When someone dies, there are things that need to be done depending upon the circumstances of the death. This guide will help you through the process during this very difficult time:
- If someone dies at home and their death was expected:
Call their GP practice and nearest relative (if that's not you). In most instances, the doctor will issue a MCCD (Medical Cause of Death Certificate) stating the cause of death, to allow the death to be registered. Once this has been done the GP will email the MCCD to the Registration office.
You do not get a copy of the MCCD.
Once this has been completed then you can book an appointment to register the death – this is easy to do online https://www.gov.uk/register-a-death Then, when you feel ready to do so, contact a funeral director of your choice who will move the body. The GP will then contact the appointed funeral director to confirm the necessary administration.
- If someone dies at home unexpectedly:
Call 999 immediately and explain what's happened. If the cause of death is unclear or unnatural, for example as the result of an accident, or if the person hadn't recently seen by a doctor, the death will need to be reported to a coroner.
A coroner is a lawyer with the legal duty to investigate unexpected deaths (some coroners are also doctors). The coroner may call for a post-mortem examination to determine the cause of death. This may take some time, so the funeral may need to be delayed. You cannot refuse the examination, but you can tell them if you need to arrange the funeral quickly for faith reasons.
When someone dies unexpectedly, the police will also be called to do a routine visit. They'll ask questions about the circumstances of the death which may be used to help the coroner to understand the cause of death. This can be unsettling but it's important to remember that it's normal procedure in these circumstances.
- If someone dies in hospital:
The hospital will explain the steps you need to take. The cause of death will usually be checked by the medical examiner and then the MCCD and formal notice will be issued.
The body will usually be kept in the hospital mortuary until the relatives arrange for it to be taken to the funeral director's premises or taken home.
- How do I register a death?
It's a legal requirement to register a death within 5 days of the death (unless it's been referred to the coroner). A burial or cremation cannot go ahead until the death has been registered.
Here's a step-by-step guide on how to register a death:
Step 1: Find a register office
You can go to any register office to register a death, but it's best to use one in the area where the person died because then you'll be given the documents you need that day. If you go to an office in a different area, there'll be a delay before you get the documents. Wherever you go, most offices require you to make an appointment, so it's best to phone in advance to check.
Find a register office on GOV.UK
Step 2: Get the information ready
You'll have to show – or tell – the registrar:
- The MCCD signed by a doctor or documentation from the coroner confirming the cause of death
- the date and place of death
- the full name of the person who's died (and any other names they once had, such as a maiden name)
- their date and place of birth
- their usual address
- their most recent occupation and if they'd retired
- whether or not they were receiving any benefits, including State Pension
- the name, occupation, and date of birth of their spouse or civil partner, if they had one (even if their spouse or civil partner has already died).
If possible, you could also take the person’s:
- birth certificate
- medical card or NHS number
- marriage or civil partnership certificate
- driving licence
- proof of their address (on an electricity bill, for example).
Step 3: What you'll get
When you've provided the required information, the registrar will give you:
- a unique code, so that you can use the Tell Us Once service
- leaflets about bereavement benefits
- a death certificate, for which there will be a charge. This is a certified copy of what's recorded in the death register and is needed to be able to deal with the person's estate.