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What to do when someone dies

Losing a loved one is never easy, and leaves so many arrangements to make that knowing where to begin can be overwhelming. Whilst we know it will be a difficult time, the following guide should help you prioritise the steps you need to take. Our experienced solicitors are more than happy to assist with individual steps, or can handle the entire process from start to finish should you prefer. If you would like to discuss any of this in more detail then please feel free to contact our offices and we would be glad to help.

1) Obtain a Medical Certificate

You will first need a Medical Certificate, signed by a Doctor, listing the cause of death. If your loved one passed away in a hospital, the staff there will take care of this for you. If the death occurred at home, you will need to contact the family doctor at the local GP surgery.

If the death was unexpected, then it may need referring to a coroner for them to investigate further. This could potentially lead to the coroner calling for a post-mortem, or inquest in order to find out the cause of death, which may cause a delay in obtaining the certificate. If you have any concerns about this, please do not hesitate to contact us.

2) Locate the Will

The most important document to locate will be your loved one’s Will. If a Will was written then it must be found. If you are unsure about where the Will may be, try contacting their Solicitor or Bank, as it is common for Wills to be stored with them. If you cannot find the Will, you can always conduct a search of the National Wills Registry with Certainty

The Will should list the Executors who will be responsible for administering the estate.

If no Will was prepared, then the person is said to have passed away ‘intestate’ and the Law will determine who is responsible for administrating the estate, as well as how any assets and monies are divided. We would be more than happy to advise you on this if required.

3) Register the Death

You will need to register the death within five days, at the Register Office closest to where your loved one passed away. When you attend the office, you will need to take the medical certificate and, if possible, any identification documents for the person that you have access to; such as a passport, driving licence, birth certificate, etc.

The Registrar will then provide you with a Death Certificate (we would advise that you also purchase one or two extra copies just in case, as most of the organisations you will be dealing with going forward will not accept photocopies), along with a Burial/Cremation slip known as a ‘Green Form’. You can use this slip to begin arranging the funeral, as it will be required by the Funeral Director.

If it is available in your area, the Registrar will also speak to you about the Government’s ‘Tell Us Once’ service, which will notify all the various Government services of the death. 

4) Arrange the Funeral

With the Green Form supplied by the Registrar, you can now organise the Funeral. Make sure to check the Will, as it may contain wishes for the funeral, along with details of any potential pre-paid funeral plans.

Funeral Directors are regulated, and will supply you a breakdown of their costs upon request. The Local Council may also offer their own funeral service should you prefer.

5) Collect any other Paperwork you can find

One you have located the Will, try and find as many other pieces of paperwork you can find. There will be many different organisations to notify of the death, all of which will have various account names and references attached to them, so the more documentation you have available the easier this will be. Try to locate as much paperwork as you can, relating to things such as:

  • Social services, particularly if they had nursing care or home help
  • Local council for council tax and any parking permits for street or disabled parking. It may also be worth registering on the Bereavement Register so you will not receive any junk mail.
  • DVLA to return their license and register a change of ownership on the vehicle
  • Insurance companies, for both life insurance as well as house & contents insurance
  • Bank and Mortgage provider(s)
  • Utility companies; electricity, gas, water, telephone & internet
  • Royal Mail if a redirect is necessary
  • All loans, credit card and store card companies
  • TV licensing
  • Membership of clubs and associations
  • UK Passport Agency
  • Pension providers


6) Begin Administering the Estate

Once you have collected all the documents together, the executors can begin to administer the estate as per the directions laid out in the Will. This will involve notifying all the various agencies of the death, dealing with all your loved one’s assets, and distributing any monies to the beneficiaries of the Will. The first stage of the process will be to apply for a Grant of Probate. We are more than happy to help you apply for the Grant of Probate, and can also take care of the full administration of the estate. For more details please contact out offices.

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