What to do when someone passes away

What to do when someone passes away?

All deaths must be registered within five days of the person passing away or within five days of you receiving the medical cause of death certificate. Registrars require you to make an appointment by telephone or some offer an online appointment system, unless the Coroner has been involved.

The Medical Certificate


The medical certificate shows the cause of death and is normally issued by the Doctor who attended the deceased during their last illness (This is normally in a sealed envelope addressed to the registrar and is free of charge). We can advise you if you are unsure of where to collect this from.


Once the Medical Certificate is obtained


The death must be registered by the Registrar for Births and Deaths covering the area in which the death occurred. The death is usually registered by an executor or family member but can be registered by the person present at the time of death; if you are unsure if you have the authority to register the death we will be able to advise you. All Registrars require you to make appointment.

Information on local registrars can be found by clicking here >>


When you attend the Registrars you will need to take the following with you, if available but do not worry if not:


  • The Medical Certificate
  • The Deceased’s NHS Medical Card
  • Marriage Certificate or Civil Partnership Certificate
  • Driving License
  • Passport
  • Council Tax Bill


The registration procedure is a simple interview with the Registrar who will require the following information:


  • The date and place of death
  • The deceased’s full name (including any names previously used ie. Maiden surname)
  • The deceased’s last home address
  • The Marital status of the deceased
  • The occupation of the deceased
  • The full name, occupation and date of birth of a surviving spouse or civil partner
  • Whether the deceased was in receipt of a state pension or any state benefits


Once the death has been registered the Registrar will then issue you with:


  • Certificate for Burial or Cremation (known as the ‘green form’), giving permission for the deceased to be buried or for an application for cremation to be made.
  • Certificate of Registration of Death (form BD8); issued for social security purposes if the deceased received a State pension or benefits (read the information on the back and complete and return it if it applies).


You will be able to buy one or more Death Certificates at this time. These may be required by the executor or administrator when sorting out the deceased person’s affairs. Death Certificates are currently £11.00 each and you are advised to get an extra copy or copies. They are required by the executor or administrator when sorting out the deceased person’s affairs.

What is a Coroner and what do they do?


A coroner is an independent judicial officer who has been appointed by a local council. Coroners usually have a legal background of a solicitor or barrister or a qualified medical background as they must be familiar with medical terminology.


A coroner will investigate deaths which have been reported to them if it appears that:

  • the death was violent or unnatural
  • the cause of death is unknown, or
  • the person died in prison, police custody, or another type of state detention.


In all the above cases the coroner must investigate to find out ‘who has died, how they died, when they died and where’. This is for the benefit of the deceased family and friends and for official records.


Post-mortem examination


If a coroner has decided an investigation is necessary because he cannot ascertain the cause of death from speaking with medical staff alone then a pathologist will be ordered to carry out a post-mortem examination of the body.


The results will then be passed over to the coroner who will advise the family, state the cause of death, ask the family to register the death and proceed with the funeral arrangements. The coroner has a duty to release the body as soon as possible, currently we must advise families that there should be a period of seven days allowed, where it is understood the funeral will not take place. I think it is good for a family to meet up with their funeral director as soon as possible to start to go through the arrangements as it can be a very unsettling time waiting for answers.


Coroner’s Inquest


If after the examination has taken place it is not possible to find out the cause of death or the death is determined to be ‘unnatural’ the coroner will hold an inquest. An inquest is a public court hearing held by the coroner in order to establish who has died and how they died and when and where the death occurred.


The inquest is usually held within 6 months of the death occurring, we understand that this is a very anxious time for families as it can feel like there is no closure until the case is reopened in court. The funeral will have taken place and interim death certificates will have been produced by the coroner to allow the families to look after their loved one’s affairs.


If the death occurred in prison or in custody or as a result of an accident, there would usually be a jury present at the inquest.


At the end of an inquest


The coroner will have reached a conclusion at the end of an inquest and will have decided upon the legal ‘determination’ of how that person passed away. When recording the cause of such deaths the coroner may use one of the following terms:

  • accident or misadventure
  • alcohol or drug related
  • industrial disease
  • lawful killing
  • unlawful killing
  • natural causes
  • open verdict
  • road traffic collision
  • stillbirth
  • suicide


There may also be a brief narrative conclusion setting out the facts surrounding the death in more detail and explaining the reason for the decision made.


It is not necessary in most coroner’s court cases to instruct a solicitor to represent you, although you may do so if you wish. An inquest is a fact-finding process and the coroner will ensure that the process is fair and thorough, and that your questions about the causes of death are answered.


You can challenge the decision of a coroner and if you are wanting to do so that it must be within a 3-month period from the time of the court’s decision being made.


The Coroner will also:

  • Give free of charge, an order for Burial or Cremation
  • Send a Certificate (After Inquest) to the Registrar, stating the cause of death
  • Give, usually as a matter of course, a letter confirming the fact of death for Social Security and insurance benefit purposes
  • Give permission for the body to be removed out of England and Wales – more information on repatriation
  • Pay for the removal of the deceased from the place of death to the mortuary.


Local Coroners Offices

For a list of local Coroner Offices please click here.

Tell Us Once is a service that let’s you report a death to most government organisations in one go.


When you register your loved one’s death the registrar will let you know if the service is available in your area, give you the online details or telephone number to use this service along with a unique reference number.


Before you can use this service you will need:

  • Date of birth
  • National Insurance number
  • Driving licence number
  • Vehicle registration number
  • Passport number


You’ll also need:

  • Details of any benefits or entitlements they were receiving, for example State Pension
  • Details of any local council services they were receiving, for example Blue Badge
  • The name and address of their next of kin
  • The name and address of any surviving spouse or civil partner
  • The name, address and contact details of the person or company dealing with their estate (property, belongings and money), known as their ‘executor’ or ‘administrator’
  • Details of any public sector or armed forces pension schemes they were receiving or paying in to


Organisations Tell Us Once will notify:

  • HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) – to deal with personal tax (you need to contact HMRC separately for business taxes, like VAT)
  • Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) – to cancel benefits, for example Income Support
  • Passport Office – to cancel a British passport
  • Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) – to cancel a licence and remove the person as the keeper of up to 5 vehicles (contact DVLA separately if you keep or sell a vehicle)
  • The local council – to cancel Housing Benefit, Council Tax Reduction (sometimes called Council Tax Support), a Blue Badge, inform council housing services and remove the person from the electoral register
  • Veterans UK – to cancel Armed Forces Compensation Scheme payments


HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will contact you about the tax, benefits and entitlements of the person who died.


Tell Us Once will also contact some public sector pension schemes so that they cancel future pension payments. They’ll notify:

  • My Civil Service Pension
  • NHS Pension Scheme
  • Armed Forces Pension Scheme
  • Pension schemes for NHS staff, teachers, police and firefighters in Scotland
  • Local authority pension schemes that participate in Tell Us Once

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