What To Do When Someone Dies: First Steps

What to do in the first few days when someone dies

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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. Once registered, you will receive 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. This enables 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. Also apply for ‘letters of administration’ if necessary.

Documents you will need in the first few days

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.

You don't have to have show anyone these documents, but you will need to provide information contained in them, so they will be helpful.

  • Birth certificate
  • Marriage/civil partnership certificate
  • NHS number/NHS medical card
  • Organ donor card (if appropriate)