If the death occurs in hospital, the hospital staff will contact the person named as next of kin. This may be, but need not be a relative. The hospital will issue the Medical Certificate that shows the cause of death and will give you details of how to register the death.
If the death occurs elsewhere and was expected, the doctor who attended the deceased during their final illness can certify the cause of death. He or she will give you the following:
- a Medical Certificate that shows the cause of death (this is free of charge and will be in a sealed envelope addressed to the registrar); and
- a Formal Notice that states the the doctor has signed the Medical Certificate and tells you how to get the death registered.
You may wish to contact the deceased's minister of religion if you have not already done so.
Arrangements may be made by a funeral director. Most funeral directors have a chapel of rest where the deceased will be laid before the funeral.
Sudden or unexpected death
If you discover a body or the death is sudden or unexpected, you should contact the following people:
- the family doctor (if known);
- the deceased's nearest relative;
- the deceased's minister of religion;
- the police, who will help find the people listed above if necessary.
If there is any reason to suspect that the death was not due to natural causes, do not touch or remove anything from the room. The death may be referred to the Coroner.
Reporting a death to a coroner
You will be told if a death has to be reported to the coroner. If it does the death cannot be registered nor the funeral take place without the coroner's authorisation. A coroner can order a post-mortem examination to ascertain the cause of death. He may also wish to hold an investigation into the circumstances leading up to a death - this is called an inquest. When an inquest is called, the Coroner's Office will contact the relatives.
The death must be registered in the Register Office for the district where it occurred. More information about registering a death
You can get information about dealing with the property and possessions of the person who has died or guardianship of their children from a solicitor or Citizens Advice Bureau.
A probate is a document issued by the Probate Registry confirming that an executor has the right to wind up the estate of the person who has died. The 'estate' includes the house, money and possessions left by someone when they pass away. The 'executor' is the person named in the Will who is responsible for ensuring that any instructions made by the deceased regarding the estate are carried out.
For a Will to be valid, it must be:
- made by a person who is 18 years old or over;
- made voluntarily and without pressure from any other person;
- made by a person who is of sound mind. This means that s/he is fully aware of the nature of the document s/he is writing and aware of his/her property and the identity of the people who may inherit;
- signed by the person making the Will in the presence of two witnesses; and
- signed by the two witnesses, in the presence of the person making the Will, after s/he has signed.
If the person who died was paying tax on income from investments, or as a self employed person, or as an employee, tell the tax office about the death as soon as possible. This will enable the deceased's tax affairs to be settled. Depending on circumstances, this may require some more tax to be paid or a repayment claimed. The particular tax office to contact will depend upon the deceased's circumstances. HMRC leaflet IR45 - 'What to do about tax when someone dies' - gives more information.