What to do after someone dies
There are a number of practical things that need to be done in the days, weeks and months after someone dies.
The period after someone dies can be very stressful. There are many people to tell, procedures to follow and things to arrange. Here are a few tips and links for dealing with the things you need to do in the days, weeks and months after someone dies.
- After someone dies you will need to register the death. The register is the formal record that someone has died. You will need to do this within five days in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, or eight days in Scotland.
- A close relative usually registers the death, but if the person who died doesn’t have any relatives it can be someone who lived at the same address, or someone who was with the person when they died.
- You will need to register the death before you can arrange a funeral date.
- During the coronavirus pandemic there has been some disruption to registration services. Contact your local register office to find out about what you need to do, whether you need to attend in person and what to take with you.
- If a person died abroad, has been missing for a long time, or if a coroner is investigating the death there may be a different procedure to follow, and it may take longer.
- You can find out more at www.gov.uk/register-a-death
What can help
Registering a death can be an emotional experience. It can make the person’s death feel more real and official. After someone dies it is also common to feel confused and find it hard to concentrate, which can make answering lots of questions a stressful experience.
It can help to ask a close friend or family member to come along for support. Don’t worry if you get upset or cry during the appointment. The registrar will know you are grieving and should try their best to help you.
After someone dies there can be a seemingly endless list of people to tell. Those who will need to be told include government departments, banks and building societies, insurance companies, utilities and media companies. The step-by-step guide on the Moneysaving Expert website has a good list of all those you will have to tell.
What can help
- The Government’s Tell Us Once service lets you report a death to most government organisations in one go. You will be told if this service is available in your area when you register the death
- Other schemes such as the Death Notification Service, Life Ledger and Settld allow you to notify a number of banks, building societies and other organisations of a person’s death, at the same time.
- The task can seem daunting, but making a list and breaking it into small steps can help. If you have a friend or relative who has been offering to help, sitting down together and making a plan of how you will tackle the admin can help.
After a death is registered you can start to arrange the funeral. The person may have made arrangements for their funeral so check first for any plans or notes.
Most people use a funeral director to help, but it is possible to do it yourself. Read our blog on planning a funeral.
Help with funeral costs
- If you have no money to pay for the funeral, or do not want to take responsibility, the council where the person died should be able to arrange a simple, respectful funeral service. They are not required to allow others to attend, but often do. Some hospitals will also arrange funerals.
- If you are on a budget there are other ways of keeping the costs of a funeral down. If you use a funeral director ask about their lower cost options, and don’t feel pressured to pay for extras if you can’t afford them.
- A simple or direct cremation is an increasingly popular option. This is where a cremation is held with no ceremony. A memorial, thanksgiving service or celebration of life can be held at a different time in whatever format you chose.
- Down to Earth provides practical support for people struggling with funeral costs.
The coroner is an official who makes inquiries into deaths reported to them. The Coroner has a legal duty to investigate all unexpected or ‘unnatural’ deaths and to decide whether to hold an inquest to find out more.
An inquest is a special court hearing which looks into how someone died. Inquests are not like criminal trials. The coroner and legal representatives should treat witnesses, especially bereaved people, with care and respect.
The coroner uses the inquest to answer to the questions: who the person was; where they died; when they died and how they came by their death. At the end of the inquest there will be a ‘verdict’ which includes the cause of death.
What can help
An inquest can be an emotional experience for relatives and friends. Waiting to get answers as to how someone died and whether their death can be prevented can also be very difficult. If you are struggling to cope while waiting for answers, we can help.
If your circumstances have changed, as a result of the person dying or for any other reason, you many need to get your benefits reassessed. Find out what you are eligible for.
- If you receive certain benefits you may be eligible for a Funeral Expenses Payment (or Funeral Support Payment in Scotland). Be aware that there is often a delay before receiving funds even if you are eligible, and the amount received may not cover the full costs of a funeral.
- You may be eligible for a bereavement support payment for husbands, wives and civil partners.
- In England the Children’s Funeral Fund for England can help to pay for some of the costs of a funeral for a child under 18 or a baby stillborn after the 24th week of pregnancy. It is not means-tested: what you earn or how much you have in savings will not affect what you get.
- Other sources of funds to pay for a funeral include any money the person who has died may have left, some charities, and crowdfunding. There may also be options to set up repayment plans and loans.