When someone dies, sorting out all of the practical and financial matters can be very daunting. Here is a brief guide to help make things as simple and straightforward as possible.

There are 3 things that you should do in the first few days after someone dies.

  • Get the medical certificate of the cause of death (from the hospital or GP).. You will need this to register the death
  • Register the death
  • Arrange the funeral

How to Get a Medical Certificate

If the person died in hospital you will usually be given the medical certificate in a sealed envelope addressed to the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages. If the person died at home their GP may be able to provide the certificate. (If the death is referred to the Coroner the registration of the death is dealt with in conjunction with the Coroners Office)

How to Register the Death

You can register the death at any Registry Office; if it is not the Office for the area where the death occurred it is called a “registration by declaration”, and a death certificate is issued later by the Office for the area where the death occurred.

It is usually a good idea to buy three or four copies of the death certificate as these are likely to be needed by banks and building societies when dealing with the financial matters; they get returned to you so they can be used again, so we wouldn’t normally expect you to buy more copies..

The death should be registered by one of the following people (in this order of priority):

  • A relative who was present at the death
  • A relative present during the person’s last illness
  • A relative living in the district where the death took place
  • Anyone else present at the death
  • An owner or occupier of the building where the death took place and who was aware of the death
  • The person arranging the funeral (but not the funeral director)

The Registrar will want to know the following information:-

  • The date and place of death
  • The full name of the person (including maiden name) and their last address
  • The person’s date and place of birth
  • The person’s occupation and the full name and occupation of their spouse or late spouse
  • Whether the person was receiving a pension or other social security benefits.

Arranging the Funeral

Although the funeral can’t usually take place until the death certificate is available, arrangements can be started immediately. When arranging the funeral it is a good idea to check if there is a Will. This may include details about the type of funeral the deceased wanted. You may also find that the Will contains details of any pre-paid funeral plan.

Finding the Will

If there is a Will it should contain the name(s) of the Executors. These are the people who have responsibility for dealing with the practical and financial matters, including notifying banks and building societies.

The Will may be with a solicitor or a family member might know where it’s kept. If you cannot find a Will, it may be worth asking a probate solicitor to make further enquiries in case there is a Will stored elsewhere.

What to do if there is no Will

When a person dies without making a Will, it is called ‘dying intestate’. This means that the property, money and belongings (the ‘estate’) is dealt with in a slightly different way. It is best to take advice from a probate solicitor to help explain this process to you, even if you eventually decide to deal with things yourself.

Tell Organisations that Need to Know

Most councils run a service called ‘Tell us Once’. The Registrar should tell you about this when you register the death. This service notifies most important organisations in one go.

For more advice on what to do when someone dies or any other aspect of Probate, please contact a member of our Wills, Trusts and Probate Department. Bray & Bray have three main offices across Leicestershire, feel free to phone or pop in to talk to our solicitors.