What to do when someone dies

By Luchia Hirst, 15th January 2021

A step by step guide to help you in knowing what to do when someone dies.

Working out what to do when you have just lost a loved one can seem an incredibly overwhelming prospect. At Goughs we would be pleased to assist you in the administration of a loved ones estate and to guide you through the process, there are, however, a number of things that are normally done prior to arranging to see a solicitor. To assist you, we have set out a brief summary of the different steps that need to be taken for you to use as a checklist to navigate this difficult time. We are of course available to talk you through these steps, so please get in touch via pc@goughs.co.uk to arrange a mutually convenient time.

Step 1: Obtain a medical certificate

In order to register a death and obtain a Death Certificate, you must first obtain a medical certificate from a doctor. This certificate is free and is usually in a sealed envelope and you are told not to open it and to take it to the Registrar. If your loved one passed away in a hospital, the hospital will give this to you.

If your loved one passed away at home, 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

When 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. During the current lockdown, however, you can register the death via phone. 

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 is helpful to take along your loved ones…

  1. Birth certificate
  2. Marriage certificate
  3. National Insurance number
  4. Driving licence
  5. Passport
  6. 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 institutions that require them without having to wait for a single copy to go back and forth in the post. Goughs will guide your through who may need copies and why to ensure you’re can cover off all administrative duties as promptly as possible.

Step 3: Letting people know

You will need to inform various organisations and agencies. These may include:

  • 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, Goughs really recommend doing this.

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 and they will settle this 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

It will name the Executors of the estate, i.e. those responsible for dealing with your loved one’s finances. Before you start dealing with your loved one’s 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 on 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 no Will

If there’s no will, 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: Come and see us

Once the above steps have been arranged or if you require any assistance with any aspect of the estate discussed above, please get in touch with us and we would be pleased to talk you through the next steps and assist 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.

For the most up-to-date information and advice on the administration of estates, call our Private Client Team today on 01249 712193, click here to enquire online or email pc@goughs.co.uk