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Five Important Things To Do After Someone Dies

View profile for Nicola Dalzell
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The loss of a loved one is a difficult and emotional time and working out what needs to be done is overwhelming. 

My five-point checklist covers the immediate steps to be taken when someone dies. 


1.      If You Discover The Death

If you discover a death of someone at home then you should call the family doctor and the closest relative immediately.

The doctor will issue a medical certificate (confirming the cause of death) if the death was expected.

If the death was unexpected the death will be reported to a coroner.  The doctor may report the death to a coroner for a number of reasons including, if the death was sudden and unexplained, the cause of death is unknown, or the death occurred during an operation or before the person came round from an anaesthetic.

The coroner will decide the cause of death and sometimes it is necessary to hold a post-mortem and open an enquiry.   

The coroner’s office is very helpful and will guide the bereaved family members through the process. The coroner will release the body for the funeral once he has finished his examinations including, a post-mortem, if the coroner has decided a post-mortem is necessary.


2.      Contact The Deceased’s Solicitor

If the deceased made a Will then is it likely it contains funeral wishes. Contact the Solicitor as soon as possible following a death to ensure you have to hand any wishes expressed by the deceased relating to his body and his funeral – you can then be sure you are passing on all the relevant information to the funeral director and that you are following the deceased’s wishes.The solicitor will be able to check the Will to see who is appointed as executor, and provide some initial advice as what needs to be done. 


3.      Register The Death

When you have the medical certificate from the doctor, you must register the death with the Registrar.

You can attend at any registry office, but if you attend at a registry office outside the area where the person has died then it may take longer to receive the death certificate as it is necessary to forward the details to the registry office in the area where the death occurred.

To register a death you will need the following information about the deceased:-    


  • medical certificate showing the cause of death signed by the doctor
  • full name and any other previous names
  • date and place of death
  • usual address, and proof of it e.g. utility bill
  • date of birth
  • occupation
    • confirmation as to whether or not the state pension or any other benefits were being received
  • Medical card or NHS number
    • passport, driving licence, birth and marriage or civil partnership certificates (if available)
    • name, occupation and date of birth of any spouse or civil partner


The registrar will issue you with a certificate for burial or cremation (referred to as the green form) and a certificate of registration of death form, which is used to notify the pension service and/or the DWP if the deceased was in receipt of state pension or benefits.

The registrar will also issue the death certificate.


4.      Arrange The Funeral

Contact a funeral director, many of which can be found on the National Association of Funeral Directors website. The funeral director will guide you through all of the arrangements for the funeral.

The fees for the funeral are a liability of the deceased’s estate but the funeral director will ask the person instructing them to sign a contract which may state that if there are insufficient funds in the estate then the person signing the form will be responsible for the funeral directors fee.  It is advisable to ascertain (before signing any contract) the estates ability to pay.  Help is available (if eligible) from a government fund, known as the Social Fund, for one off payments and emergency expenses. Your local DWP bereavement service will be able to assist you with any application to the Social Fund.


5.      Administer The Estate Of The Deceased  

If the deceased left a Will, which includes an appointment of executors then it is their responsibility to administer the estate.  If there is no Will then there is an order of priority laying down who is responsible for administering the estate.  The person who administers the estate when there is no will is referred to as an administrator

The executor’s role, briefly, comprises of:-


  • ascertain the estate
  • paying inheritance tax (if applicable)
  • applying for a grant of representation (probate or letters of administration)
  • realising the assets
  • discharging the liabilities
    • finalising the tax(s) position with HMRC (inheritance, income and capital gains taxes may be relevant)
  • preparing an estate account
  • distributing to beneficiaries


The office of executor is a personal office and a fiduciary role that carries with it many duties and responsibilities.  It is very important for an executor to know exactly what their legal duties are and to get off on the right foot, as an executor may be held personally liable for not administering an estate correctly.


It is wise, for executors to seek advice from a Solicitor at the earliest opportunity. An executor has flexibility and choice as to who deals with the administration of the estate and who he appoints to act on his behalf.


Intentionally, my five-point checklist covers only the initial steps and basic information. These are the immediate steps, and hopefully will now be committed to your memory, so if you are faced with this situation you will know instinctively what to do.


There are various organisations who provide free information, for example, Citizens Advice Bureau, Age UK, DWP Bereavement Service to name but a few. 

Many legal firms will often have a free initial meeting to explain what needs to be done.  My clients often say how helpful and reassuring it is to meet with me face to face and my colleagues and I at Tilly, Bailey & Irvine Law Firm are always on hand and happy to meet with you or have a chat over the phone.   



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