Guiding you through the steps you need to take when a loved one dies

Discussing end of life planning can feel extremely difficult, yet understanding the practicalities of what needs to be done when a loved one dies is important, as many different scenarios could play out and there are normally only a few weeks to manage this process and arrange their funeral. Simon and Rebecca Welham – the father and daughter team behind Welham Jones Funerals and Memorials – guide you through the first steps of what needs to happen…

First step – verifying the cause of death

A medical professional must verify the cause of death before the medical cause of death certificate is issued, which will allow you to register the death. This is most easily done in the district of the death (usually a county council area) and should be done by the executor of the deceased’s will (often also the next of kin).

Verifying the death, if expected

At home: call their GP or senior nurse to come in person to verify the death. At night, call NHS 111 to ask for an on-call GP or nurse.

Hospice or care home: care home staff, if qualified, will certify the death or contact the deceased’s GP or, at night, call 111.

At hospital: a doctor or nurse will verify the person has died.

The medical cause of death certificate will be issued either by the hospital doctor caring for the deceased, or their GP, at a later stage.

Verifying the death, if unexpected

At home, hospice or care home: the emergency services must be called; they will notify the coroner, who will investigate the cause of death, and will contact the coroner’s contracted removal team to take the person who died into the coroner’s care.

At hospital: the coroner will be contacted to establish the cause of death.

In some cases, an investigation into the circumstances of the death might be required, but to allow a funeral, and where no investigation is required, the coroner will supply the appropriate paperwork for the funeral and registration to take place. Sometimes a post-mortem examination will be necessary to establish the medical cause of death.

Both the funeral director and the coroner’s office will keep you appraised of progress and can provide advice and assistance.

What happens if someone dies aboard?

If your loved one dies abroad and has travel insurance, then generally they will be returned to the UK by the insurance company. This is a service we provide for our clients if this is not the case.

For UK citizens you will need to, among other things, tell the relevant authorities (the British Embassy and the High Commission or Consulate) and register the death where they died, in accordance with local regulations (check with the British Consul), and register with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Contact your chosen funeral director

If your loved one had a funeral plan that nominated a funeral director, inform them of the death. Otherwise, choose a funeral director recommended to you or with a good reputation locally. They will ask for information and arrange to collect your loved one into their care.

Register the death (required by law)

In England and Wales, you must register the death of a person within five days at their local Registrar’s Office, although this is not always possible with current changes to the certification process.

The medical cause of death certificate is emailed direct to the Registrar by the GP or hospital but you will need to make an appointment with the Registrar, usually online. We can make the appointment for clients that don’t have online access.

Take the deceased’s birth certificate, driving license, passport, proof of address and other documentation, if you have it, to the appointment.

The Registrar provides a ‘green form’ authorising cremation or burial, to be given to your funeral director, and a BD8 form for the Department of Work and Pensions.

A certified death certificate will also be issued. You can buy additional copies (that can be reused) if the deceased’s estate needs to go through probate or if bank accounts and insurance policies need to be closed.

Check if a funeral plan was in place

Before paying for the funeral, check if the deceased had a funeral plan or an over 50s life insurance policy. Ask family or local funeral directors and check their will and bank or insurance statements to find out.

Arrange the funeral

Book a meeting with your funeral director to choose the type of funeral you’d like for your loved one. They will provide you with an estimated cost and both parties will need to sign terms and conditions of business.

The Registrar’s office will email the green form directly to your funeral director, as this is essential for arranging a funeral – and the GP’s surgery or hospital bereavement office will email them the cremation certificate 4. The coroner, if involved, will, similarly, email relevant documents to the funeral director or crematorium/cemetery.

Your funeral director will want to support you in your time of need and get to know your loved one as best as possible, to provide you with the best service and the perfect end-of-life celebration.

For further information, visit


Share this article

Recommended articles


Please enter a search term below.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter