Most people aren’t sure of exactly what to do when someone they know dies, and there are many responsibilities to take care of. When someone dies, there are four immediate things you’ll need to do in the next few days:

  1. Get a medical certificate from the GP or hospital. You need this to register the death
  2. Register the death with your local register office to get a death certificate
  3. When you have the death certificate, inform banks, pension schemes insurance companies etc. of the death
  4. Start to arrange the funeral

when someone dies

When someone dies at home

When someone dies at home and the death was expected, you should call the family GP who will make a visit to the house and issue a death certificate showing the cause of death. If you don’t know the name of the GP, dial 111 for an ambulance.

If someone dies at home unexpectedly, you should dial 999 immediately and ask for an ambulance and the police.

If the deceased wished to donate their organs or donate their body to science, inform the doctor and the funeral director so that the body can be taken to hospital rather than a funeral home. Donation of organs is not usually possible for a death out of hospital, but donation of tissues may still be possible.

When someone dies unexpectedly

Unexpected death applies to accidental injury, suicide or deaths that occur suddenly without any prior illness and other similar circumstances. The process will be largely out of your hands, but it’s worth knowing what to expect.

Often, if someone dies unexpectedly or in suspicious circumstances, the death will need to be referred to the coroner.

The police will arrange the identification of the body, and then the coroner will carry out a post-mortem examination to determine the cause and manner of the death. The police will enlist the services of a funeral director to transport a body to the mortuary but it is worth noting the family is not obliged to use the funeral director for the funeral.

The body will be released immediately after the post-mortem, and funeral arrangements should not be made until this time or until the coroner has indicated the body will be released. If the death still cannot be explained, an inquest will be held.

What is an inquest?

An inquest is a legal investigation to establish the facts of the death, such as where, when, why and how the death happened. Read more about coroner’s inquests here.

what to do when someone dies

Registering the death

The death must be registered within five days unless the death is being handled by the coroner. You can find your closest register office using the gov.uk website.
When you register the death, you can order as many official copies of the death certificate as necessary. The first copy is £15 and each copy after that is £8. This is useful as there may be several instances where you need to provide a death certificate, such as informing their employer, insurance companies, banks and other relevant parties. If the person had a driving licence and/or vehicle, you will also need to contact the DVLA. You can find information on how to contact the DVLA here.
The government also has a ‘Tell Us Once’ service, that allows you to inform many different departments of local and central government of the death very quickly. You’ll need to have access to the following documents for the deceased:

  • Passport
  • Driving licence
  • National Insurance number
  • Date of birth
  • The name and address of their next of kin
  • The name and address of any surviving spouse or civil partner
  • The name of the person or company in charge of administering their estate
  • Any council services, benefits or state pensions they may have been receiving, including public sector and armed forces pensions and Blue Badge holders.

You can access the Tell Us Once service on gov.uk.

Arranging the funeral

You should begin to consider the funeral itself once you’ve registered the death and told the appropriate bodies. The person may have had a pre-paid funeral plan already in place, including details of their preferences for the funeral and which funeral director they planned to use. There may be documents in their home with details of the pre-paid plan, likely to be kept safely with other important information such as their birth certificate, life insurance policy and passport. If the body is being stored at a funeral home, it’s worth noting you’re not tied into arranging the funeral service with this funeral director.

Each funeral director will have a different approach to a funeral and will offer something different. With our funeral comparison service you can be sure of picking one who offers the sort of service you’re looking for at a price that you can afford. Read our article about how to choose a funeral director.