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What to do when someone dies

All advice contained within this section relates to England and Wales only.

When someone dies, there are several things you must do in the following few days. 

Get a medical certificate

This will be given to you by a doctor – either a GP or a doctor at the hospital depending on where the person died – and will list the cause of death. You will need this to formally register the death. 

Register the death

You will need to visit a Registry Office to register the death within five calendar days (unless the death has been referred to a Coroner). You’ll receive a death certificate (you can get several official copies), which will allow you to arrange a funeral and begin dealing with the deceased’s estate.

Funeral arrangements

You can then contact an undertaker and arrange the funeral. If the deceased had a funeral plan or money in a joint account, then you can pay the bill from these sources.  If not, then many banks will now agree to pay the undertaker directly from the deceased’s bank account.

Inform the government

You’ll need to report the person’s death to various departments of local and central government so that they can update their records.

When you register the death, the registrar will give you a pack explaining how to advise government departments of the death.

In the past, this meant many hours spent on the phone repeating the same information to different government departments such the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and the DVLA.

Most local councils now run a service called Tell Us Once, which makes this process simpler. Once informed of a death, the service will then notify various local and central government services on your behalf.

Look for the person’s will 

You’ll also need to establish if the person who died has left a will. This may mean searching the deceased's house, contacting their bank or any solicitor that you think they may have dealt with.

You can also search the online wills database of Certainty, a private will registration company used by many solicitors to register the wills they hold for clients.

If a will is found, you must give it to the executor. If there isn’t a Will, or if there is a Will but no executor is willing to act, an administrator must be appointed, the person(s) entitled to act as administrator are set out in the intestacy rules.

If you’re the executor or potential administrator then at this point you may decide to instruct a professional, such as a solicitor, to act for you in the administration of the estate for all or part of the process. 

Useful links and documents