What to do when someone dies

When you’ve lost someone dear to you, it’s hard to know what you need to do next. Our guide should help you with the practicalities.

8 things to do when a loved one passes:

1. Death certificate

The death certificate will be issued to you by the doctor and you’ll need this in order to register the death. It’s free but a cremation certificate has to be signed by two doctors and there will be a charge (currently £164). If there is concern about the manner of death, then the coroner or procurator fiscal will order a post-mortem.

2. Vital copies

Get plenty of duplicates of the death certificate as banks and other organisations won’t accept photocopies of the original. Although there is a cost, the price goes up if you need to return for more copies at a later date.

3. Register the death

You must register the death within five days in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and within eight days in Scotland. [If the death occurs abroad, you will have to register the death in that country.] You will find a list of register offices online at You can book an appointment online where you will be told what information to bring with you.

Along with the death certificate, you will receive a certificate for burial or cremation and a form that needs to be sent to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) or Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland.

4. Report the death

Report the death to official organisations. Ask your registrar about the DWP’s Tell Us Once service, which will report the death for you to all government departments. In Northern Ireland, the Bereavement Service can offer similar support.

5. Break the news

Make a checklist of everyone else you need to contact. The list will be long. To make it easier, group them under headings such as family, utilities, financial etc. If your loved one was a member, don’t forget to tell Benenden Health.

6. Financial support

Check your eligibility for financial support. If you are under pensionable age, you may be able to claim bereavement benefit from the DWP. Contact the Bereavement Advice Centre for more info.

7. Choosing a funeral director

Find a funeral director. Make sure the funeral company you choose is a member of a professional association (see contacts). You don’t have to use a funeral director at all, however. Contact your local Cemeteries and Crematoria department for more details.

8. Keep funeral costs in mind

Choose a funeral that suits. Some funeral directors will allow you to pay in installments or offer cheaper options at certain times of the day. If you are on benefits, you may be able to claim from the social fund. Otherwise you could think about a direct cremation. In 2018, the average cost of a funeral in the UK was £4,271 for a standard cremation. On average, the cost for a burial is £4,798. For many, an additional average of £2,061 is spent on ‘send off’ costs – including the venue, flowers and funeral transport.

Tackling Probate

If there is a will and you are the executor, you can apply for a grant of representation, which gives you the legal right to administer a person’s estate. You cannot access any of the deceased’s financial affairs or possessions until probate has been completed.

If the will is straightforward you may be able to manage probate yourself – although many people find using a solicitor for this can take away some of the stress.

First, you will need to fill out a probate application form, PA1P, and an inheritance tax form (even if you don’t think you will need to pay). In Scotland you need to complete form C1 to apply for confirmation. The probate and inheritance tax helpline (0300 123 1072) will talk you through any queries. 

Once complete, all documentation needs to be sent to the Probate Registry. You’ll find details of your nearest one on the legal information website Law on the Web. As of November 2018, executors no longer need to formally swear an oath before receiving the grant of probate, but can instead make a 'digital' statement of truth.

Without a will, things are trickier

You can apply for a grant of representation to be the administrator of the estate only if you are the person’s legal next of kin. And the law will decide who inherits the estate – you will not automatically be entitled to it.

Other things to consider:

Redirecting post

Take a copy of the death certificate to the post office to arrange this. Also contact the Mailing Preference Service and The Bereavement Register to stop unsolicited post.

HM Land Registry

If your late partner co-owned your home you need to take his or her name off the land register.

Don't be afraid to ask for help

If financial matters are not your strong suit build yourself a financial support team. This could include an accountant, a solicitor and a trusted family friend. Your ‘team’ can help you when you feel least able.

If you have found yourself affected by bereavement and are struggling with grief, Benenden Health members can call the Mental Health Helpline. The helpline can offer 24 hour support from a qualified therapist during this difficult time.

Information and figures quoted are correct at time of publication. Please do check the resources for up-to-date information