When someone dies
It is usual for people to be unsure of what to do immediately following the bereavement of a loved one. We will guide you through the initial steps and provide advice on other things you may need to think about when someone you know passes away.
Looking after the person who has died
If the patient was in hospital at the time of death you will often be given an opportunity to spend some time with your relative on the ward before the body has to be moved to the mortuary. Most hospitals also have a viewing room. This is often called the chapel of rest.
You will usually need an appointment to see someone in the viewing room, which is often arranged by the hospital’s bereavement service.
If someone has died at home or in a nursing home the death is often both natural and expected.
The death will usually be confirmed by a qualified professional, and you will be advised you can contact a funeral director. You may call us at Barthram’s when you are ready to do so, and we will attend to bring your loved one into our care.
It is possible to keep your loved one at home, but we strongly recommend you seek advice from us before deciding to do this.
If someone has died in a public place or at home and the death was not expected, the person may be taken to hospital by ambulance (if resuscitation is attempted).
The police will also attend and if death is confirmed at the scene, they will notify the coroner. A funeral director will move your loved one, on behalf of the coroner. This is usually to James Cook University Hospital, Middlesbrough, or the Friarage Hospital, Northallerton, depending on your location.
The funeral director attending on behalf of the coroner may not specifically be who you would like to take care of funeral arrangements. If this is the case, then please don’t hesitate to contact us for advice.
You should receive a contact number for the coroner’s office, but if not, a coroner’s officer will phone you, usually on the next working day.
What happens next?
If the death is both expected and natural, a doctor who has been looking after the patient will issue a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death (MCCD). You need this to be able to register the death unless a coroner is involved.
If the person died in hospital you may have to wait for administrative staff to contact you to give you an appointment to collect the MCCD. The ward staff or bereavement services centre will tell you the procedure. You can usually collect any belongings at the same time as the certificate. This delay may seem inconvenient, but the doctor who needs to complete the MCCD may not be on duty at the time of death.
If the death was at home or in a care / nursing home it will usually be the GP who issues the MCCD.
Often you will be shown the certificate, but sometimes it will already have been placed in a sealed envelope. You may want to ask about this when you make the appointment to collect the MCCD. It is quite reasonable to ask what is written on the certificate as the cause of death and to be sure that you understand this.
This may be the first time you have seen in writing that the person has died and this can feel quite a shock.
If the coroner is involved
The majority of deaths reported to the coroner are completely natural but the cause of death is not certain.
It is a legal requirement in England, Wales and Northern Ireland that the cause of death is known and recorded. Scottish law is similar.
Examples of deaths which are referred to the coroner are those where the cause of death is not known, as a result of an accident, resulting from medical treatment or which are suspicious. The police or a doctor informs the coroner.
The coroner is a senior and independent judicial officer and has coroner’s officers working for him or her, who carry out investigations for the coroner.
Usually someone from the coroner’s office will speak to the nearest relative or their representative, as well as any doctors who have been looking after the deceased, before deciding if a post-mortem examination is necessary. This is an external and internal examination of the body.
It is normally possible to view and dress the body as usual after the examination.
Please tell the coroner’s office if you object to post-mortem examination for any reason, but it is a legal requirement about which you have no choice. You do have the right to be represented at the examination, but most people find this unnecessary.
The purpose of the examination is to determine the cause of death and it is not done for research or any other purpose. It may be necessary to keep very small samples of tissue and fluid from the body for further testing. You will be told if this is necessary and given a choice about what happens to the samples in the future.
The ministry of justice has a very helpful booklet Guide to coroners and inquests Charter for coroner’s services. If you are not offered this, it can be downloaded using this link:
After the post-mortem examination
If the cause of death is found to be natural and there are no other circumstances requiring an inquest, the coroner will provide a document instead of an MCCD allowing the death to be registered. This is often sent direct to the registrar but you may be asked to collect it in person.
If the death was not due to natural causes or further tests are needed to find the cause of death; the coroner will open an inquest. They will usually release the body for the funeral at this time.
We will then contact the coroner’s officer to find out when we can collect the body to prepare for the funeral, and start putting the arrangements into place.
Registering the death
Deaths in England, Wales and Northern Ireland should normally be notified to the Registrar of Births, Marriages & Deaths within 5 days of the death, and 8 days in Scotland. Most registration offices operate appointment systems, so please telephone before you visit. If registration is delayed because of the involvement of the coroner this is not your fault and you do not need to worry. If you need to register urgently for any reason, then please explain this to the registrar when you call.
The person registering the death is called ‘the informant’. Only certain people can fulfil this duty; close relatives of the deceased, someone present at the death or the person taking responsibility for the funeral. When you telephone to make the appointment, check that the person planning to register is entitled to do so, and that they are registering at the correct office, as regulations about where you can register vary across the UK.
You need to take the Medical Certificate with you, or tell the registrar that the coroner’s office has told you to register. It is helpful to take the following with you, although these are not essential: birth and marriage certificates for the deceased, details of any state benefits, the NHS medical card and the National Insurance number of the deceased, and also that of a surviving husband, wife or civil partner.
Below is a checklist of the information (about the deceased) needed to register a death:
- Maiden name
- Any other previous names (e.g. if a woman has been married more than once)
- Any other names (e.g. usually known as, even if not their formal name)
- Date of birth
- Place of birth (town and county in England and Wales, or country if born overseas)
- Place of death
- Date of death
- Usual address
- Marital status
- Occupation (or former occupation if retired)
- Name/address/occupation of spouse or civil partner (if surviving) or name and occupation (if deceased)
- National Insurance number
- National Insurance number of any surviving husband, wife or civil partner
Documents from the registrar
Certified copies of the death certificate:
The death registration is a permanent record and is retained by the registrar. You may purchase as many copies of this document as you need, and these are what is meant when banks and others ask to see an ‘original’ death certificate. The price varies as it is set by the local council but usually rises significantly if you need more at a later date. Obtain one for each bank account, building society and shareholdings of the deceased. If there is to be an inquest – the coroner will issue you with an Interim Certificate which you can use instead of certified copies. Most organisations will only accept a certified copy as evidence of death.
Many local authorities offer a service making it easier to inform local and central government departments of the death. This service is called ‘Tell Us Once’. If you use the Tell Us Once service, you may not need to complete the BD8.
Certificate of Registration/Notification of Death (BD8):
This form is free and you need to complete the form on the back to notify the Department for Work and Pensions of the death if the person received a state pension or any other benefits. The registrar may give you an envelope to post the certificate or you can hand it in at a Jobcentre Plus office. You can obtain this form from the registrar even if the death cannot be registered yet.
Certificate for burial or cremation:
This is free and commonly referred to as ‘the green form’. It proves to the funeral director and the cemetery/crematorium authorities that a funeral may take place. The green form is replaced by a document from the coroner if there will be an inquest or if the funeral will be cremation following a coroner’s post-mortem examination.
Who needs to be informed about the death?
Here is a list of organisations you may need to contact. If you are using a professional for probate they will contact many of these for you.
- Building Society(s)
- Mortgage provider or Equity release company
- Credit/Store card(s)
- Other money, e.g. National Savings/Premium bonds/loans/hire purchase agreement(s)
- Friendly Societies
- Buildings insurance
- Home contents insurance
- Travel/holiday insurance
- Identity & Passport service
- Tax office
- Council Housing Office/Landlord/Housing association
- Electricity & Gas supplier(s)
- Telephone/internet provider
- Cable/Satellite provider
- Water/drainage provider
- Mobile phone supplier
- Council tax benefit
Other organisations may be notified through the Local Authority (if they offer this service).
- Electoral registration office
- Housing benefit
- Adult social services
- Private care
- Blue badge/concessionary travel pass
- Employer or private pension provider
- Trade union professional association
- Child Maintenance Service
- UK Border Agency
- DWP: State pension, pension credit, attendance allowance, DLA, carer’s allowance, incapacity benefit, income support, jobseeker’s allowance, employment, support allowance, and Universal Credit
- Prison/Probation/Court Service
- Doctor’s surgery
- Return of medical equipment
- Child tax credit
- Club memberships
- Mail order catalogue(s)