Practical tasks

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

The doctor will usually give you information about how to register your relative or friend’s death. The person who can register the death varies in different parts of the UK.

You will register the death with the Registrar of Births, Marriages, and Deaths. 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 official agencies and organisations such as insurance companies.

Contacting all these people 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 may also need help to sort out their will and other financial affairs. You may also have online accounts to deal with.

Registering the death

The doctor will usually give you information about how to register your relative or friend’s death when they give you 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 will register the death with the Registrar of Births, Marriages, and Deaths. This has to be done within 5 days (in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland) or 8 days (in Scotland), unless it has been referred to the coroner or procurator fiscal.

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

You can get the telephone number for the registrars’ office:

  • on the envelope the MCCD is in
  • in the phone book
  • online
  • by calling the Bereavement Advice Centre on 0800 634 9494.

Things to take with you include:

  • the MCCD – you must take this with you
  • 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 their 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.

Before you go to the registrars’ office, it is helpful to think about how many copies of the death certificate you might need. These are original, certified copies and not photocopies. You can buy certified copies for a small charge at the time of registration. 

You can also buy certified copies at a later time, but they may cost more.

You usually need one certified copy for each life insurance policy (or similar) that you need to claim. You may need copies for other official agencies and organisations. They will usually return the copy of the death certificate once they have seen it.

You can get more information about registering the death from:


Telling people about the death

Telling other people about your relative or friend’s death can often be 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 do not feel you have to do it all. You could contact close relatives and friends and ask them to tell other people.

You could start by writing a list of people you would like to contact, and think about how to do it. Use address books, mobile phones, or social networking sites to 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 this might be a starting point: ‘I am 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
  • gas, electricity, or phone companies
  • the local council.

Many of these organisations will need a certified death certificate and other information, such as full names, addresses, and account numbers.

Contacting all these organisations can take a lot of time, and you may not feel emotionally ready to do this. You do not have to contact everyone at once. You can also ask a relative or friend to help you. Many organisations and companies have staff who are trained to deal with calls from relatives and friends when someone dies. You can ask to speak to the bereavement team if they have one.

Some people find it helpful to write a list of all the organisations they need to contact and gradually work through it over a few weeks. Others prefer to contact them all at once.

It is important to tell insurance companies straight away, 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 available in some local authorities in England, Scotland, and Wales. It allows you to report a death to most government organisations at the same time. The local registrar will tell you if the Tell Us Once service is available in your area and how to use it. They will give you a unique reference number to access the service.

It is a process. There are lots of papers that need to be signed and a lot of formality. There are lots of small things, like phone and electricity bills.

Poppy


Wills and probate

A will is a legal document that gives instructions from the person who died about who they wanted to leave their money and belongings to.

When someone dies, what they leave is called their estate. This is worked out from any money or possessions the person owned and any debts they may have had when they died. 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 (thr executor) needs to apply for probate or confirmation before the will can be followed.

This can be done by applying to:

  • the local probate court in England and Wales
  • the probate registry in Northern Ireland
  • the sheriff court in Scotland.

It usually takes several weeks. Probate or confirmation may not be needed in some situations, for example if 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 an appointment of executor dative in Scotland. The probate process usually takes longer for people who die intestate. You should not 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:

It is important that the executors of the will understand what they have to do and tell close family or friends what is happening. If you are likely to be left something in the will, you are called a beneficiary. It is also important to note that probate can take a long time.

If your relative or friend has not left detailed instructions in their will, you may have to decide what to do with their property. There may be pieces of jewellery, furniture, pictures, or personal items. Deciding what to keep and what to pass on can be very upsetting.

Try to do it at a time that feels right for you. Think about whether you would prefer to sort through their personal things alone or have help from others. Do not feel you have to make all the decisions yourself if other people offer to help.

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


Financial help

If your husband, wife, 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 their pension or National Insurance contributions.

You can also contact the Macmillan Support Line on 0808 808 00 00.


Online accounts

Your relative or friend may have online accounts such as email, online banking, Facebook, Twitter, or other social media. You may not be sure what you want to do with these accounts. 

You can find information online about closing or deactivating accounts or making memorialised accounts on social media websites.

Back to After someone dies

At the time of the death

People can have different feelings and reactions after someone dies. It is 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.