What To Do When Someone Dies

What must I do first?
If the death has occurred at home, the Doctor attending must be contacted. They will certify the death and advise about the collection of the medical certificate for cause of death. if the death has occurred in hospital or at a nursing home the person in charge will advise you about the collection of the certificate and belongings. On occasions the death may be unexpected or require further investigation. The attending Doctor will refer the death to the Coroner, often via the Police who will take a statement and may require a post-mortem examination to establish the cause of death. The Coroner will issue a certificate for the funeral to take place but there may be a delay.

Registering the death
The death must be registered by a registrar of births and deaths (local register offices are listed at the back of this booklet). If the death has been referred to the Coroner it cannot be registered until the registrar has received authority from the Coroner to do so. When you go to the registrar you should take the following:

  • The medical certificate of cause of death (unless the Coroner has been involved)
  • The deceased’s birth certificate and medical card if possible.
  • Passport, Driving licence, Blue Badge
  • National Insurance Number (as most Registrars now offer a “Tell us once Service”)
You will need to tell the registrar:
  • The date and place of death
  • The deceased’s full name (maiden name if appropriate)
  • The deceased’s place and date of birth and usual address.
  • Their occupation
  • Full name and date of birth of surviving partner.
The registrar will give you:
  • A green certificate (certificate of burial or cremation). This is free of charge and required by the Funeral Director.
  • A white certificate (BD8). This is for Social Services purposes only i.e. to deal with state pensions or to claim benefits.
  • Certified copies of the entry of death. These are needed for personal bank accounts, any insurances,
  • private pensions and probate. (A charge will be made for these).

Deaths relevant to the Coroner
The Coroner is a doctor or a lawyer responsible for investigating deaths in the following situations.

  • The deceased was not attended by a doctor during their last illness or if the doctor who treated the deceased had not seen them after death or within 14 days before death.
  • The deceased was suffering from an industrial illness or receiving a war pension.
  • The death was violent or unnatural or occurred while the patient was under the effect of an anaesthetic or following an operation or the death occurred in prison or in police custody.
The Coroner may arrange for a post-mortem examination of the body. The consent of the relatives is not needed for this, but they can choose a doctor to be present. It may be important to know the precise cause of death. If you want advice or information about a death reported to the Coroner, contact the Coroner’s Office. We will advise you where they can be contacted.

An inquest is an enquiry into the medical cause and circumstances of a death. It is held in public, sometimes with a jury. It is up to the Coroner how to organise the inquiry in a way to best serve the public interest and the interest of the relatives. The Coroner will hold an inquest if the death was any of the following.
  • Violent and unnatural
  • Caused by an industrial disease
  • The death occurred in prison
  • If the cause of death remains uncertain after a post-mortem examination.
It may be important to have a lawyer to represent you if the death was caused by a road accident, or an accident at work, or in circumstances which could lead to a claim for compensation. Registration of the death cannot take place until the inquest has taken place and a verdict reached. Burial or cremation may take place once the Coroner gives authority to do so.

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