The first task following the death of a loved one is usually to register their death. This is because, in England and Wales, you have up to five days to register the death. It is the start of the process and needs to be done before you can begin making any funeral arrangements.
Going to the local register office is the easiest way to get the documents you need to arrange the funeral, with the death registration taking less than an hour in most cases. Search for your local register office in England and Wales.
In Scotland, a death must be registered with local registration districts within eight days. You can bury the body before the death registration but you need to register the death first if you opt for a cremation. Search the directory of registrars in Scotland.
In the first instance, it is relatives that register the death and the registrar will typically only allow non-relatives to do so if next of kin are not available.
If the death occurred in a house or hospital, one of the following people can register the death; a hospital representative, a house occupant, a relative, a person in charge of the funeral arrangements or someone who was present at the death. If the deceased passed away in a place other than a hospital or home, then it is either the person who found the body, a relative or someone in contact with the funeral directors who is able to complete the registration.
In order to register the death you need to bring with you the medical certificate, penned by a medical professional, which certifies the cause of death. If available, birth and marriage certificates and the NHS medical card will also be useful.
The registrar will give you a document, allowing you to bury or cremate the body (known as the green form). If a post-mortem is carried out, you will have all necessary papers issued by the coroner as soon as possible. You will also receive a certificate of registration of death if the deceased was entitled to a state pension or benefits. This BD8 form, issued for social security purposes, is to be filled in and returned to the registrar.
You will be able to buy several copies of the death certificate at this time (cost may vary depending on the local authority). Those dealing with the deceased's affairs then need to present the death certificates to asset holders such as banks to gain access to the deceased's accounts. In some cases, you may need to go through the legal process known as ‘probate’ before you can deal with the deceased’s assets ie. property, bank accounts, pensions etc.
Find out more about what to do when someone dies or call our estate administration specialists on freephone 0800 014 7334 for practical advice on what to do next.