What to Do When Someone Dies?
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This charter sets out many details about death and funerals, as individual topics. As it may be difficult for those with no experience of a death to understand how everything interrelates, this section describes what occurs in the period before a funeral.
We only want you to have to 'tell us once'
We are working with Gloucestershire Registration Service and the Department for Work and Pensions to offer a confidential service which will make things a little easier for those people who have been bereaved recently.
The new service means that you will be able to tell someone about your bereavement once, and then we can tell other government departments and local authority services on your behalf. This reduces the time you need to spend contacting different organisations and also reduces the need to send them copies of the death certificate.
A local registrar can register you on the system and then at a later date you can add any reference numbers to services that you find and the system will automatically notify the selected central and local government authorities of the change in circumstances. To find out more about this service, or to make an appointment with the registrar to register a death, please see the information on the Gloucestershire Registration Service website - click here.
You can also read more about the national service by visiting the Gov.uk website 'Telling government someone has died' - click here.
Death at Home
When a person dies at home, the next of kin or executor and the family doctor should be informed. The doctor who cared for the person during the last illness will complete a free Certificate of the Cause of Death (called the "death certificate" hereafter). If cremation is intended, this doctor will complete cremation Form 4 and will arrange for another doctor to complete the confirmatory Form 5 and the second doctor will need to view the body at some stage. These forms are provided free of charge from the administration office for the crematorium. The two doctors will not be required if the death is taken over by the Coroner (see below).
The death certificate must be taken to the Registrar of Births and Deaths within five days. In Scotland, you can visit the Registrar of Births and Deaths within eight days. Ensure you visit the correct office and check opening times, as they may operate limited hours. The doctor may send the death certificate direct to the Registrar, and not give it to you to take. If you are not using a funeral director, and the death occurs at home, you may complete laying out, or have this done by a district nurse or some other person. The deceased can remain at home and must be kept as cool as possible. Your local mortuary, cemetery or crematorium may have facilities to hold the deceased pending the funeral. If the death was in hospital, the deceased will be taken to the hospital mortuary. You can collect the deceased yourself, provided you have a coffin and suitable transport. You can keep the deceased at home, or you may be able to use the mortuary until the day of the funeral. These arrangements are not mandatory and can be varied in accordance with ethnic or other needs.
Death in Hospital
If someone dies in hospital, the death certificate will be issued there. The next of kin may be requested to authorise a post-mortem. If cremation is intended, the hospital will arrange the necessary documentation.
The deceased will be transferred to a mortuary. Arrangements to deliver the death certificate to the Registrar of Births and Deaths and to register the death are as above under "Death at Home". The Registrar will be the one covering the hospital area, which may be different to the home address of the deceased.
If the death occurs in a residential or nursing home, they may follow a similar routine as for that in hospital. In addition, they may have an arrangement with a funeral director for the removal of the body to a mortuary or a Chapel of Rest. The funeral director does not have to do the funeral for you, neither should they canvass your business. You may choose your own funeral director, or you can do the funeral without one.
Refer to your Charter Member for further advice.
If the death was sudden or due to an accident, or no doctor had attended for some time, the Coroner must be informed. On some occasions the Registrar of Births and Deaths may also report the death to the coroner. The Coroner will decide whether to hold a post-mortem and/or inquest. As most cases are found to be natural causes, inquests are rarely required. The Coroner will then notify the Registrar that the death can be registered. The person registering the death will need to visit the Registrar to do this. The Coroner's Officer will keep this person informed about what to do. As these arrangements may cause delay, you should not arrange the funeral until authorised by the Coroner's Officer. The Coroner will issue an Order for Burial (white certificate), or for Cremation (yellow certificate) without charge. The certificate should be given to your funeral director or sent to the cemetery or crematorium as soon as possible.
When arranging the funeral you are not obliged to use the funeral director appointed by the Coroner to transport the deceased.
You can choose your own funeral director, or do the funeral without one, as you so wish.
Registrar of Births and Deaths
The Registrar can register the death only if he/she is given or has obtained the death certificate or has received notification from the Coroner. He or she will require knowing the following details about the deceased:
- FULL NAME - including any other names they were known by.
- MAIDEN SURNAME - if the deceased is a married woman.
- DATE AND PLACE OF BIRTH.
- OCCUPATION - and their husband's full name and occupation, if the deceased is a married woman or a widow.
You will need to confirm the date and place of death. Other questions will be asked about the date of birth of the surviving spouse, and information about state pensions and allowances the person was receiving, including war pensions. The NHS insurance number will be requested and the medical card of the deceased should be surrendered to the Registrar, if it is available. If the number is not known, and the medical card unavailable, you can still register the death.
The Registrar will issue a free social security form to ensure that benefits are being paid correctly. If the Coroner is not issuing an Order for Burial or Cremation, the Registrar will issue a free certificate for this purpose. This should be given to your funeral director or sent to the cemetery or crematorium as soon as possible.
The Registrar will advise you over any further certificate copies you require and the cost involved. These will be used for obtaining Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration, to show banks, social security or building societies, and to claim insurance.
To locate your nearest Register Office, please visit
While the above procedures are taking place, it is essential that the deceased is cared for. With death at home, if you are using a funeral director, he or she should be called as soon as possible. They will remove the deceased and complete laying out and possibly embalming. The deceased may remain at their Chapel of Rest or may be returned home, should you so wish. If the death was in hospital, the staff usually complete laying out and your funeral director will collect the deceased and carry out your instructions.
It is assumed that whoever arranges the funeral is aware of the wishes of the deceased, whether a will exists and who the executor(s) are. It is important to note that executors have the right to choose burial or cremation, whether it accords with the wishes of the deceased or not. If there is no will, and therefore no executors, someone (usually the next of kin) will make these decisions. With a greater number of people taking out funeral plans and insurance, it is important to check whether the deceased subscribed to a scheme or policy. The personal effects of the deceased should be checked to see if rights to a family grave already exist.
The Charter sections on "BURIAL PROCEDURE" and "CREMATION PROCEDURE" will describe what happens next, as the arrangements for either type of funeral proceed. The remaining sections of the Charter enlarge upon specific topics, to enable you to consider all the issues involved with a funeral.
To view a PDF copy of the Charter for the Bereaved, please click here.