What to do when someone dies
Working out what to do first when someone dies can seem overwhelming. Besides letting family and friends know, there are several organisations you need to notify when a person has passed away. This guide breaks down what you need to do as soon as possible, as well as in the weeks and months after someone dies.
- What you need to do quickly
- Choose an executor
- Apply for probate
- Get a medical certificate
- Register the death
- In the weeks following the death
- Tell the deceased’s landlord and other organisations
- Tell government departments
- Return the deceased’s passport and driving license
- Tell insurers and creditors
- Letter template for notifying a death
- Additional resources and support
What you need to do quickly
As soon as you are able to, you will need to get a medical certificate, register the death and arrange the funeral. Scroll down for more information.
Choose an executor
As soon as possible.
An executor of a will carries out the tasks for the deceased as the representative of the deceased’s estate. These tasks can be carried out by a close relative or someone appointed to be the personal representative of the deceased’s estate.
Costs will depend on who is chosen to be the executor. A family member might agree to do the work for free, whereas a solicitor will charge a fee.
Apply for probate
Within a month of the person’s death.
The cost of getting probate depends on where the deceased lived (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales), and the size of their estate.
Get a medical certificate
Immediately, unless there is a coroner’s inquest where the certificate is issued after this.
The hospital (or the person’s GP) will give this to you.
The certificate is free.
Register the death
Within five days for England, Wales or Northern Ireland; within eight days for Scotland.
If there’s a coroner’s (or procurator fiscal if in Scotland) inquest, registration is delayed until the inquest concludes.
Depending on which country the deceased lived in, you must register the death at:
- In England and Wales - the Register Office
- In Northern Ireland - the District Registration Office
- In Scotland - the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages
Registering a death is free. However, to get a certificate you’ll pay £4 in England and Wales or £8 in Northern Ireland.
The cost does rise if you later decide you want more copies. We suggest getting additional copies, as it usually cheaper and easier to do so at this point. This lets you deal with several organisations at the same time, instead of having to wait for your only copy to be returned before you can deal with the next one.
Any documents needed?
You need the deceased’s:
- Medical certificate with the cause of death
- Full name including any previous names (e.g. maiden name)
- Date and place of birth
- Last address
- Full name, date of birth and occupation of their surviving/late spouse or civil partner if they were married.
If available, you should also take the deceased’s:
- Birth certificate
- Marriage or civil partnership certificate
- National Insurance number
- NHS medical card
- Proof of address, e.g. utility bill
- Driving license
You should also bring documents (e.g. utility bill) to show proof of your identity.
In the weeks following the death
Once you’ve arranged the above, you need to start telling various organisations about the death. Scroll down for more details.
Tell the deceased’s landlord and other organisations
As soon as possible.
If you were privately renting together and the lease is in the deceased’s name, you’ll need to let the landlord know and ask for it to be transferred to your name.
You’ll also need to have your name transferred for any bills or payments. Organisations might include housing associations or council housing offices, mortgage providers, employers and utility providers.
Contact each organisation.
Tell government departments
As soon as possible after receiving the death certificate.
- HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) for their taxes
- Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to stop their State Pension and benefits
- Passport Office to cancel their passport
- Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) to cancel their driving license, car tax and car registration documents
- Local council for their Council Tax, electoral register and other housing benefits
- Public sector or armed forces pension scheme for their pension.
You can use the Tell Us Once service to notify the above government departments at the same time. The service is offered by most local authorities in England, Wales and Scotland, but not in Northern Ireland.
If the Tell Us Once service is not offered by your local authority, then you’ll need to notify these departments individually.
The service is free.
You will need to provide the following information:
- Unique reference number given to you when you register the death
- Name, date of death and National Insurance number of the deceased
- Contact details, date of birth, passport number (if available) and National Insurance number of the next of kin
- Details of the person dealing with the deceased’s estate
- Permission from the next of kin, the executor, the administrator or anyone who was claiming joint benefits or entitlements with the deceased, to give out their contact details.
If available, you should also provide:
- Details of any benefits or entitlements they were getting, e.g. State Pension
- Details of any local council services they were getting, e.g. Blue Badge
- Name and address of their next of kin
- Name contact details of the person or company dealing with the deceased’s estate, i.e. the ‘executor’ or ‘administrator’
- Details of any public sector or armed forces pension schemes they were getting or paying into.
Return the deceased’s passport and driving license
As soon as possible after receiving the death certificate
By post. See the following links for details of where to send these documents:
Tell insurers and creditors
Ideally, as soon as possible after receiving the death certificate, or within a month of the death.
Insurance company, bank or building society, credit card companies, utility companies, pension provider and any other companies that owed money to the deceased or were owed money by the deceased.
By calling the company, visiting the local branch (for banks or building society), or by visiting their website, where they may have an online form that you can complete.
Free to notify these companies. But the deceased may have had outstanding debts or payment arrangements with these companies that need to be settled.
Any documents needed?
You will need official copies of the death certificate when dealing with these companies.
You’ll also need to give the contact details of the executor or administrator of the estate.
Letter template for notifying a death
- Download this letter template and use it when contacting the deceased’s bank.
- Download this letter template and use it when contacting the deceased’s mortgage, credit card or loan provider.
- Download this letter template and use it when contacting the deceased’s pension provider.
The state might pay you some bereavement benefits if you were married or a civil partner of the deceased. Some of these benefits are means-tested and others you can claim if you’re on a low income.
Additional resources and support
You can find additional information about what to do when someone dies at:
Dealing with the death of someone close to you can seem overwhelming. Your GP or your local religious or community group is often a good place to start to looking for support in dealing with bereavement.
There are also a number of organisations that offer support to help you deal with your grief:
- Counselling Directory
- Cruse Bereavement Care (for England, Northern Ireland and Wales)
- Cruse Bereavement Care Scotlandopens in new window