Paperwork when someone dies

Like every other part of life, inevitably, there are rules and a bit of paperwork when someone dies. It’s not complicated.

There are only 3 things you must do in the first week after someone dies.

  1. Determine the cause of death: Get a Cause of Death Certificate (form 11) from a GP or hospital doctor. (You’ll need this to register the death.) Phone your GP or 999 for the ambulance service at the time of death for a doctor to attend and determine the cause of death. If the cause of death is obvious and not suspicious, the doctor will give you a Cause of Death Certificate straight away.
  2. Register the death: Take the Cause of Death Certificate to register the death at your local Council’s Register Office within 5 days (8 days in Scotland). They will give you the documents you need for the funeral.
  3. Arrange the funeral:  we have lots of advice on rules and ideas for a funeral. You can get professional help from funeral directors and celebrants. See our Marketplace for these and other services.

The rest is all choice, mostly guided by tradition. Our 10 step guide covers the general to-do’s that you are likely to have to deal with in the event of a death.

The Department of Work and Pensions is developing Tell us Once to make it easier to sort out the paperwork when someone dies. It allows the public to notify lots of government organisations about a death in one go e.g. income tax, benefits, pension, driving licence, passport and Council Tax.

Many councils offer the same service for housing, libraries, leisure centre memberships, social and care services, schools, and electoral registration. Check if your Council is one of them.

If not, you will need to register the death and let the relevant parts of government know yourself.

Help out your own next of kin

There’s lots you can do right now to prepare for the inevitable and get your own paperwork in order. Find out about the essential documents next of kin need.

Benefits and death

If the person who has died was on benefits, then it’s important to get them stopped quickly-otherwise you could be the recipient of an unwanted bill 6 months later.

Death certificates

If you’re helping sort things after a death, get a couple of certified copies of the death certificate from the Registrar at the point of registration. You will need to provide these for organisations that deal with assets (money, property) to allow access to accounts. You can ask each organisation to return the certificates before contacting the next one.

See changes to Death Certification in Scotland.

Help with paperwork when someone dies

Organisations like Citizens Advice Bureau are set up to help with advice like paperwork when someone dies. There are also some private organisations offering help. Check our Marketplace for help.

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