What to do when someone dies

When someone dies there are many practical issues that need to be sorted out and if you were the person who was closest to the deceased, a lot of the responsibility may fall to you. This can be very overwhelming, especially when you will probably be dealing with many strong emotions at the same time. In the days immediately after someone dies, you may be feeling numb, or experiencing intense emotion, however there are also some practical things that will need to be done.

When someone dies there are three practical things that need to be done in the first few days...

  1. Get a medical certificate – you'll get this from a doctor (GP or at a hospital). You need the certificate to register the death.
  2. Register the death within five days – you’ll then get the documents you need for the funeral.
  3. Arrange the funeral – most people use a funeral director, but you can do it yourself.  There are useful government guides to how to do each step in England and Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

If the death occurred abroad…

If someone dies overseas, the death must be registered in the country where the person has died. The British Consulate in that country will be able to advise on how to do this. To find out more about the support they can offer, call 0207 008 1500 or click here.

If there is a post-mortem or an inquest…

If the death was unexplained or unexpected, there may need to be a post-mortem or an inquest. For NHS information about post-mortems and inquests, click here.

You will not be able to register the death until after the inquest. A free handbook to the inquest process is published by the charity INQUEST. You can order a hardcopy or read the handbook online. INQUEST also offer advice by telephone or email.