What to do when someone dies

When someone dies there’s certain things that need to be done, and knowing where to start and what to do first can be overwhelming.

Telling family and friends may be your first thought, but very soon there’s decisions to make and arrangements to organise.

Here’s a practical guide to some of the things you need to do.

Where to start

You need to get the medical certificate showing the ’cause of death’ before you can officially register the death or arrange the funeral. Depending on where the person died, you may get this from the hospital, or local GP, if the person died at home.

Registering the death

Once you’ve got the medical certificate, you can make an appointment to register the death. This is usually at the local register office and should be done within five days, or eight in Scotland. Under normal circumstances you’d make an appointment to do this in person; but right now, this is being done with telephone appointments and the death certificate sent out to you.

It’s often worth paying for extra copies of the death certificate as banks and insurance companies will want to see this when closing accounts. Costs can range from around £8 – £12 per copy.

Arranging the funeral

Before you can start doing this, you’ll need what’s known as the ‘green form’, which is the official certificate for burial or cremation. It’s usually handed to you at the register office; although right now they’re being sent out.

Most people use a funeral director to arrange the funeral, as they can organise and co-ordinate everything for you. When choosing a funeral director, remember there’s lots of small independent family run companies as well as the bigger chains.

When it comes to cost, be honest about your budget as a good funeral director will suggest different options. And do check if the person who’s died had a funeral plan in place, as this may cover some, or all of the costs.

Worth checking that whoever you use is a member of the National Association of Funeral Directors, (NAFD), or the National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors, (SAIF), as these organisations both have codes of practice and strict standards for members.

How much will a funeral cost?

Funerals can be expensive and costs can vary according to where you live, as well as the type of funeral you choose.

According to SunLife, (who produce an annual report into the cost of funerals), the ‘average’ cost of a cremation is now £3,885, and £5,033 for a burial.

However this is only the basic cost, and you can pay a lot more depending on the options you choose, for example the type of coffin and whether you want flowers and cars.

In the current climate more people are choosing a ‘Direct Cremation’; which costs an average of £1,554. This is a very basic option; as there’s no service, so you can’t go along, although you can collect the ashes afterwards.

If you’re claiming certain benefits you may be able to claim a Funeral Expenses payment.

Closing down accounts

Most of us have multiple accounts, services or subscriptions to our name and these will all need closing or cancelling.

Worth making a list of all the companies you need to contact as you think of them, including banks, pension and insurance companies, energy providers along with any clubs or organisations the person belonged to.

You can contact most Government departments in one go using the ‘Tell Us Once’ service which covers state pensions, benefits, cancelling a passport and driving licence. You’ll be given a special code to access this service when you register the death.

There’s also organisations like Life Ledger where you can tell multiple organisations in one go. Most organisations, especially banks and insurance companies, have their own bereavement departments to help you close down accounts and you can find details on their website.

Wills & probate

The job of closing down the person’s estate and sorting out their last wishes falls to the person, or people named as Executors in the will.

They may need to get what’s known as a Grant of Probate to start sorting out money matters, although this isn’t always necessary.

Without a will, the estate is split up according to ‘Intestacy Law’ which sets out who gets what.

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