subsequently issue the medical certificate.
You can call Harbour before you receive the medical certificate. We can offer expert advice and help you to begin making funeral arrangements.
Step Two: Register the death
It is important to register a death within five days in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and within eight days in Scotland. There may, however, be a delay if there is an inquest into the death.
Registering a death provides you with a death certificate. This is the formal record of the death. You will need this certificate to deal with things like sorting bank accounts, mortgages and wills.
The registrar will also provide you with ‘Certificate for Burial or Cremation’, commonly known as the green form. This is required before a burial or cremation can proceed. The registrar may ask which funeral service you are using in order to send this certificate to us directly. In which case, the funeral director is Direct Cremation by Harbour. Our email address is [email protected] and our phone number is 0800 133 7961.
Where to register a death
You can register a death by contacting the Registrar’s Office local to the person who has died. If they died at home, the death should be registered at the registrar office in the district where they lived. If they died in a hospital, at a care home or another public building, the death should be registered at the registrar office of the district in which the hospital or home is located.
Find the nearest Registrar’s Office here.
Who should register the death?
A relative should register the death. But, if this is not possible, someone else can if they:
- Were a witness of the person’s death
- Are an administrator from the hospital where the person died (if they died in hospital)
- Are in charge of making the funeral arrangements (but are not the funeral director)
Is it free to register a death?
It is free to register a death, but you will need to pay for the death certificate. It costs £11 in England and Wales, £12 in Scotland, and £15 in Northern Ireland.
Buying multiple death certificates may be useful, especially if the estate of your loved one is fairly complicated. You may have to provide copies to banks, solicitors, pension companies or other institutions. Obtaining several death certificates at this stage will therefore speed up the probate process.
Most financial companies only accept official copies of a death certificate; you cannot make your own copies at home. Also, it may cost more to request more official copies further down the line.
What you need to register a death
To register a death, you need the following information for the deceased:
- Full name, including any previous names
- Date and place of birth
- Last address
- Full name, date of birth, and occupation of surviving/late spouse(s) or civil partner(s), if they were married
- The medical certificate with the cause of death
It may also be useful to bring the following documentation:
- Birth certificate
- Marriage or civil partnership certificate
- National insurance number
- NHS medical card
- Proof of address (for example a council tax letter or utility bill)
- Driving license
In addition, you will also need to take your own identification, for instance, a driving licence or passport.
The process of registering a death should take no longer than 30 minutes. When you register the death, let them know you are using Harbour’s services. This will make the funeral arranging process easier for you.
Notify the government using the Tell Us Once service
After registering the death you will need to notify various organisations. The government’s Tell Us Once service enables you to inform most departments of your loved one’s passing in one go. These include the Passport Office, HMRC and the DVLA.
Access the Tell Us Once service here.
Step Three: Find out if the deceased had any wishes or funeral plans and start planning the funeral
This third step depends on whether your loved one discussed any wishes for their funeral with anyone. If this was never mentioned, you should look for a letter of instruction amongst the deceased’s paperwork and in their will. It is also worth checking whether their solicitor has any information.
If there are no instructions, you may want to speak with the deceased’s relatives about what the person would have wanted in terms of a funeral and the family’s own wishes.
Harbour’s stress-free, dignified direct cremation service starts at just £895.
Contact us on 0800 133 7961 to discuss your options further.