Practical tasks

You need to register your relative’s or friend’s death with the Registrar of Births, Marriages and Deaths. This has to be done within five days (in England, Wales and Northern Ireland) or eight days (in Scotland).

The registrar will give you a certificate for you to give the funeral director. You will be given a death certificate for you to keep and you can also get certified copies for claiming insurance policies.

You will need to apply for probate to carry out the wishes of the will. Probate can take a long time.

Telling other people about the death can often be very difficult. Don’t feel you have to do it all. You could contact key people and ask them to let other people know.

Official agencies and organisations will also need to be told. This can take a lot of time, and you may not feel ready to do this. You don’t have to do it all at once. And you can ask someone to help. You will need to tell insurance companies immediately, as these become invalid as soon as someone dies.

Registering the death

You will usually be given information about registering your relative or friend’s death when you are given the medical certificate of cause of death (MCCD).

The person who can register the death varies in different parts of the UK. You can find more detailed information about this at gov.uk/register-a-death

You have to register the death with the Registrar of Births, Marriages and Deaths. This has to be done within five days (in England, Wales and Northern Ireland) or eight days (in Scotland), unless it has been referred to the coroner or procurator fiscal.

To find the phone number of your local registrar’s office, you can:

  • look up ‘registration of births, deaths and marriages’ in the business section of your local phone book
  • look on the envelope the MCCD is in
  • ask the staff in the hospital or hospice, if that’s where your relative or friend died
  • call the Bereavement Advice Centre on 0800 634 9494.

Some registrars’ offices have an appointment system, so call and check before you go.

You will need to take the MCCD with you. It is also helpful to take:

  • your relative or friend’s birth certificate, and their marriage certificate if they had one
  • details of any state benefits they were getting
  • their NHS medical card, if they had one
  • the National Insurance number of the person who has died, and of a surviving husband, wife or civil partner, if they have one.

The registrar will enter the details of the death in the register and give you a certificate for burial or cremation. You need to give this to the funeral director. If you need a certificate of registration of death for social security purposes, the registrar will give you one. The registrar will also give you an MCCD for you to keep.

Before you go to the registrar’s office, it’s helpful to think about how many copies of the death certificate you might need. These are duplicate original, certified copies and not photocopies. You usually need one certified copy for each life insurance policy (or similar) that you need to claim.

You can buy certified copies for a small charge at the time of registration. It is also possible to buy certified copies at a later time, but they may cost more.

You can get more information about registering the death from:


Telling people about the death

You will need to tell other people about your relative or friend’s death. This can often be very difficult. You may get very upset and be unsure who to tell and what to say.


Telling other relatives and friends

You may feel that you want to tell people yourself. But this can be tiring and emotional, so don’t feel you have to do it all. You could contact key people and ask them to let other people in their group of family members or friends know.

You may find it useful to start by writing a list of people you need or would like to contact, and how you want to contact them. Using an address book, mobile phone or social networking site may help you make a list.

You might also find it helpful to think about what you want to say and write it down before you contact people. There is no right or wrong way to tell people, but the following sentence might be a starting point: ‘I’m sorry to say I have some very sad news. (Name of person) has been ill for some time/was suddenly taken ill and died earlier today/this week’.

Telling official agencies and organisations

When someone dies, there are a lot of official agencies and organisations that need to be told. These include:

  • employers
  • the tax office
  • banks and building societies
  • insurance companies
  • the local council.

Many of these organisations will need a certified death certificate and other relevant documents (see above).

Contacting all these organisations can take a lot of time, and you may not feel emotionally ready to do this. You don’t have to contact everyone at once. And you can ask a relative or friend to help you.

Some people find it helpful to write a list of all the organisations and gradually work through it over a few weeks. Others prefer to do it in one go.

It is important to tell insurance companies immediately, as insurance policies become invalid as soon as someone dies.

The Bereavement Advice Centre has a useful checklist of the organisations you need to contact.

Tell Us Once

Tell Us Once is a service for people in England, Scotland and Wales that lets you report a death to most government organisations in one go. The local registrar will tell you how to contact the Tell Us Once service. They will give you a unique reference number to access it.

You can find more information about the Tell Us Once service here.

It is a process, when someone dies. There are a lot of papers that need to be signed. There’s a lot of formality. There are a lot of small things, like phone bills and electricity and bank statements.

Poppy


Wills and probate

Probate is the process of proving what someone owned and owed when they died. In Scotland, probate is called confirmation.

When someone dies, the person who deals with their estate (their executor) needs to apply for probate before the will can be carried out (executed). They need to apply to the local probate court. It usually takes several weeks. Probate may not be needed in some situations, for example when the person who died owned everything jointly with their spouse.

If a person dies without making a will, this is called dying intestate. If this happens, you should apply for letters of administration in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, or for appointment of executor dative in Scotland. The probate process usually takes longer for people who die intestate. You shouldn’t sell or give away any of your relative or friend’s property until probate is granted.

If you have questions about probate, it might be helpful to discuss these with a solicitor or your local Citizens Advice – find details for your local office in the phone book or on one of the following websites: citizensadvice.org.uk (England and Wales), cas.org.uk (Scotland) or citizensadvice.co.uk (Northern Ireland).

It’s important that the executors of the will understand their role and keep close family or friends up to date on the progress. If you’re likely to be left something in the will (you’re a beneficiary), remember that probate can take a long time. Try to make sure you have enough money in your own account to cover the first few weeks and months. Some money can be released early to pay for immediate costs, but it’s much easier to have your own funds.

You can find more information about wills and probate at gov.uk/wills-probate-inheritance


Financial help

If your spouse or civil partner has died, you may be entitled to a Bereavement Payment or Bereavement Allowance. You may also be entitled to extra pension payments from your spouse or civil partner’s pension or National Insurance contributions.

If you live in England, Scotland or Wales, you can find out more at gov.uk/browse/benefits/bereavement If you live in Northern Ireland, contact your local Social Security Agency benefits office. To find it, visit dsdni.gov.uk You can also contact Macmillan’s Support Line on 0808 808 00 00.


Social media accounts

Your relative or friend may have one or more social media accounts, for example Facebook or Twitter. You may not be sure what you want to do with these accounts.

Some people want to close them, while others want to convert them into a memorialised account. There’s no hurry to do either. Take your time and look at the options when you feel ready. You can find information about closing accounts and converting them to memorialised accounts on most social media websites.

Back to After someone dies

At the time of the death

You may have a range of feelings after someone has died. It’s important to get help and support to know what to do.

Funeral arrangements

Funerals allow relatives and friends to get together to remember the person who has died and say goodbye to them.