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What to do when someone dies

It can be challenging to deal with the formalities when someone dies, especially when you are distressed or shocked. But there will be support out there for you to register the death, organise a funeral and look after the person's affairs and paperwork, as well as coping with your own bereavement.

What to do first

You cannot be expected to do everything right away, but it's important to do the following as soon as possible:

  • notify the family doctor (unless the deceased person died in hospital) - they will issue a death certificate
  • once you have the death certificate you should register the death at the Registry Office, ideally within five days - click here for information on how to do this. You can also talk to someone in the registry ofice for your borough;

It can be upsetting and exhausting to have to call lots of different agencies and departments to notify them that a loved one has passed away. 

To help with this, the Government offers a service called Tell Us Once. This notifies all the different national and local government departments the deceased person may have had contact with - for example the Department of Work & Pensions, Revenue and Customs (HMRC), Social Services and Housing. When you go to register the death, you can ask the registrar about this service, or if you prefer, you can do it online once the death has been registered. You may find it saves you a lot of time and distress. 

You should also begin making funeral arrangements - you'll need to check the will for any special requests. The deceased person's solicitor may have a copy of the will if you can't find one.

For more information on arranging a funeral click here

Help with funeral costs

If you find that you're struggling with funeral costs, you might be able to get some financial help through a Funeral Payment, which is usually paid back through the deceased person's estate.

The Funeral Payment can help pay for things like burial or cremation fees, funeral expenses (like flowers and a coffin), travel costs to get to the funeral and some of the cost of moving the body within the UK.

Whether or not you're eligible to receive a Funeral Payment will depend on your relationship to the person who died, whether you're responsible for the funeral and which benefits and tax credits you receive. To find out more about eligibility and how to apply, visit the government website.

Age UK have produced a leaflet called Planning For A Funeral.

Support from your council with funerals

Councils have a legal duty to arrange funerals for a person who dies within their area and where there is no one else willing or able to deal with the funeral arrangements. Arrangements will be made by the council's Client Affairs department.

Every effort is made to ensure that the funeral takes place in accordance with the deceased person's wishes, including in relation to their religious or ethnic beliefs, and whether they wanted to be buried or cremated.

Once the funeral has taken place, the council's Client Affairs service will:-

  • try to reimburse the council's funeral costs either by writing to any banks / building societies or even selling the deceased's personal effects that are not items of a sentimental nature
  • advise the Department of Work & Pensions (DWP)of the death
  • advise any private pension companies of the death
  • take take final gas/electric meter readings, phoning them through to the respective companies, advising them of their customer's death before
  • arrange termination of the tenancy
  • refer to the Treasury Solicitor's Office the estate of any deceased person who has over £500 remaining after the funeral costs have been reimbursed. The Treasury Solicitor's Officer would make further enquiries about existing family members.

Referrals for the councils' funeral service usually come from the Coroner's Office. However if you need to speak to them direct you can contact them as follows:-

The Money Advice Service website provides detailed advice on getting support to arrange or pay for someone's funeral.

It can seem confusing dealing with someone's affairs when they die. The most important thing first is to establish if they made a will.

If the person did leave a will, then the 'executor' (the person named to deal with the estate) can apply for a grant of representation.

If the  person did not leave a will , this is known as being 'intestate'. Someone (usually the next of kin) will need to apply for a grant of representation to be the administrator of the estate.

Successfully applying for a grant of representation gives you the legal right to deal with the person's property, money and possessions. The right to deal with the estate of someone who's died is called 'probate'.

The government's website offers advice on all aspects of managing someone's affairs after they die.

And the Citizens Advice Bureau also provide useful advice.

The government's main website provides information and advice on the legal process after someone dies. This includes advice on how to get support when you are bereaved, who you need to inform, and information about organising a funeral, wills, dealing with official paperwork and money matters.
There is a checklist of what to do immediately after a death, and guidance on meeting funeral costs and claiming benefits to help.

Age UK also offers information and advice on what to do when someone dies - as well as help with getting your own affairs in order, making wills and claiming bereavement benefits.

The Money Advice Service website provides advice on what to do when someone dies.

The Dying Matters website provides information on what to do when someone dies.

The Death Notification Service is similar to Government Tell Us Once service, and will inform multiple banks that a loved one has died after you fill out the form at deathnotificationservice.co.uk or contact its customer service line on 0333 207 6574, which is charged at the same rate as a landline.