What to do after someone dies

Immediately after a death – practical matters

In the days immediately after someone dies, you may be feeling numb, or experiencing intense emotion. But there are also some practical things that need to be done.

When someone dies there are three practical things that need to be done in the first few days:

  1. Get a medical certificate – you'll get this from a doctor (GP or at a hospital). You need the certificate to register the death.
  2. Register the death within five days – you’ll then get the documents you need for the funeral.
  3. Arrange the funeral – most people use a funeral director, but you can do it yourself. 

There are useful government guides to how to do each step in England and Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

If you need support during these early days it’s important to ask for help. Talk to family or friends who might be able to offer practical assistance, as well as emotional support. You can also call the Cruse helpline for emotional support. The number is 08444779400, and the lines are open Monday-Friday 9.30-5pm, and until 8pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

If the death occurred abroad…

If someone dies overseas, the death must be registered in the country where the person has died. The British Consulate in that country will be able to advise on how to do this. To find out more about the support they can offer, call 02070081500 or click here.

If there is a post-mortem or an inquest…

If the death was unexplained or unexpected, there may need to be a post-mortem or an inquest. For NHS information about post-mortems and inquests, click here.

You will not be able to register the death until after the inquest. A free handbook to the inquest process is published by the charity INQUEST. You can order a hardcopy or read the handbook online

INQUEST also offer advice by telephone or email.

General advice

The Money Advice Service

Moneysaver Expert: What to do after someone dies

Bereavement Advice Centre

Advice on benefits, finances and legal issues…

There are many organisations who do can offer advice on benefits and financial matters.

For information on benefits following a bereavement

For those over pension age: Pension Service Bereavement Benefits Advisors 08456060265 (Mon-Fri 8am–8pm)

For those under pension age: Bereavement Service run by the department of Work & Pensions 0845 608 8601  or your local Jobcentre Plus

Government advice on Bereavement Benefits (including bereavement allowance and child tax credits) is at www.gov.uk/browse/benefits/bereavement.

For information on wills, probate, inheritance and tax

HMRC have an online tool to help with tax, tax benefits and probate after a death. http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/tools/bereavement/

HMRC also have a 'Bereavement Helpline’ for PAYE /SA Matters relating to Bereavement: 0845 300 0627. (Mon-Fri 8am-8pm) (Saturday 8am-4pm). For more information or to fill out the relevant forms online, go to www.hmrc.gov.uk/news/bereavement-service.htm

Wills, Probate & Inheritence: www.gov.uk/wills-probate-inheritance

For legal advice

Civil Legal Advice 0845 345 4 345 or www.gov.uk/legal-aid/how-to-claim

Citizens’ Advice www.citizensadvice.org.uk

For housing advice

Shelter (advice about any kind of housing issue): 0808 800 4444 (8am-8pm Mon-Fri, 8am-5pm Sat-Sun). Calls are free from BT landlines and the main mobile providers.

For advice on debt

Step Change: www.stepchange.org or call 0800 138 1111