What you need to do
Here are the key things you need to take care of after someone has died. It’s actually quite straightforward so try not to get stressed. Just do one thing at a time and if you need any help please speak to us.
The Medical Certificate (‘Medical Certificate of Cause of Death’) is the official record of the cause of someone’s death and it is required before the death can be registered (see next step). It has a Formal Notice attached to it which confirms that the doctor has signed the medical certificate (or referred the death to the coroner) and explains how to get the death registered.
The certificate will be signed by a doctor, normally either the GP who attended the person before death or the hospital doctor (in which case the hospital bereavement office / patient affairs office will organise this for you). It is currently emailed directly to the registrar (prior to the COVID-19 pandemic the actual document was provided in a sealed envelope addressed to the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages for you to take along with you when you register the death – but this process is now done by telephone appointment).
In cases where the death has been reported to a coroner, the process is a little more complicated. If the cause of death was clear, the coroner will simply issue a certificate to the registrar stating a post-mortem isn’t needed. If further investigations are required, there will be a post-mortem examination and possibly an inquest which can delay things.
You need to register the death with a Register Office (‘Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages’) within five days of the death occurring. You should choose the Register Office in the same district where the person died which you can find here.
Registration is carried out over the telephone (pre-COVID-19 it was done in person). The following documentation is useful to have:
- the Medical Certificate (see previous step)
- any ID documentation for the deceased (e.g. utility bill, NHS medical card)
- any official certificates for the deceased (e.g. birth certificate, marriage certificate)
The registrar will also ask for certain additional details, such as place and date of birth, place and date of death, last address and occupation of the deceased. They will also need the full name, date of birth and occupation of their spouse.
The Registrar will post to you the Death Certificate which you will need for settling their affairs, so it’s a good idea to buy extra copies at the time. They will also give you a Tell Us Once reference number to access the Tell Us Once online service which makes it easy to report a death to most government organisations in one go.
The Registrar will email the Certificate for Burial or Cremation (a green square form known as ‘the Green Form’) directly to the funeral director.
If the death has been reported to a coroner you can’t register the death until the coroner gives permission.
For contact details of local register offices in Richmond, Kingston, Surrey and SW London read our blog Registering a death at a register office.
- Register a death in Richmond upon Thames
- Register a death in Kingston upon Thames
- Register a death in Surrey (Camberley, Farnham, Guildford, Leatherhead, Reigate or Weybridge)
- Register a death in Hounslow
- Register a death in Merton
Relevant blog articles:
If you are planning to have the body cremated, there are certain forms you will need to obtain. If the death occurred at a hospital, the hospital’s bereavement office or patient affairs office will normally sort this out for you.
- Cremation Forms 4 and 5 * – these are standard forms signed by two doctors (normally the doctor who signed the medical certificate will complete Cremation Form 4 (Certificate of Medical Attendant) and a second doctor will complete Cremation Form 5 (Confirmatory Certificate). The cost for this is £82 per form, so a total fee of £164 is payable for both forms.
- Authorisation or Release Form (also known as the ‘Yellow form’). This is issued by the hospital bereavement office if the body is being held at the hospital mortuary.
If we are organising the cremation, we are happy to help you with this process, including completion of Cremation Form 1 (‘Application for cremation of the body of a person who has died’). We will then deliver the cremation forms to the crematorium in advance.
* If the death was reported to HM Coroner and there has been a post-mortem examination (with or without an inquest), then Cremation Form 6 (Certificate of Coroner) replaces Cremation Forms 4 and 5. There is no charge for this and so the doctors’ fees of £164 do not apply in this case. Read more in our blog on deaths referred to HM Coroner.
So far we have covered the practical steps you need to take after someone has died. These are standard processes and legal formalities that need to be completed before the funeral can go ahead.
The task of arranging the funeral is where things get personal. It is all about respecting the wishes of your loved one and organising it in a way that feels right for you and your family.
Some people want a traditional funeral, with a hearse, procession, funeral service and pallbearers, followed by the burial or cremation. Others prefer to have a more simple, yet no less meaningful, cremation service with a smaller group of mourners and then take their time to organise a commemoration of the person’s life at a later date.
Visiting a traditional high street funeral director is certainly far from your only option. At White Rose we can help you organise a Funeral involving a Cremation (see Direct Cremation, No Fuss Cremation Service or Personalised Cremation Service) or Burial (see Burial funerals or Natural Burials). We can also help you organise a separate Celebration of Life service that respects and commemorates the life of your loved one.
We are happy to visit you at home to talk through your wishes and explain how we can help to organise things for you. Please get in touch to request a home visit or read more about Arranging a Funeral.
For any questions you may have regarding what to do when someone dies, please call the White Rose team on 020 3281 1045 and we will be happy to help you.
You can find more in-depth information about what to do when someone dies at our sister website independentfuneral.co.uk including a detailed step-by-step guide.