What to do when someone dies

Knowing what to do when someone dies can be reassuring when the time comes. We have compiled some useful information on what to do in different circumstances, including how to register a death.

When a person dies in a hospital or hospice

Usually, when a person dies in a hospital or hospice, it is expected by the medical staff and family. The attending doctor will issue the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death. This certificate allows you to register the death. Usually, the dedicated bereavement officer at the hospital will issue the certificate and you can arrange to collect it from them.

When a person dies in a care home or nursing home

When a person dies in a care or nursing home, the usual doctor or an on-call doctor will be able to confirm the cause of death and issue a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death. Once the attending doctor has issued the certificate, then the funeral director can be notified to collect the deceased. You will be able to collect the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death from the doctor’s surgery so that you can register the death.

What happens if a Coroner becomes involved?

If the doctor at any setting where the death occurred feels they cannot issue the death certificate for any reason, then they will refer the death to the Coroner. At this stage, the role of the Coroner is to decide if the death certificate can be issued. In the case that it cannot be issued, they will arrange further investigation where necessary.

In cases where the Coroner does instruct further investigation into the death, then it is likely that they will order a post mortem. This is to determine the exact cause of death. When this happens, it will not usually delay the process of making funeral arrangements. However, it can in certain circumstances although you will be kept informed throughout the process.

If the death occurred in a care home, nursing home, hospital or hospice, once the Coroner has completed their investigations, they will then release the deceased to the chosen funeral director. They will also forward any relevant paperwork to the Registry Office so that the family can register the death.

If the death was unexpected and occurred at home, you will need to call the police. The Coroner will arrange for their funeral director to transport the deceased to the nominated hospital for further investigation into the cause of death. Once all investigations have been completed they will allow the release of the deceased to your chosen funeral director. They will also supply any relevant paperwork to the Registry Office so that you can register the death.

Registering a death

You must register a death in the UK with the local Registry Office where the person died within 5 working days. If the Coroner has become involved and meeting the specified timescale is not possible, then we advise you call the Registry Office to notify them of the circumstances.

When you register the death, the registrar will issue a certificate to authorise either burial or cremation. This certificate is also known as the ‘Green Form’.  You will need to pass this certificate to the funeral director so the funeral arrangements can be finalised.

Contact Iles & Vincent

For more information about what to do when someone dies, then please do not hesitate to contact us. We can offer you practical advice to put your mind at ease.