There are various tasks to complete and decisions that need to be made when someone close to you dies. However, there are a number of supportive professionals who can help guide you and there is no rush to make many of the important decisions. This guide aims to outline some of the key topics to consider:
- What to do first.
The first steps depend on the circumstances and location of death:
If the person has died at home and it was expected, you’ll need to notify their GP, who will provide a medical certificate showing the cause of death
If the person has died in hospital, a medical certificate will be issued. The person will usually be kept in the mortuary until a funeral director is appointed
If someone dies unexpectedly
If someone dies unexpectedly the death is reported to a coroner (procurator fiscal in Scotland). This also applies if the person hadn’t been seen by the doctor who signed the death certificate in the 14 days before their death (28 days in Northern Ireland). The coroner is a doctor or lawyer responsible for investigating unexpected deaths. They may call for a post-mortem or inquest. If a death is reported to the coroner, the funeral may need to be delayed.
- Register the death.
You’ll need to make an appointment at your local registrar office to register the death within five days. You’ll need to take along the certicate showing the cause of death, signed by a doctor. If you have their birth certicate, NHS medical card or number and marriage or civil partnership certificates, take these along as well.
You’ll be issued with a certificate for burial or cremation (the green form) and a death certificate.
You may want to get several copies of the death certificate, as various authorities may need it. For example banks and life insurance companies.
- Appoint a funeral director.
Please don’t be pressured by medical staff into appointing a funeral director straight away. They may offer a suggestion as to who to use but you don’t need to take it. There’s no rush to make a decision about who to appoint. Give yourself some time to consider how you’d like to approach arranging the funeral.
You may wish to use a funeral director to take care of the person who has died and to make arrangements for the funeral. A funeral director will guide you through the many choices you have – from coffins to hearses, embalming and spending time with the person who has died.
Not all funeral directors are the same. There are traditional funeral directors who will provide shiny hearses and expensive coffins, if that’s what you want. There are also funeral
directors who have a more modern approach to undertaking and can offer the services you want on a no frills basis. Don’t be fooled by appearances, the entire industry is completely unregulated. Anyone can become a funeral director with no training, qualifications or experience.
If you don’t like the service your funeral director is offering, you can use someone else. Just because they may be taking care of the person who has died, doesn’t mean that it’s too late to change your mind.