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What to do when someone dies

If someone has died and you would like to speak with one of our friendly team, call now us now and we will help.

For help and advice call 0800 862 0150

What to do when someone dies

If the person dies at home call your GP and nearest relative immediately.

If the GP has seen the deceased in the last 14 days for what he believes has caused of death then he/she can certify the death.

However, if the GP has not seen the deceased in last 14 days, or has seen the deceased in the last 14 days but not for what he/she believes has caused the death then the coroner is informed.

If the person dies in hospital then the body will usually stay in the hospital mortuary until a funeral director or the relative arrange for the body to moved to a chapel of rest or home.

A Medical certificate of the Cause of Death (MCCD) is issued by the doctor who was treating the deceased, unless the coroner needs to be informed.

In April 2014, Medical Examiners will be introduced to independently scrutinise and confirm the cause of death when it is not referred to the coroner, they will also be the primary source of general medical advice to coroners. This role is currently being piloted in a number of locations in the UK.

When a death is referred to the coroner he is likely to request an autopsy (post-mortem investigative operation) to be carried out.

If the coroner, after the autopsy has been carried out views there is no reason for an inquest an Order of Burial can be issued, or in the case of cremation a Certificate of Coroner, Form Cremation 6.

If the coroner believes an inquest needs to occur there are three options:-

  • If a burial is requested he can open the inquest, issue a coroner’s Order of Burial, and then adjourn the inquest to a later date. The inquest can occur at any-point, including post-funeral.
  • When a cremation is requested, then a Certificate of Coroner, Form Cremation 6 is issued, the inquest again can happen post-funeral this occurs when the coroner is confident that there will be no need to re-examine the body
  • The coroner has the discretion to refuse a burial or cremation request until the inquest is concluded if he believes that a further examination of the deceased’s remains may assist with establishing the cause of death or who might be responsible for causing the death.

The person registering a death, often a family member, presents the certificate issued by the doctor. The registrar issues the official death certificate (one copy is given and additional copies can be purchased) and a green disposal certificate (commonly called a green certificate), unless the coroner has replaced the same with either an Order of Burial or an Certificate of Coroner, Form Cremation 6, which is passed to the funeral director.

A death should usually be registered within 5 days, however if the coroner has been involved this can be extended.

In the case of cremation, regardless of where the person dies, the following forms (where relevant) need to be completed:-

  • Form Cremation 1
    • Application applying for a cremation, this is usually next of kin, another family member or executor of the will.
  • Form Cremation 4
    • Completed and signed by either the GP who was treating the deceased, or the doctor treating the deceased in hospital
  • Form Cremation 5
    • Completed by an independent doctor, he must not work in the same practice as the doctor who completed Form 4. He independently confirms the reason for death.
  • Form Cremation 11
    • Coroner issues after a post mortem (this is completed as doctors Forms 4 and 5 could not be completed)
  • Form Cremation 6
    • Coroner issues after either the post mortem or the inquest
      (this is completed as doctors Forms 4 and 5 could not be completed)
  • Form Cremation 10
    • Authorisation of cremation of deceased person by medical referee, this is signed after reviewing all the forms have been completed correctly

What to do if someone dies abroad

  • If the person dies aboard, then the British Consul in that country needs to be informed, if you are on a package holiday the tour operator will do this for you. If a death takes place abroad it must be registered according to the law of that country. The death should also be reported to the British Consul who may be able to arrange for the death to be registered in the UK as well.
  • Returning a body to the UK is expensive but the cost may be covered by any travel insurance taken out by the person. If the death was on a package holiday the tour operator should be able to help with arrangements.
  • When a body is returned to the UK, the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages for the district where the funeral is to take place must be told and will need to issue a certificate before burial can take place. If cremation is to take place the Home Office also needs to give permission.
  • If the death was not due to natural causes the coroner for the district will also need to be told and an inquest may need to take place. In Northern Ireland a coroner can also arrange a post mortem or an inquest if the family requests it.

Donation of organs

The person who died may have wanted to donate organs for transplant. This will be easier if they were on the NHS Organ Donor Register, carried a donor card and had discussed the donation plans with their family. Relatives will still be asked to give their consent before donation. Most organ donations come from people who have died while on a ventilator in a hospital intensive care unit. For more information about organ donation and transplantation, contact:

NHS Organ Donor Register
NHS Blood and Transplant
Organ Donation and Transplantation Directorate
Fox Den Road
Stoke Gifford
BS34 8RR
Organ Donor Line: 0300 123 2323 (24 hours a day, every day)

Donation of the body for medical education or research

Some people wish to leave their bodies for medical education or research and anyone wanting to do this needs to make arrangements before they die and tell their relatives. When the person dies, relatives in England, Scotland and Wales only should contact the Human Tissue Authority who will advise on what should be done. If a body is accepted (and many bodies are not suitable) the medical school will arrange for eventual cremation or burial. The address of the Human Tissue Authority is:

Human Tissue Authority
Finlaison House
15-17 Furnival Street
Tel: 020 7211 3400
Fax: 020 7211 3430

  • In Scotland, contact your nearest medical school.
  • In Northern Ireland you should contact:

Professor of Anatomy
Department of Anatomy
Queens’ University Belfast
Medical Biology Centre
97 Lisburn Road
Tel: 028 9024 5133

How to register a death in the UK

  • You must register the death with the Registrar of Births, Marriages and Deaths for the district where the death occurred.
  • You need to do this within five days of the death (eight days in Scotland) unless it has been referred to the coroner.
  • You can find the address in the phone book or from a doctor, local council, post office or police station. If you cannot contact the registrar for the district where the death occurred, you can make a formal declaration in any district and this will be forwarded to the correct one. If this happens there may be some delay in certificates being issued.
  • This is an interactive tool which people can use to track exactly how they should register a death, giving different guidelines for England, Scotland and Wales only and Scotland
  • This link to the General Register Office in Scotland so a death can be registered
  • This gives full information about how to register a death in NI
  • Who can register a death that occurs at home or in hospital
    • a relative
    • someone present at the death
    • an occupant of the house
    • an official from the hospital
    • the person making the arrangements with the funeral directors
  • Documentation needed is
    • medical certificate of the cause of death (signed by a doctor)
    • And, if available: birth certificate, marriage or civil partnership certificate, NHS Medical Card
  • Information you will need to supply
    • the person’s full name at time of death
    • any names previously used, including maiden surname
    • the person’s date and place of birth (town and county if born in the UK and country if born abroad)
    • their last address
    • their occupation
    • the full name, date of birth and occupation of a surviving spouse or civil partner
    • if they were getting a state pension or any other state benefit

Locate the will

  • If you don’t know where it is the deceased’s solicitor may hold a copy
  • Inform the executor named in the will that the person has passed away, they can then start the process of gaining probate
  • If there is no will then decide who will apply to sort out the deceased affairs, contact the probate office asking for letters of administration

If relevant, complete form BD8 given to you when you register the death and send to the local Jobcentre Plus or Social Security.

If the person who has died was receiving any benefits or tax credits, advise the offices that were making the payments – if you can’t find relevant correspondence, use the links below to the tax credit helpline and Jobcentre plus.