Practical Advice When a Person Dies

When a person dies, knowing what to do can be reassuring when the time comes. In the immediate hours and days following a death, there are a number of actions that need to be taken to ensure all affairs are dealt with in a timely manner and allow the funeral ceremony to proceed as it should. Read below for advice on what to do when someone dies, including obtaining a certificate for burial or cremation, how to register a death and who to inform. For further information or advice, please contact us.

What to Do When Someone Dies

There are various steps you need to follow when a person dies. They include:

  1. Obtaining the Medical Certificate of the Cause of Death – you cannot register a death without this official certification.
  2. Registering the death – this must happen within 5 days in England and Wales or 8 days in Scotland. This process may be delayed if a coroner becomes involved.
  3. Informing relevant people and organisations that the death has occurred.
  4. Making funeral arrangements.

Obtaining the Medical Certificate of the Cause of Death

Obtaining the Medical Certificate of the Cause of Death is an important step as you need this certificate to register the death. The circumstances in which a person dies can influence how the medical certificate is obtained. The following list describes the various situations surrounding the death and how the process of obtaining the medical certificate can differ depending on the situation.

When the death occurs within a hospital

When a person dies in a hospital, usually the doctor or registrar at the hospital will be able to issue the medical certificate, as long as the death occurred within normal circumstances. If the cause of death was unexpected the coroner may become involved.

When the death occurs at home or within a nursing home

When a person dies at home or withing a nursing home, the doctor needs to be informed and will attend. They should be able to issue the medical certificate. In most cases, the emergency services will be called to confirm the death occurred under normal circumstances before the doctor can issue the medical certificate. If the attending doctor is unable to establish the cause of death or it happened under unusual circumstances, the coroner may become involved.

When the death was sudden, unexplained or occurred under unusual circumstances

If the death was sudden, unexpected, or occurred under unusual circumstances, the coroner may be called. They may order an investigation into a death along with a postmortem. The Medical Certificate of the Cause of Death will not be issued until the coroner has completed their investigations. As a result, you may not be able to register the death within the usual permitted timescale. Therefore, if the coroner is involved, we advise letting the Registry Office know so that they are aware of the circumstances.

How to Register a Death

In the UK, the law states that the death must be registered within 5 days in England and Wales, or within 8 days in Scotland. You will need to bring the Medical Certificate of the Cause of Death and various forms of identification when you register the death. Further information about registering a death can be found on the government website.

Obtaining Certificate for Burial or Cremation

When you register the death, the Registry Office will issue the following certificates:

  •  Certificate for Burial or Cremation (also known as the ‘green form’). This certificate authorises the application for burial or cremation
  • Certificate of Registration of Death

As soon as you have received the green form, it will need to be passed to us so we can finalise the funeral arrangements.

Planning the Funeral

Once you have obtained the certificate for burial or cremation, the process of planning the funeral can commence. We will explain all the options including the location of the service, funeral cars, flowers, service sheets, obituaries, music and so forth. 

It is our aim to create the perfect send-off for your loved one, so if you have any ideas of how to make it extra special, please let us know.

Contact H. H. Evans

If you have any questions or require further guidance, please do not hesitate to get in touch.