What to do when someone dies

Applying for Probate

When there’s a Will

  • The executor may need to apply for a Grant of Probate to give them the legal right to deal with the affairs of the person who died.

When there’s no Will

  • An application for a grant of Letters of Administration will need to be made to the court.
  • The person the court grants Letters of Administration to is the administrator.
  • The administrator has the legal right to deal with the affairs of the person who has died.

How to get a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration:

  1. A solicitor can apply on your behalf; or
  2. Get more information and download the forms at GOV.uk; or
  3. Call the Probate and Inheritance Tax helpline on 0300 1231072
    Mon-Fri, 09:00-17:00.

You may not need a Grant of Probate if the estate:

  1. Is valued at less than £5,000
  2. passes to the surviving partner because it was held in joint names eg a savings account
  3. doesn’t include land, property or shares

It’s always best to check

Each financial institution has its own rules so contact the organisation holding the money to see if Probate is needed.

What next? Settling the estate

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Arranging the funeral

Funeral wishes

Did the person leave any instructions?

If they didn’t share their funeral wishes, they may have recorded them in:

  1. The Will
  2. Funeral plan documents
  3. A funeral wishes statement
  4. Instructions left with a funeral director

Wishes aren’t must haves

Try your best by someone’s wishes, but remember they’re nice-to-haves not must-haves.

Who arranges the funeral

A relative or the person dealing with the estate usually arranges the funeral. Most people also use a funeral director.

How the funeral director can help:

    1. Collection and care of the body
    2. Planning and overseeing proceedings
    3. Guidance on the choices available
    4. Liaising with other parties involved in the funeral

Find a funeral director

Arranging a funeral yourself:

If you choose to manage all the funeral arrangements the Good Funeral Guide and the Natural Death Centre can help.

Some local authorities run their own funeral services

A funeral isn’t compulsory:

You can choose to have a cremation or burial with no service at all or opt for a memorial service or event at a later date. For example, when the person chose to donate their body to medical science.

Helpful links

Don’t do too much

It’s natural to want to do right by the person, but don’t put yourself under too much pressure. It’s ok to keep it simple.

Arranging a Funeral Checklist

Download checklist

The type of funeral

  • Cremation or burial
  • Religious or non-religious service

Funeral announcements

  • Who to contact
  • Funeral notices in the paper

The funeral service

  • Transport
    • For the coffin
    • Close family
    • Other people attending
  • Type of coffin
  • Flowers or charity donation
  • Eulogy
    • Who will give the eulogy?
    • Do they have enough information?
  • Readings
    • What readings (if any) do you want?
    • Who should give the readings?
  • Music eg.
    • As people arrive
    • Mid-ceremony
    • As people leave
  • Orders of service
    • Printed order of service?
    • What to include eg. photos

Immediately after the funeral

  • Wake
    • Venue
    • Catering
    • Drinks
    • Personal tributes

In the coming weeks / months

  • Cremation only - Disposal of ashes
  • Memorial eg.
    • Headstone
    • Tree planting
    • Bench

Download checklist

Funeral planner

Our Perfect Send Off tool is designed to help people record their own funeral wishes, but it can also show you what to consider when arranging a funeral.

What next? Paying for the funeral

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What would you like to know?

Help to remember

Coming to terms with your loss and having so much to do is challenging. Have a notebook to hand or keep notes on your phone to help you stay on track.

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Do you need a solicitor?

Sorting out someone’s estate can be time consuming but isn’t always complicated. You might choose to do it yourself.

You might use a solicitor if:

  1. The Will may name a solicitor as a professional executor.
  2. The estate is ‘insolvent’ – there’s not enough money to clear the debts
  3. The person’s affairs are complex eg. business , agricultural property or overseas
  4. There are family trusts or large gifts to children under 18
  5. Family relationships are complicated
  6. There may be disputes over the distribution of the estate
  7. The Will is unclear or badly written
  8. You don’t have the expertise or time to manage the whole process yourself

Find a solicitor

Paying for legal advice

To keep legal costs down, you could do much of the administration yourself and only get legal advice at critical points in the process. Legal fees can be paid for out of the estate

What next? Applying for Probate

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Documents you may need

Download checklist

The documents you may need to deal with the estate:

1. Identification documents

  • The Will
  • Birth and marriage or civil partnership certificates
  • Death certificates of a previous spouse(s)
  • Divorce papers showing any previous surnames of the deceased
  • Any Deed Poll document showing a change of name

2. Benefits and allowances

  • State pension
  • Tax credits
  • Pension credits
  • Disability allowance
  • Carers allowance
  • Any other benefit and allowance

3. Bank accounts, savings and investments

  • Bank and building society accounts
  • Private pension
  • Credit cards
  • Loans agreements
  • Savings accounts
  • Investment accounts
  • Share certificates

4. Tax

  • Tax certificates (eg P60)
  • Tax returns

5. Property and mortgages

  • Property deeds
  • Mortgage account details
  • Rental agreements

6. Insurance policies

  • Life insurance
  • Home insurance
  • Car insurance
  • Other insurance, eg health, dental, travel, pet etc

7. Bills and regular payments

  • Mobile phone
  • Telephone/internet provider
  • Water
  • Gas
  • Electricity
  • TV license
  • Council tax
  • TV subscriptions eg. Sky/Virgin
  • Any other regular payments/direct debits eg. charity donation or club membership

Download checklist

What next? Useful checklists

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What to do when someone dies

When someone dies, working out what needs to be done can be overwhelming. This guide will simply explain what needs to be done first and what follows next, supporting you with tips and checklists to make a challenging time just a little easier.

‘Losing someone we love is upsetting and often traumatic, but few of us realise how much practical work goes along with it. This helpful new site will help people through the actions they need to take at a time when it’s hard to think of anything other than the person you’ve lost.’

Claire Henry, CEO of Dying Matters

Help for every step Button right arrow

Everything doesn’t have to be done straight away. Once you’ve dealt with the most urgent tasks, give yourself some time before moving to the next step. Come back to this guide whenever you need to.

Is there a Will?

1. Find the Will

A Will could be stored for safekeeping in a variety of places, including:

2. If there’s a Will – Inform the executors named in the Will, as it’s their job to manage the estate

3. If there’s no Will – The next of kin or a close relative will need to apply to the court to act as the Administrator

If there’s no Will...

The law decides who will inherit the estate, according to the rules of intestacy

What next? Do you need a solicitor?

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Paying for the funeral

Who pays for a funeral

The person who’s died may have:

  1. Made some provision to help pay for their funeral
  2. Enough money in their estate to cover funeral costs

If not, a relative or friend will usually pay for the funeral.

Money in the estate

Paying funeral costs take priority over paying the person’s debts.

Ways to pay

A funeral can be paid for with:

  1. A funeral plan
  2. The money claimed from a life insurance policy
  3. Money from the person’s estate, such as savings
  4. Your own funds
  5. A relative or friend’s money

A funeral plan or life insurance policy may not fully cover the final funeral bill. If not someone else will need to settle the balance.

SunLife claims

If the person had SunLife over 50 life insurance or a Funeral Plan call 0800 008 6060* to put your claim in motion.

*Monday – Friday 8am-8pm

Help to pay funeral costs

If you have difficulty paying for a funeral. There are a few options:

  1. Instalments – ask if you can pay the funeral director in affordable instalments
  2. Social Fund Funeral Payment – if you’re on a low income you may be eligible for a Funeral Payment
  3. Budgeting loan – if you’re on a low income you may be eligible for a Budgeting loan

Good to know

The executors can usually pay the funeral bill from the person’s bank account.

What next? Managing the estate and Probate

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Need some support?

Reach out to others

Don’t be afraid to reach out for support. And remember, the people who step up may not be the obvious ones. Someone who’s not close can often be easier to talk to.

Practical support

Where to turn when someone dies

1. Bereavement Advice Centre

Practical support and advice on what to do after a death.

Tel: 0800 634 9494
www.bereavementadvice.org

2. DWP Bereavement Service

Advice on what to do with a person’s state pension and benefits when they die and the financial support available to the surviving relatives.

Tel: 0345 606 0265
(Textphone: 0345 606 0285)
(Welsh): 0345 606 0275
(Welsh textphone): 0345 606 0295

3. Solicitor

If you’re unsure about your legal rights and responsibilities, or how to navigate Probate, a good solicitor can be invaluable.

Find a solicitor near you

4. Funeral director

A good funeral director will guide and support on all aspects of arranging and paying for a funeral

Find a funeral director:
National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD)

Don’t be afraid to ask

If you’re not sure, ask for help. At such a difficult time, it’s can be hard to see the wood for the trees.

5. Other specialist support

  • Gov.uk
    Guidance on what the state requires when someone dies and the benefits available
    GOV.uk
  • Citizens Advice
    Free support online, over the phone or in person
    citizensadvice.org.uk
  • Money Advice Service
    Free and impartial advice covering all areas of personal finance including money matters following a death
    moneyadviceservice.org.uk

Accept offers of help

Friends and family will want to support you, so let them. Give them jobs to do and allow them to cook meals for you.

Registering a death in England and Wales

Not in England or Wales?

The death was in Scotland, Northern Ireland or abroad.

Was their death expected?

How long does it take?

Registering a death is free and will take about 30 minutes.

When to register a death

You will need to register the death within 5 days. It’s a good idea to make an appointment with the register office.

However, the registration can be delayed for a further 9 days as long as you have told the Register Office that a medical certificate has been issued.

When you call...

Ask if the Register Office offers Tell Us Once, so you can take the relevant documents to your appointment.

Who can register a death?

A death can be registered by:

  1. A relative
  2. Someone present at the death
  3. An administrator from the hospital
  4. The person who found the body
  5. The person in charge of the body
  6. The person arranging the funeral
How to register a death

The paperwork you need to register a death

  1. The Medical Certificate showing the cause of death.
    This is all you need to register a death.
  2. It’s helpful to also take the person’s:
    • Birth certificate
    • Driving licence
    • Passport
    • NHS medical card
    • Marriage or civil partnership certificate
    • Proof of address e.g. utility bill

The registrar will also ask you for the person’s:

  • Full name at the time of death
  • Any previous names
  • Date and place of birth
  • Last address
  • Occupation
  • Full name of their husband, wife or civil partner (living or deceased)
  • Details of any state pension or state benefits

Too much to take in?

Download this information as a checklist to remind you.

Download the checklist

Where to register a death

You can register a death at any register office.

If you use the one in the area where the person died, you’ll be given the documents you need on the day. If you go to a different register office, the paperwork may take a few days.

Find a register office

What happens next?

When you register a death, the registrar will give you:

  1. The death certificate
  2. A Certificate for Burial or Cremation – known as the green certificate. This gives permission for a burial or for an application to be made for a cremation.
  3. A form to send to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) So they can deal with the person's pension or benefits.

If you haven’t already, ask the Registrar if they offer the Tell Us Once service. This enables you to tell many government organisations at the same time.

Good to know

Several organisations may need to see the original death certificate. Buy a few extra copies from the registrar so you won’t have to keep waiting for the original to be sent back to you.

What next? Who to inform first

The Coroner’s decision

Every unexpected death is reported to the coroner. You can register the death once the coroner has confirmed the cause of death.

When to register a death

If the cause of death is clear

  1. The coroner will confirm the cause of death to the doctor
  2. The doctor will issue a medical certificate
  3. You can register the death

If the cause of death is unclear

  1. The coroner will decide if further investigation is needed
  2. When the cause of death is determined, the coroner will release a certificate to you or to the registrar
  3. The death can then be registered

Good to know

If the investigation is taking some time, the coroner can issue an interim death certificate so you can tell organisations about the death and apply for Probate.

Who can register a death

A death can be registered by:

  1. A relative
  2. Someone present at the death
  3. An administrator from the hospital
  4. The person who found the body
  5. The person in charge of the body
  6. The person arranging the funeral
How to register a death

The paperwork you need to register a death

  1. The Medical Certificate showing the cause of death.
    This is all you need to register a death.
  2. It’s helpful to also take the person’s:
    • Birth certificate
    • Driving licence
    • Passport
    • NHS medical card
    • Marriage or civil partnership certificate
    • Proof of address e.g. utility bill

The registrar will also ask you for the person’s:

  • Full name at the time of death
  • Any previous names
  • Date and place of birth
  • Last address
  • Occupation
  • Full name of their husband, wife or civil partner (living or deceased)
  • Details of any state pension or state benefits

Too much to take in?

Download this information as a checklist to remind you.

Download the checklist

Where to register a death

You can register a death at any register office.

If you use the one in the area where the person died, you’ll be given the documents you need on the day. If you go to a different register office, the paperwork may take a few days.

Find a register office

What happens next

When you register a death, the registrar will give you:

  1. The death certificate
  2. A Certificate for Burial or Cremation – known as the green certificate. This gives permission for a burial or for an application to be made for a cremation.
  3. A form to send to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) So they can deal with the person's pension or benefits.

If you haven’t already, ask the Registrar if they offer the Tell Us Once service. This enables you to tell many government organisations at the same time.

Good to know

Several organisations may need to see the original death certificate. Buy a few extra copies from the registrar so you won’t have to keep waiting for the original to be sent back to you.

What next? Who to inform first

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Registering a death abroad

Contact the British Consulate

The British Consulate will help you with all the arrangements, including dealing with the authorities, registering the death and repatriating the body.

Find a consulate

What next? Who to inform first

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Reporting a death abroad

Contact the British Consulate.

Find a consulate

If you’re on a package holiday, please tell your tour operator.

What happens next

The British Consulate will help you with all the arrangements, including dealing with the authorities, registering the death and repatriating the body.

What next? Registering a death

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Reporting a death at home

If you haven’t already informed someone, please call the person’s GP or 111 now.

Was their death expected?

Expected

What happens next

The GP will issue a medical certificate

You will need to arrange for a funeral director to collect the body.

Find a funeral director

Unexpected

If the cause of death is clear

  1. The GP will inform the coroner
  2. The GP will then issue a medical certificate
  3. You’ll need to arrange for a funeral director to collect the body

Find a funeral director

If the cause of death is unclear

  1. The GP will inform the coroner
  2. The coroner will collect the body and decide if a post mortem needs to take place
  3. When the cause of death is determined, the coroner will release a certificate to the registrar so a death certificate can be issued
  4. The coroner will then release the body for the funeral

When a death is unexpected the doctor must refer it to the coroner

Is a funeral plan in place?

If the person had made funeral plans of any kind, there may be a funeral director already in place.

What next? Registering a death

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Reporting a death in a hospital/hospice

Was their death expected?

Expected

What happens next

A doctor will issue a medical certificate

You will need to arrange for a funeral director to collect the body.

Find a funeral director

Organ donor?

If the person died in hospital and was a registered organ donor tell a member of staff as soon as possible. Or call the NHS Organ Donor Register on 0300 123 2323. In Wales, the deceased is presumed to be an organ donor, unless they have registered to opt out.

Unexpected

If the cause of death is clear

  1. A doctor will inform the coroner
  2. A doctor will issue a medical certificate
  3. You’ll need to arrange for a funeral director to collect the body

Find a funeral director

If the cause of death is unclear

When the cause of death is unclear, the police are likely to be involved.

  1. A doctor will inform the coroner
  2. The coroner will collect the body and decide if a post mortem needs to take place
  3. When the cause of death is determined, the coroner will release a certificate to the registrar and a death certificate will be issued
  4. The coroner will then release the body for the funeral

When a death is unexpected the doctor must refer it to the coroner

Is a funeral plan in place?

If the person had made funeral plans of any kind, there may be a funeral director already in place.

What next? Registering a death

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Reporting a death in a nursing home

If you haven’t already informed someone, please call the person’s GP or 111 now.

The nursing home may be able to help you when dealing with the death of your loved one, so don’t be afraid to lean on them for support.

Was their death expected?

Expected

What happens next

The GP will issue a medical certificate

You will need to arrange for a funeral director to collect the body.

Find a funeral director

Unexpected

If the cause of death is clear

  1. The GP will inform the coroner
  2. The GP will then issue a medical certificate
  3. You’ll need to arrange for a funeral director to collect the body

Find a funeral director

If the cause of death is unclear

  1. The GP will inform the coroner
  2. The coroner will collect the body and decide if a post mortem needs to take place
  3. When the cause of death is determined, the coroner will release a certificate to the registrar so a death certificate can be issued
  4. The coroner will then release the body for the funeral

When a death is unexpected the doctor must refer it to the coroner

Is a funeral plan in place?

If the person had made funeral plans of any kind, there may be a funeral director already in place.

What next? Registering a death

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Settling the estate

Once the grant has been issued, the Executor or Administrator should:

  1. Value the estate
    • Send a copy of the grant to organisations that hold the dead person’s assets eg. their bank, so they can be transferred
    • Collect in these assets
    • Value any ‘gifts’ – money and other assets such as property, the person gave away
  2. Pay any inheritance tax (IHT) that may be due
  3. Pay off any debts the person had. These must be paid off in a defined order of importance.
  4. Distribute the estate to the people entitled to it:
    • Money
    • Property
    • Possessions

Repaying overpayments

For a short time after someone dies, money such as pensions and benefits may continue to be paid to the person. These overpayments will need to be repaid.

What next? Documents you may need

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Need some support?

Reach out to others

Don’t be afraid to reach out for support. And remember, the people who step up may not be the obvious ones. Someone who’s not close can often be easier to talk to.

Emotional support

Where to turn when someone dies

1. Bereavement counselling

Ask your GP to refer you.

Bereavement counselling lets you explore your feelings with someone who’s objective and not emotionally attached.

2. Online communities

Online communities give you the chance to discuss what you’re going through with others in a similar situation

Suggested links:

muchloved - Online memorial charity
Marie Curie
Macmillan

Take the first step

Even if you don’t feel ready to contribute to discussions immediately, reading other people’s experiences can help.

3. Support groups

Discussing what you’re going through with others in a similar situation face to face can help

Cruse Bereavement Care can help you find a group in your area. Tel: 0808 808 1677

4. Other specialist support

  • Cruse Bereavement Care
    Support, counselling, education, advice and information
    Tel: 0808 808 1677
    cruse.org.uk
  • Bereavement UK
    Bereavement advice and self help counselling
    bereavement.co.uk
  • Samaritans
    Talk to someone in confidence 24/7
    Tel: 116 123
    samaritans.org
  • Compassionate Friends
    Parents who have been bereaved offer support to other bereaved parents and their families
    Tel: 0345 123 2304
    tcf.org.uk
  • Winston’s Wish
    A childhood bereavement charity, offering support and guidance to bereaved children and families
    Tel: 08452 03 04 05
    winstonswish.org.uk

A bit of distance can help

Talking about feelings with someone who isn’t emotionally involved with your loss can bring real relief.

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