What to do when a loved one dies

Here's what you need to know if a friend or family member has died and you need to register the death.

25th April 2018

Registering the death

When a loved one or someone that you know dies, their death should be registered at the local register office.

You can register a death if you were a relative, if you were present when they died, or if you are making arrangements with their funeral directors.

registering a death must be done within five days

Registering the death must usually be done within five days – however, if the death is reported to a coroner, you will not be able to register it until they have given permission to do so.

There are a number of reasons why the death could be referred to a coroner, such as if the death was violent or unexpected. Depending on the coroner’s findings, this could lead to a post-mortem, and possibly an inquest.

If you used a register office local to where the deceased passed away to register the death, you will be given the death certificate on the day. If you register the death elsewhere, you will need to wait a few days for them to be sent to the local register office. You can also buy extra death certificates if necessary.

Be aware that it is a criminal offence not to register a death.

Documents and things you need to know

The only document you will need to register a death is a medical certificate, which is signed by a doctor and states the cause of death.

the only document you will need to register a death is a medical certificate, signed by a doctor, stating the cause of death

There are a number of other documents which you should take if you can find them, including their birth certificate, their passport and driving licence, their marriage or civil partnership certificate, and some form of proof of address, such as a utility bill – however, these are not essential.

You should also take some proof of your name and address, but again, if you don’t have any documents, you don’t have to do this. You should provide documentation of the relationship between yourself and the deceased, such as a marriage certificate if they were your spouse, or your birth certificate if they were your parent.

You also will need the following information:

  • their full name, as well as any previous names;
  • their birthdate and birthplace;
  • their occupation, and whether they were receiving a State Pension;
  • their address when they passed away;
  • information about their late or surviving spouse or civil partner, including their full name, birth date and occupation.

Once the death is registered, you will receive two documents – the Certificate for Burial or Cremation, which gives permission for burial, or an application for cremation, and the Certificate of Registration of Death, which you may need to fill out and return if the deceased person was receiving the State Pension or benefits before they passed away.

Informing other organisations

You will also need to inform a number of other organisations to cancel benefits, as well as deal with other issues, such as tax.

you will also need to inform a number of other organisations

Cancelling benefits

These are the organisations you will need to contact for cancelling different benefits:

  • Child Benefit, Tax Credits or Guardian’s Allowance: Contact HMRC;
  • Housing Benefit: Contact their local council;
  • Income Support, Jobseeker’s Allowance, and benefits: Contact the Department for Work and Pensions.

It is advisable to contact these organisations as soon as possible, as it could cause problems later on if they are forced to contact you. Many local councils operate a 'Tell us once' service, where they will contact all relevant benefit organisations to let them know of the death on your behalf. You should contact the council first to see if they offer this service.

Other things to cancel include:

  • Passport
  • Driving Licence
  • Bank and Building Society accounts
  • Pension
  • Insurance

The passport and driving licence can be cancelled through a 'Tell us once' service, or by contacting the Passport Office and DVLA respectively. With the others, you will need to contact the organisations that provided those services.

The Grant of Probate or Grant of Representation, which is a document given to the executor or administrator of an estate, will make this easier.

Compassionate Leave

If someone close to you has passed away, you may be entitled to compassionate leave, particularly if they were a dependent (such as a spouse or a parent).

If someone close to you has passed away, you may be entitled to compassionate leave

This may be paid or unpaid, depending on your employment status and your employer’s policies. 

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