What To Do When Someone Dies

What to do when someone dies

Within a few days after a death, someone needs to:

  • Make sure that the home and possessions of the person who has died are secure.
  • Register the death.
  • Start arranging the funeral.

The family and friends of the person who has died can usually deal with most of the practical things that need doing immediately after a death. Solicitors normally get involved a little later, when the personal representatives ask for their advice about the estate. If there is no family member or friend to deal with the practical matters, then solicitors can help with some or all of these too.

Are the home and possessions safe?

If the person who has died lived alone, someone should go to his or her home on the day of the death. Take the security precautions that you would take when leaving your own home empty for a while, such as locking all doors and windows, stopping deliveries of papers and milk and moving valuable items so that passers-by cannot easily see them.

Everything that is in the home of the person who has died should remain there. This makes it easy to arrange for all the person’s property to be valued.  If there are very valuable items and you believe they are not adequately insured, consider moving them to a more secure place but consult the executors or close relatives of the person who has died or the deceased’s solicitors before you do this.

If you know that the person who has died had a gun licence and kept firearms at the property, report the death to the police so that they can make arrangements for the guns to be kept safely.

If the person had a pet, make temporary arrangements for it to be looked after by family or friends or through an animal rescue charity.


On your first visit to the home of the person who has died, look for papers relating to the insurance of the property and its contents, even if you do not have time to look for other important papers at this stage. Then ring the insurers, tell them about the death and make sure that there is adequate home and contents cover in place. Keep a note of your conversation with the insurers and put it with the papers relating to the insurance. Hand all these papers over to the executors or their solicitors as soon as possible.

When to register the death

A death must be registered within five days after the date of the death.

Who can register the death?

If the death was in hospital or in a private home (including a nursing or residential home), the following people can register the death:

  • A relative.
  • Someone who was present at the death but who is not a relative.
  • Someone representing the “occupier” of the building where the death occurred (for example, the warden of a block of sheltered flats, the manager of a residential home).
  • An official from the hospital.
  • Anyone who has taken responsibility for arranging the funeral.

If the death was not in a public building or a private home, the following people can register it:

  • A relative.
  • Anyone present at the death.
  • Anyone who has taken responsibility for arranging the funeral.

A relative should, if possible, register the death but the registrar allows non-relatives if no relative is available.

Where is the register office?

The death must be registered at the register office for births, deaths, marriages and civil partnerships for the district where the person died. If you do not know where this is, contact the local authority or visit its website or the GOV.UK.

Ring the register office first to find out if it has an appointment system.

What to take to the register office

Whoever registers the death should take to the register office:

  • The medical certificate from the doctor.
  • The following information:
  • date of death;
  • place of death;
  • full name of the person who has died;
  • any former names;
  • occupation;
  • last address;
  • name, date of birth and occupation of the person’s spouse (including a same-sex spouse for marriages on or after 13 March 2014) or civil partner (whether living or dead); and
  • information about any state benefits the person was receiving.

Where to find the information you need

If you do not know all the details about the person who has died that you need for the registrar, you should be able to find them in his or her birth certificate, marriage or civil partnership certificate and state pension or allowance book.

Death certificates

The registrar issues an official copy of the register, called a certified copy death certificate, after the person registering the death signs the register.

You can obtain any number of certified copy death certificates. You have to pay for them; the price varies from one local authority to another. You can claim back the cost from the estate in due course. You need several copy certificates to send out when giving notice of the death to banks, insurance companies and so on. You can estimate how many to buy if you know roughly what the person who has died owned. For example, if the person had three bank accounts with three different banks and two shareholdings with different companies, it is best to have five copy certificates, one for each separate institution. You will also need a copy for the person’s pension provider and it is sensible to get one or two spare copies while you are at the register office, since it is less convenient to order additional copies later.

Certificate for burial or cremation

The registrar also issues a certificate for burial or cremation. Give this to the funeral director who is making the funeral arrangements.

Tell us Once Service

A number of local councils offer the DWP’s Tell Us Once Service which is a way of letting a number of government departments know that someone has died by just making one contact. If this is available in your area, the registrar will either use the service for you or give you a unique service reference number so that you can use the service over the telephone or online. The service can be used to contact the government departments that deal with the deceased person’s benefits, state pension, tax, passport and driving licence.

Paying for the funeral

By taking on the responsibility for arranging the funeral, you are also taking on the responsibility of paying for it. You will eventually be able to reimburse yourself from the estate of the person who has died, if there is enough money in the estate to cover the funeral expenses.

You, or other family members, may be willing to pay the funeral expenses, on the basis that you will claim repayment from the estate later. However, there are other ways of paying for the funeral:

  • Look through the papers of the person who has died for anything relating to a pre-paid funeral plan. If you find that the person subscribed to a plan, contact the provider and follow the procedure it recommends.
  • A bank where the person who has died had an account may be prepared to release money from the account. The bank “freezes” an account when it learns about the account-holder’s death, making no further payments out. However it may make an exception for funeral expenses. Contact the bank to ask whether it will release money to pay for the funeral.
  • Look through the papers of the person who has died for anything relating to life insurance or pensions and contact the providers. If the person had a job at the time of the death, contact the employer’s HR department. Lump sum payments can often be made from life insurance policies and pension schemes very soon after a death. However, you should, if possible, consult the solicitors advising the personal representatives before using lump sums of this type to pay funeral expenses: there may be a more tax-efficient way to use the money.
  • If you are arranging a funeral for a partner or close relative and you are on a low income, you may qualify for help in paying for it. You may have to repay some or all of it from the estate of the person who has died. For more information, see the government websites listed in the section Further help at the end of this note.

Documents to look for as soon as possible

As soon as possible after the death, but not necessarily before the funeral, find up-to-date papers and information relating to as many of the following as are relevant as you will need these to administer the estate:

  • Current bank or building society account.
  • Employer.
  • Rental agreement.
  • Driving licence and vehicle registration.
  • Suppliers of gas, electricity and water.
  • Broadband, phone and satellite TV providers.
  • Television licence.
  • Council Tax.
  • Other service providers, such as cleaners and gardeners.

This information will enable you, or the personal representatives, to deal with the matters set out in the section on telling people about the death.

Documents to look for before meeting solicitors

The personal representatives will need papers containing up-to-date information about the following to enable their solicitors, to start on the administration of the estate:

  • Bank and building society accounts of the person who has died.
  • Insurance policies
  • Property deeds.
  • Share certificates, dividend vouchers and other papers relating to shareholdings.
  • Statements relating to savings and investments.
  • Valuations, for example of jewellery, paintings or furniture.
  • Credit card statements.
  • Personal loan agreements.
  • Hire purchase agreements.
  • Mortgages.
  • Recent tax returns.
  • PAYE P60 and recent payslips.
  • Unpaid invoices addressed to the person who has died.
  • Unpaid invoices issued by the person who has died.

For further information regarding the above or if you would like to discuss a Wills & Probate related query with one of the team, please call us on 0800 011 6666 or e-mail the team at legal@timms-law.com.