What to do when a loved one dies – a step by step guide

Working out what to do when you have just lost a loved one can seem an incredibly overwhelming prospect. At Goughs, we are here to assist you in the administration of a loved ones estate and to guide you through the process of what happens after death, and how you can prepare.

There are, however, a number of things that are normally done prior to arranging to see a solicitor. To help you during this difficult time, we have set out a brief summary of the different steps that need to be taken when someone dies. You can use this guide as a step-by-step process to help you navigate this difficult time.

We are, of course, available to talk you through these steps, so please get in touch via info@goughs.co.uk or fill in the form below to arrange a time convenient for you.

Let’s begin with a straightforward checklist of what to do when someone you love dies, as well as who to notify when someone dies, and what to do if someone dies at home.

Topics to be answered in this article

Step 1: Obtain a medical certificate

If someone you love has died, the first thing you need to do is register a death and obtain a Death Certificate from a doctor. This certificate is free, and is usually in a sealed envelope which you are told not to open, ready to be taken to the Registrar. If your loved one passed away in a hospital, the hospital will give this to you.

If you’re not sure what to do when someone dies at home, don’t worry. You will likely need to speak to their GP; if there is a coroner’s inquest then the certificate will be issued after this.

Step 2: Register the Death

Once you have the medical certificate, you should contact your local Registrar in order to register the death. This should be done within 5 days, however this will be delayed if there is a coroner’s inquest. You will need to take the medical certificate with you to register the death.

  • The Registrar will ask for information about the deceased such as;
  • Their date of birth
  • Place of birth
  • Occupation
  • Usual address
  • Marital status
  • The name of any spouse
  • Their occupation

This information will then be added to the Death Certificate and you will then be asked to sign to certify that this information is correct. If available, it can be helpful to take with you the deceased person’s:

  • Birth certificate
  • Marriage certificate
  • National Insurance number
  • Driving licence
  • Passport
  • You should also take proof of identity for yourself

The cost of a Death Certificate is £11 per copy. It is more expensive to order additional copies at a later date so we would recommend ordering multiple copies at this stage.

This will allow either you (or Goughs Solicitors on your behalf) to send multiple copies of the death certificate to the institutions that require them, without having to wait for a single copy to go back and forth in the post. Goughs will guide you through who may need copies and why it’s important to cover off all administrative duties as promptly as possible.

Step 3: Letting people know

In the event of someone’s death, you need to have an understanding of who you need to notify. There are various organisations and agencies you will need to inform, including:

  • Bank and Building Societies
  • The deceased’s employer (or clients if self-employed)
  • Mortgage provider
  • Landlord or housing association
  • Utility companies
  • GP, dentist, optician and other healthcare providers
  • Insurance company
  • Credit card company
  • Telephone and internet provider
  • Any organisations the deceased made regular payments to, such as charities, magazine subscriptions,
  • Online services such as Amazon Prime or Netflix, etc.
  • Any local services such as Meals on Wheels, home helps, newspaper deliveries, milk deliveries, etc.
  • Any other organisations the deceased had contact with, especially ones the deceased had financial ties with.
  • Social Media companies – you may wish to contact the social media provider to close the person’s social media accounts.

When registering the death, the Registrar will ask if you would like to use the Tell Us Once service. This is a free service, whereby the Registrar will notify various government bodies (such as the DVLA, HM Passport Office, the Department for Work and Pensions, TV Licensing etc.) of the death.

This will save you from having to notify them at a later date, which is exactly what the solicitors here at Goughs would recommend you do.

Step 4: Arrange the funeral

After the death has been registered, the Registrar will provide you with what is known as the Green Form. This is a form that you can provide to your chosen funeral directors to allow them to proceed with the planning of the funeral. Once the funeral has taken place, and you have received the funeral invoice, you can take this to the deceased’s bank who will settle this cost directly with the funeral director from the deceased’s accounts before the estate has been administered.

Step 5: Check for a Will

If there is a Will

If the deceased person has a will, it will name the Executors of the estate. These are the people responsible for dealing with the deceased’s finances. Before you start dealing with the paperwork and assets, you should look for a Will to establish that you are in fact the correct person to be handling the Estate. 

In many cases, when people have taken the time to prepare a Will, they will normally have told family or friends where to find it. If you are unsure where the Will is stored, you may find it helpful to check at their home, with their bank or at their local solicitors.

Despite what is depicted in films and TV, there isn’t usually a formal ‘reading of the will’. The will is dealt with by the executor(s), who will decide whether to share copies of it with the friends and family of the deceased.

If there is a Will

If there has been no Will left by the deceased, the intestacy rules will determine who should deal with the estate. It is important at this point to note that not all of a person’s estate will necessarily follow the intestacy rules. At Goughs, our Private Client team can help guide you through the steps to take.

Step 6: Speak to a Solicitor

Once the above steps have been arranged, or if you require any assistance with what has been discussed above, please get in touch with us. We understand the emotions connected with situations like these, and would be happy to help talk you through the next steps, as well as assisting you with obtaining probate (if necessary), and the administration of the estate.

We have private client solicitors in all of our branches across Wiltshire so face-to-face appointments are readily available in a location close to you.

Other helpful FAQ's

What to do when someone dies at home?

Unfortunately, nothing can prepare you for knowing what to do if someone dies at home. However, if the death was expected, immediately call the deceased’s doctor if the death happened during surgery hours. If it occurred outside of surgery hours, call the on-call doctor or 111.

If the death was unexpected, immediately call 999 and wait for assistance.

What happens to power of attorney when someone dies?

If the deceased person was an enduring or lasting power of attorney, then this will end on their death. If you are the deceased person’s power of attorney, you will need to notify the Office of the Public Guardian of the death, and provide copies of the power of attorney documents and copies of the death certificate.

How can Goughs help?

Losing a loved one is extremely difficult. Knowing what happens after death, and what steps to take can be an extremely overwhelming prospect. We hope this guide has been helpful, and remember, we’re here to assist you in any way that we can. Get in touch via the form below for more information.

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Author Bio

Olivia Clifford

I joined the Private Client Department at Goughs in June 2017 as a Legal Secretary and began my studies for Cilex in March 2021.  I am currently studying in my personal time whilst working full-time.   I started my Trainee journey in January 2023.

I am very understanding and empathetic towards our clients as I understand that the legal process can be quite daunting for them. I take great satisfaction from making our clients feel comfortable and guiding them through a challenging time.

In my personal life I enjoy spending time with friends and family, and also long dog walks in the countryside.

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