What to do after someone dies

This guide is to provide practical information, to family members and friends, about what they need to do after someone dies. We understand that this can be a difficult and confusing time and we aim to help you understand the processes and procedures you ought to follow.

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What to do after someone dies? Within the first few days of somebody’s death, there are three key things you must do. This guide will outline the process you must go through, discussing the three steps in detail.


Contact a GP or hospital doctor

You will need to get a medical certificate from either a GP or hospital doctor. This will then allow you to be able to register the death.


Register the death

The registration should be done within 5 days of the death. Following this, you will then receive the necessary documents for the funeral.


Arrange the funeral

You can choose to either plan the funeral yourself, or use a funeral director to plan the funeral for you. It is important to consult the Deceased persons Will to ensure their wishes are adhered to.


Arranging the funeral

Once the death has been registered, the funeral can then be arranged. It is important to consult the deceased’s Will as there may be special instructions for you to follow.

  • Arranging a funeral yourself
  • You can contact the Cemeteries and Crematorium Department of your local council in order to arrange the funeral yourself.


Arranging a funeral, through a funeral director

You can choose a Funeral Director, who is a member of the National Association of Funeral Directors. National Federation of Funeral Directors or the Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors. These organisations adhere to codes of practice and therefore they must give you a price list when asked to do so. Some local councils run their own funeral services, for example, for non-religious burials. The British Humanist Association can also help with non-religious funerals. If you prefer this option consult your local Council to obtain further information about the services available in your area.


Funeral costs – What sort of fees can I expect?
  • Funeral Director Fees
  • Disbursements/ Third Party costs; these are things that the funeral director pays for on your behalf including crematorium/ cemetery fees, or a newspaper announcement about the death.
  • The local authority burial or cremation fees


How can I pay for the funeral?
  • It would be advisable to check the Will of the deceased to confirm whether they have left details of how they wish to proceed with the funeral expenses. And whether they have a funeral plan/insurance policy which will pay the cost of the funeral
  • You should find out if the deceased had a pre-paid funeral plan or insurance policy
  • Donations from friends and family members
  • Funeral Payment plans are available if you have difficulty paying for the funeral in full, you can utilise this option
  • You could use money from the person’s estate and/or savings, to do this you will have to apply for a Grant of Representation. This is commonly known as ‘applying for probate’.


You can choose to either plan the funeral yourself, or use a funeral director to plan the funeral for you. It is important to consult the Deceased persons Will to ensure their wishes are adhered to.

Moving the body for a funeral abroad

In order to have a funeral abroad, you will need permission from the coroner to move the body overseas. You must apply at least four days before the date you plan to have the body moved.

A death abroad

If someone dies abroad, you must register a death with the local authorities in the country where the person died, then following this, many countries will allow you to also register the death with the UK authorities.


What are the regulations for bringing the body to England or Wales?
  • You must get a certified English translation of the death certificate
  • Then you must request permission to remove the body, which will be issued by a coroner (or equivalent) in the country where the person died
  • You should then go to a coroner in England, where they will assess if the death was violent or unnatural
  • You can always ask for advice from the British consulate, embassy or high commission in the country where the death occurred


Contact a register office (abroad)

Once the body has arrived in England or Wales, you can take the death certificate to the register office local to the area where in which the funeral is taking place. Since the death has already been registered abroad, the registrar will give you a ‘certificate of no liability to register’ which you can then give to the funeral director so the funeral can go ahead.


What happens if a coroner is involved?

If the cause of death is unknown, sudden, violent or unnatural, the coroner may want to carry out an inquest, which will take place in England or Wales. You need a certificate from the coroner (form ‘Cremation 6’) if the person is to be cremated, once they are home.


What are the regulations for bringing the ashes to England and Wales?
  • In order to bring the ashes to England and Wales there are a few things you will need to show proof of:
  • the death certificate
  • the certificate of cremation
  • Each country enforces its own regulations in relation to departing with human ashes and so, therefore, there could be additional requirements. You should contact the country’s British consulate, embassy or high commission for advice. A standard customs form will need to be completed when you arrive home.
  • You should contact your airline to discuss their policy on traveling with the remains (i.e. if can carry the ashes as hand luggage or as checked-in luggage.). They may ask you to put the ashes in a non-metallic container so that they can be x-rayed.
  • You should not have the person cremated abroad if you want a coroner at home to conduct an inquest into their death.Article written by Taylor Podmore, edited by Kevin Watson November 2015©
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