What To Do When Someone Dies: First Steps

What to do in the first few days when someone dies

When someone dies you need to inform a number of people and organisations  and complete certain documents needed by law. If you are a relative or friend you can do some of these things yourself.  Others will need to be done by the Executor or Administrator of the estate. There is plenty of support available to help you through this difficult time.

What to do in the first few days

You won’t be able to do everything right away, but in the first few days it’s important to:

  • Get a medical certificate of cause of death signed by a doctor. If the Coroner is involved take instructions from the Coroner’s Officers regarding registration of the death). You will need this to register the death.
  • Register the death within 5 days. You will receive all the documents you need to arrange the funeral.
  • Begin arrangements for the funeral – remember to check the Will for any special requests. 
  • Contact a Funeral Director if you intend to use one. If the death occurs at home or in a nursing home, a Funeral Director will need to move the deceased to a Chapel of Rest.
  • Tell the family doctor.

As early as possible

  • Contact the Executor as soon as you can, to enable him/her to start the process of obtaining probate if necessary. The Executor is usually nominated in the Will.
  • If there is no Will, decide who will apply to administer the deceased’s affairs and apply for ‘letters of administration’ if necessary.

Documents you will need in the first few days

You will need to gather together the following documents as soon as possible, to enable the registration of the death and to start funeral arrangements.

  • Medical certificate of the cause of death, signed by a doctor, unless the Coroner is involved and there has been a Coroner’s post mortem.
  • Birth certificate.*
  • Marriage/civil partnership certificate.*
  • NHS number/NHS medical card.*
  • Organ donor card (if appropriate).

*It is not necessary to have these documents but you will need to provide information contained in them. See under section ‘What information you will need to give to the Registrar’.


Contact Us


Bereavement Services

01202 526238


Bereavement Services

Strouden Avenue


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