What to do when someone dies

Dealing with the aftermath of a death is never easy, particularly if the deceased is a relative or close friend.

If you are faced with this situation and have to take on the arrangements then there are a number of essential steps that you need to take and some that will make the process easier for you. Here and on the related pages about organising a funeral we’ll try to clarify the process for you.

You should be aware that the processes and laws can be slightly different in different parts of the UK. In particular the law in Scotland is different from the law in England and Wales. We'll try to provide links to information where these differences can be taken into account.

Notifying the Authorities

Inform the family GP

The family doctor is the most likely person to provide and sign a death certificate, which will be necessary in order to register the death. They may also be able to provide guidance on the later procedures.

Register the Death at a Register Office

This must be done within five days in England and Wales and within eight days in Scotland.


You will require as much as possible of the following documentation or information:

  • Death certificate
  • Birth certificate
  • Marriage certificate (if applicable)
  • NHS Medical Card
  • The deceased's full name and any previous names used
  • Their last address
  • Their occupation
  • The details of a surviving spouse or civil partner
  • Whether they were receiving any state benefits

Assuming there is no post-mortem being held, the register office will supply you with a Certificate for Burial or Cremation and a Certificate of Registration of Death (form BD8), along with advice leaflets containing further information. You may require copies of the death certificate and it is usually cheaper to obtain them at this point.

Reading the Will

Contact the Deceased's Solicitor

If there is a Will it may include instructions for funeral arrangements which will need to be followed, or preferred wishes which, while not mandatory, you will want to take account of. It should also contain information on the executor(s) who will administer the conduct of the estate.

Arranging the Funeral

This can only be arranged once the death certificate has been issued.

If there has been no provision made for a funeral then one must be arranged. This can be either burial or cremation. There are a number of options available including a council funeral, a community funeral, or through the services of a professional funeral director.

There will be various decisions to be made concerning aspects such as:

  • Where the body should rest before the funeral
  • Where the funeral should be held
  • When the funeral should be held
  • What type of service (religious or otherwise)
  • Who will conduct the funeral and who will take part in it
  • What costs are appropriate
  • Sending of invitations
  • Notices in newspapers
  • Whether to have flowers or instead request that mourners donate money to a charity
  • Where to donate any flowers following the funeral
  • Contacting anyone who needs to know of the death

Useful Information Sources