The death of someone close to you is an extremely difficult and emotional time. If the death was unexpected, it makes an already challenging situation even harder. Grief triggers a plethora of emotions that can feel overwhelming. Therefore, it’s common to feel numb, as if your mind has gone blank. That’s why it can be difficult to know which steps to follow next. Trusted friends and family might be able to help you with the admin side of death to help and support you throughout it.
We’ve outlined in this blog five things to do after a death.
- Register the death within five days.
Deaths must be registered within five days. The first step is to find a register office closest to the area where the person died. It’s worth phoning in advance to book, as most offices require an appointment in advance. You’ll need to take the following information for the person who died:
- Medical certificate with the cause of death.
- Full name, including any previous names, such as maiden name.
- Date and place of birth.
- Last address.
- The full name, date of birth and occupation of their surviving/late spouse or civil partner.
If available, you should also take the following:
- Birth certificate.
- Marriage or civil partnership certificate.
- National Insurance number.
- NHS medical card.
- Proof of address, such as a utility bill.
- Driving licence.
You should also bring your own identification, such as a driving licence or passport, to show your own proof of your identity.
The Registrar will then give you the following:
Death Certificates – These are all certified copies of the original entry, which stays with the Registrar and are usually a light green colour.
Certificate for Cremation or Burial – This allows the funeral director to officially go ahead with the funeral arrangements and is commonly referred to as the Green Form.
BD8 - Registration of Notification of Death – You might not need this if you are offered the Tell Us Once service to notify the Government organisations of the death (we explore the Tell Us Once service in further detail later in this blog).
- Arrange the funeral.
As soon as you’ve registered the death, you can begin to arrange the funeral, either through a funeral director or by yourself. The person who died may have left funeral instructions in their will or in a letter about their wishes. If there aren’t any clear wishes, the executor or nearest relative will usually decide what type of funeral and if the body will be cremated or buried.
If you are using the services of a funeral direction, you should check they are registered with either the National Association of Funeral Directors or the National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (or both). To get an idea of costs, ask for itemised quotes which include the following:
- The funeral director’s services, including all necessary arrangements and paperwork.
- A coffin.
- Transfer of the deceased person from the place of death.
- Care of the deceased person before the funeral.
- A hearse to the nearest crematorium or cemetery.
- Check for extra charges for third parties such as the crematorium, clergy, celebrant and doctors.
If you decide not to use the services of a funeral director, you can have a ‘do-it-yourself’ funeral. DIY funerals can be less expensive and more personal and intimate. This type of funeral often takes place when someone makes their wishes clear before their death and plans for it in advance.
In terms of cost, funerals can be expensive. The costs can be paid for by the family or friends of the deceased, a pre-paid funeral plan the person took out, a lump sum from a life insurance policy or pension scheme the person paid into, the person’s estate (any money, property or assets they left) or the money the person had in a bank or building society. However, they don’t have to release the money until Probate (the legal process of distributing the money, property and possessions of the person who’s died) is granted. If there’s a delay, you may need to pay the costs in the meantime.
If you’re responsible for arranging the funeral and you’re on a low income, you may be eligible for a Funeral Expenses Payment from the Social Fund. A Funeral Expenses Payment covers the cost of a simple, respectful funeral in the UK, including up to £1,000 towards things like the coffin and flowers. There are strict rules about who can get help and how much you’ll receive. If you don’t qualify, you may be able to get a Budgeting Loan or a Budgeting Advance from the Social Fund.
- Inform relevant parties about the death.
It can be hard to think of everyone you’ll need to tell about the death, and it could be more people than you expect. It might be helpful to make two lists, one for personal (for example, family and friends) and another list for professionals (for example, employer, work colleagues, and any financial organisations, accountant, financial advisor and solicitor).
The Tell Us Once service is a government service that allows you to inform all the relevant government departments when someone dies. The government departments that can be contacted in one go include:
- Local services such as libraries, electoral services and council tax services.
- The tax office.
- The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA).
- The UK Passport Agency.
- HMRC for tax purposes.
If your local authority doesn’t offer the Tell Us Once service, you’ll need to contact these departments yourself. (Find out more about Tell Us Once).
You will also need to contact the following yourself:
- Banks and building societies.
- Pension provider.
- Insurance company.
- Mortgage companies, housing association, landlord or council housing office.
- Utility companies.
- Social services.
- Anyone providing medical care, such as GP and dentist.
- Any organisations that received regular payments or subscriptions, for example, magazines or charities.
- The Bereavement Register, which removes their details from mailing lists and stops most advertising mail.
You’ll also need to return the person’s driver’s licence to the DVLA and their passport to HM Passport Office.
- Check if you are eligible for financial help and seek advice on your tax, pension, rights, or visas.
Your tax, benefit claims, and pension might change depending on your relationship with the deceased person. You might also be eligible for financial help. For example, Bereavement Support Payments if your partner has died or Guardian’s Allowance if you’re bringing up a child whose parents have died. If your right to live in the UK depends on your relationship with someone who died, you might need to apply for a new visa. Check the rules if you’re in the UK as the partner of a British citizen or someone with indefinite leave to remain, if your partner who died served as a member of HM Forces, or any other situations that might affect the rules of a visa.
- Value the estate to check if you need to pay inheritance tax and apply for Probate.
To find out if there’s Inheritance Tax to pay, you need to estimate the value of the property, money and possessions (the ‘estate’) of the person who died. As part of this process, you may need to pay any debts or taxes owed by the deceased person. You can then distribute the estate as set out in the will or the law.
You might need to apply for Probate before you can deal with ‘the estate’ of the person who died (property, money and possessions). There are different factors which make Probate a requirement, but in simple terms, it is decided by the value of individual sole assets within a person’s estate. If you’re not sure, seek advice.
We hope this checklist of the five steps to take when someone has died helps, as it can understandably be an incredibly difficult time when you’re already grieving. There is help out there if you need extra support. Please visit GOV.UK, Citizens Advice and Bereavement Advice Centre for more resources.