It can be devastating when someone close to you passes away. Not only are there painful and complicated emotions to deal with, but, on top of that, there are arrangements to make, paperwork to sort out and a funeral to plan. It is an immensely difficult and sensitive time.
Willow Lake Funeral Directors would like to help you through this trying period. We are here to support you with all of the practical preparations and make the process more simple. We have therefore written the following guide, designed to help guide you through the necessary steps you must take when someone dies.
You can also reach Willow Lake on 0800 464 7277 if you would prefer to speak with our expert team directly.
The first step: obtain a medical certificate
Obtaining a medical certificate is essential. It details the cause of death and enables you to register it and begin arranging the funeral. All medical certificates are free. But, where and how your loved one passed away will affect where you obtain one.
Hospital or care home
Should your friend or family member die whilst at a care home or in hospital, the institution will take care of the medical certificate. They may send it to the nearest registry office or post it to you.
The situation is more complicated if someone dies at home. If the death is expected, you need to call the person’s GP or the NHS helpline on 111 if you are unable to reach the GP. The death must be verified by a medical professional. Either the person’s doctor or an on-call doctor or senior nurse will carry this out.
If the person has been ill, their doctor will issue the medical certificate with the cause of death. Their surgery will usually send it to their most local registry office. Alternatively, they may contact you to collect it from the surgery.
On the other hand, if someone dies unexpectedly at home, you must call 999 and ask for both an ambulance and the police. The ambulance team that arrives at your house may need to call a coroner.
Situations in which a coroner needs to be called:
- A doctor cannot determine the cause of death
- A doctor did not see the person for the condition from which they died within four weeks (28 days) of their death
- The death was sudden, violent or unnatural and requires investigation
A coroner has the authority to order a post mortem examination. This will be conducted to find out the cause of death. Following this, the coroner will issue the medical certificate.
Can Willow Lake help?
Willow Lake is able to help you with this step if you get in touch. Our team will coordinate with the doctors or coroner and ensure the legal paperwork is completed for you. We will also collect your loved one and look after them on your behalf until the funeral. On the day of the funeral, the coffin will be waiting at the venue.
The second step: registering the death
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, it is a legal requirement to register a death within five days. In Scotland this is extended to eight days. There are exceptions to this, however, for example if there is an inquest into the cause of death.
Where to register the death
If the person died at home, the death should be registered at the registrar office in the district where they lived. Likewise, if they passed away in a hospital, care home or other public building, the death should be registered at the registrar office of the district in which the building is located.
You can find the nearest registrar’s office here.
Why do you need to register the death?
You must register a death in order to receive a death certificate. A death certificate provides a formal record of the death. It is a necessary document for sorting bank accounts, mortgages and other legal documents, including wills.
The registrar will also give you a ‘Certificate for Burial or Cremation’, also referred to as the green form. It is a mandatory document for a burial or cremation to go ahead. The registry office may send it to the funeral service directly.
Who can register the death?
The following people are able to register a death:
- A family member
- Anyone who was with the person when they died
- Anyone who lives at the address where the person died
- Anyone involved in arranging the funeral (with the exception of the undertaker)
How much does it cost to register a death?
It is free to register a death. However, you will have to pay £11 for a death certificate in England and Wales, £12 in Scotland and £15 in Northern Ireland.
We recommend that you purchase multiple death certificates, particularly if the deceased had a complicated estate. Death certificates are needed for financial and legal institutions. It will therefore save you time during the probate process if you buy several copies at this stage.
Necessary documents and information to register a death
Registry offices typically require the following documents of the deceased. They are necessary to confirm that information is accurate and to register their death:
- Driving licence
- Utility bill
- Birth and marriage certificates
The following information is also needed
- Date of death
- Place of death
- Deceased’s full name, including any previous names
- Date of birth
- Place of birth
- Your name and address
If any of these documents are not available, the registrar can still register the death. It may also help if you bring your own identification, such as a driving licence or passport.
When you register the death, inform the registrar that you are using Willow Lake’s services. It will make the funeral arranging process easier for you.
Inform the government via the Tell Us Once service
Besides registering the death, you will also need to notify various organisations. The government has set up a Tell Us Once service to enable you to inform most governmental departments of the death in one go. Included in this service are the Passport Office, HMRC, the DVLA and others.
Access the Tell Us Once service here.
The third step: find out about any wishes or funeral plans your loved one had and start planning the funeral
In order to begin this step, you need to find out whether your loved one had any preferences for their funeral. It is possible they discussed plans with you or another confidant. There could be a letter of instruction in their paperwork or in their will. Their solicitor may also have information.
If there are no instructions, you could discuss what the deceased would have wanted with their relatives. You can use this as a basis for planning the funeral.
Willow Lake Funeral Services
Willow Lake provides a modern funeral service at locations throughout England and Wales for £1,995. Our friendly and professional team conducts personalised services, both religious and secular.
To find your nearest location, please use our locations page here.