What To Do When Someone Dies

how to sort out an estate

What To Do When Someone Dies
Immediate Steps After a Death
Funeral Arrangements
Informing Relevant Parties
Handling the Estate

What To Do When Someone Dies

Losing a loved one is an emotionally challenging experience accompanied by a complex set of logistical tasks. During this difficult time, it's essential to know the necessary steps to take, and what to do after someone dies. This guide aims to provide practical advice to help you navigate the process, from immediate actions to handling the estate, ensuring that you can focus on healing and remembering your loved one.

Whether you're dealing with an unexpected death, a death abroad, or the intricacies of funeral arrangements, this comprehensive guide will cover everything you need to know about what to do when someone dies UK. With this foundation, you can approach this challenging period with confidence and clarity, making the process as smooth as possible for yourself and your family.

Short Summary

  • Immediate steps must be taken following a death, such as obtaining a medical certificate and registering the death.

  • Adherence to legal requirements and timeframes is necessary for successful registration of a death.

  • Financial assistance and other support is available to provide bereaved families with funeral costs, other expenses, guidance and assistance.

Immediate Steps After a Death

When someone dies, the first crucial steps include obtaining a death certificate, registering the death, and arranging the funeral. These actions provide a foundation for the subsequent tasks you'll need to complete. It's essential to approach each of these initial steps with care and attention, as they can impact the rest of the process.

However, unexpected deaths or deaths abroad might require additional steps. In the following subsections, we'll discuss the specific actions needed in these situations to ensure that all legal and logistical requirements are met.

Unexpected Deaths

Unexpected deaths can be particularly challenging, as the cause of death might be unclear or unnatural. In such cases, it's crucial to contact the police hospital mortuary or coroner. The death will then be reported to a coroner, who is a doctor or lawyer responsible for investigating such cases. A post-mortem examination may be conducted, which may lead to a delay in the funeral proceedings.

In the event of an unexpected death, communication is vital. Make sure to inform the relevant authorities and healthcare professionals as soon as possible, so they can provide their expertise and support to help you handle this challenging situation.

Deaths Abroad

When someone dies abroad, the process can be more complex, as you will need to navigate unfamiliar regulations and procedures. The first step is to contact the British Consulate, who can provide assistance relating to specific requirements in the country where the person died.

The person's death must be registered in accordance with the country's regulations, and in most cases, a local death certificate can be used in the UK. If the death certificate is not in English, a certified translation may be necessary when handling the deceased's affairs. Additionally, the death may be registered with UK authorities by contacting the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office - one of the government departments you will have to deal with.

Registering the Death

Registering the death is a vital step that must be completed within five to eight days, except in case of a coroner's inquest. To register the death, you will need several documents, including the medical certificate indicating the cause of death, a birth certificate, a marriage certificate, and proof of address. Ensuring that you have all the necessary documents will help streamline the registration process.

You will be given a ‘certificate for a burial’ to give to the funeral director, or an application for cremation which you need to complete and give to the crematorium. You must do one of these before the funeral can take place.

In the following subsections, we will delve deeper into the timeframes and legal requirements for registering a death, as well as the specific documents needed to complete this crucial step.

Timeframes and Legal Requirements

It is compulsory under UK law to register a death within five days. Failing to do so may result in fines or prosecution. However, if a coroner's inquest or post-mortem is being conducted, the registration cannot be completed until the coroner's investigations have concluded. This may result in a delay, but it's crucial to adhere to these legal requirements to avoid any complications or penalties.

It's essential to be aware of these timeframes and legal requirements, as they can impact your ability to proceed with the funeral arrangements. By understanding and adhering to these regulations, you can ensure that the process goes as smoothly as possible.

Documents Needed

To register a death, you will need several essential documents, such as the death certificate indicating the cause of death, the deceased's birth certificate, marriage certificate, and proof of address. These documents are necessary to complete the registration process and ensure that all legal requirements are met.

It's crucial to gather these documents promptly and keep them organised, as they will play a vital role in the overall process of handling the deceased person's affairs afterwards. By having the necessary documents on hand, you can avoid delays and complications during this challenging time.

Funeral Arrangements

Funeral arrangements can be made through a funeral director or self-arranged, depending on your preferences and the wishes of the deceased. Funeral directors can provide advice on burial or cremation, memorials, and other services, helping to alleviate some of the logistical burdens during this difficult time.

In the following subsections, we'll explore the benefits of working with undertakers and the process of arranging a DIY funeral, to help you decide which option is best suited to your needs and the desires of your loved one.

Working with Funeral Directors

Engaging a funeral director can provide invaluable assistance with the practical elements of a funeral, such as transporting and preparing the body, managing paperwork, and coordinating the service. They can help guide you through the process and ensure that all necessary steps are taken.

Before hiring a funeral director, whether that's independent funeral directors or otherwise, it's important to verify that the firm is a member of a recognised trade body such as the National Association of Funeral Directors. These organisations have established codes of practice and must provide a price list upon request, ensuring transparency and professionalism throughout the process.

They will be able to advise on burial or cremation options, including natural burials; and other funeral services.

DIY Funerals

A DIY funeral is an option that allows you to arrange your own funeral without the need for a funeral director. This approach can be more cost-effective and personal, allowing you to create a unique and meaningful service that reflects the wishes of the deceased.

To arrange a DIY funeral, you can contact the Cemeteries and Crematorium Department of your local council. They can provide guidance and support throughout the process, helping you navigate the various tasks and responsibilities involved in arranging a funeral without the assistance of a funeral director.

Informing Relevant Parties

After a death, it's essential to inform relevant parties, such as using the Tell Us Once service to report the death to multiple government organisations, the local council and utility companies in one go, and handling financial affairs like closing accounts and cancelling contracts. By ensuring that all relevant parties are informed, you can avoid unnecessary complications and focus on healing and honouring the memory of your loved one.

The Tell Us Once service is a convenient way to report the death to multiple government organisations and all the utility companies in a single step. This service will inform council housing services if appropriate, and the national insurance contributions office etc. and it simplifies the process of informing the local authority and other relevant parties and helps to ensure that all necessary organisations are notified in a timely manner. It will also forward details to any department that paid benefits to the person who died, including for example housing benefit.

Accessing the Tell Us Once service is easy. You can either visit your local authority in person or use the freephone number from the Department for Work and Pensions. Additionally, the service can be accessed online via the GOV.UK website, making it easy for you to complete this crucial step in the process.

Handling Financial Affairs

In addition to informing government organisations, it's essential to handle the deceased's financial affairs, such as closing accounts and cancelling contracts. This step helps to prevent any unwelcome pressure and stress during an already challenging time.

You should contact all relevant financial institutions such as the insurance company, bank or building society, credit card companies, utility companies, pension providers and any other companies to manage these affairs. They may have owed money to the deceased person who died, or been owed money by them. By taking care of these financial matters, you can ensure that the deceased person's estate is properly settled and their affairs are in order.

Other matters that need to be resolved will be any life insurance policy to ensure funds are paid out correctly in accordance with the insurance firms policy details.

The vehicle licensing agency will need to be contacted for any car registration documents to be updated and for any car tax to be refunded.

If appropriate, any trade unions will need to be informed.

If the deceased has a personal pension scheme, the provider will need to be contacted, and payment arrangements confirmed. Similarly with the state pension.

Council tax is another matter to be considered - most local authorities have specialist departments to dela with such matters, and can update council tax records quickly.

Bereavement Support and Benefits

Bereavement support and benefits are available to help with both emotional and financial needs after a death. Support can include grief counselling and bereavement services, while financial assistance may involve bereavement benefits and funeral payments. By accessing these resources, you can find the support you and other family members may need during this difficult time.

In the following subsections, we'll discuss the various support and financial assistance options available, to help you navigate the challenges that come with the loss of a loved one.

Emotional Support

Support is crucial during the grieving process, as it can help you cope with the loss and find a sense of healing. Grief counselling and bereavement services are available to provide support and guidance through this challenging time and finding their contact details is easy.

Resources such as Samaritans, Cruse Bereavement Care, and Age UK offer grief counselling services and support for those who have experienced a loss. Their contact details are easy to find on their websites. By accessing these resources, you can find the help you need to navigate some of the emotional challenges that come with losing a loved one.

Financial Assistance

Financial assistance after a death can help alleviate some of the financial burdens associated with funeral costs and other expenses. Bereavement benefits and funeral payments may be available to provide support during this challenging time.

To apply for Bereavement Support Payment, you can download the claim form from GOV.UK or request one from your local Jobcentre Plus by phone. Additionally, you can apply for Funeral Expenses Payment through the Department for Work and Pensions to help cover the costs of the funeral.

Handling the Estate

Handling the estate involves the probate process, inheritance tax, and estate valuation. Probate is the legal process of administering the estate of the deceased, while inheritance tax is payable if the estate is above a certain figure - which changes most tax years. Estate valuation is necessary to calculate the total value of assets and ensure that all legal and financial requirements are met.

In the following subsections, we'll discuss the probate process and inheritance tax and estate valuation, providing a comprehensive overview of the steps involved in handling the estate.

Probate Process

The probate process is the legal process of administering the estate of the deceased in accordance with applicable state laws. This process involves distributing the remaining assets, managing paperwork, and coordinating the overall management of the estate.

There is no predetermined timeline for applying for a grant, but it's important to be aware of any legal requirements and deadlines that may impact the probate process. By understanding and adhering to these regulations, you can ensure that the estate is properly managed and the deceased's wishes are honoured.

Inheritance Tax and Estate Valuation

Inheritance tax is a tax payable if the deceased's estate is valued above a certain figure (which changes every tax year). It's crucial to determine the total value of the deceased's assets through estate valuation, as this will impact the amount of inheritance tax that is owed.

Paying inheritance tax is an essential part of handling the estate, and it must be paid prior to the grant being issued. Typically, inheritance tax must be paid in full within six months, so it's important to be aware of these deadlines and ensure that all necessary payments are made in a timely manner.

Frequently Asked Questions

What to do immediately after someone dies?

Upon the death of a loved one, it is important to leave the area untouched, contact their GP or doctor if the death was expected, and obtain a medical certificate and register the death.

After these initial steps have been taken, you can then arrange the funeral, notify relevant organisations and departments, and return the deceased person's passport and driving licence.

Who do you contact first when someone dies?

In the event of a death, it is advisable to contact the family doctor and nearest relative first. This will help ensure that the cause of death can be officially documented and the proper protocols can be followed to register the death with the Register Office.

What do you need to do when a family member dies UK?

When a family member dies in the UK, you must call 999 immediately and get a medical certificate to register the death. You will also need to arrange the funeral, notify the government, and return their passport and driving license to the appropriate government departments.

Finally, check if you are eligible for bereavement benefits, value the estate, and apply for probate.

What documents do you need when someone dies?

When someone dies in the UK, you'll need to get a medical certificate, register the death, arrange the funeral and then notify the person's landlord, government departments and other organisations.

Additionally, you will have to return the person's passport and driving licence to the relevant government departments.


Throughout this guide, we have provided a comprehensive overview of the steps to take when someone dies in the UK. From immediate actions after a death, to handling the estate and accessing bereavement support and benefits, our goal has been to help you navigate this challenging process with confidence and clarity.

Losing a loved one is never easy, but by understanding and following the necessary steps, you can honour their memory and find a sense of healing during this difficult time. We trust that this what to do when someone dies guide has provided you with the practical advice you need to navigate the emotional and logistical challenges that come with dealing with a death in the UK.

Need to know more?

If you have any other questions about what you should do when someone dies UK, please contact us and we will do our best to help you.

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