What to do when someone dies

A bereavement is of course an extremely sad occasion for all those connected with the deceased. It’s a time when the practicalities of day to day living suddenly seem quite unimportant. Unfortunately, there are a number of matters that need to be addressed following a bereavement.

The first steps following a bereavement

Of course, the first thing you will want to do before anything else is inform close family and friends. You may find it helpful if a friend or relative shares this responsibiltiy with you, as it can involvemany upsetting and stressful phone calls.Next you will need to gather together relevant paperwork of the deceased, so that you have the infomation at hand when notifying organisations. There are things that you are going to need to provide when notifying organisations of a bereavement, so it’s a good idea to get these all sorted as soon as possible.

These include:

  • National Insurance number – this will be on any Department for Work and Pensions documents, wage slips or HMRC documents belonging to the deceased. The deceased may have owned a National Insurance number card which will also show the number.
  • NHS number – this number is different to the National Insurance number. It is usually included on any correspondence from the NHS. You can find out the NHS number by contacting the deceased’s GP surgery however you will be asked for proof of identity. Alternatively contact your local Primary Care Trust (PCT) and explain the situation.
  • Date and birthplace – you may know this already but the full details will be included on the deceased’s birth certificate.
  • Date of marriage or civil partnership – if appropriate, please have these details available.
  • Tax reference number – you should be able to find this on any tax return or tax document belonging to the deceased. If you cannot find it, contact HMRC who should be able to assist you.


Notifying organisations

You will probably find that the hospital or doctor who may have been caring for the deceased will advise you on some of the necessary procedures.


If they are not already aware, please ensure the deceased’s GP is notified of the death.

Register office

It is important to register a death within five days. You will need to make an appointment with the Register Office to do this. The registration takes about 30 minutes. It may be helpful and reassuring to have someone with you.

You will need the following documents with you:

  • The medical certificate of cause of death signed by a doctor
  • Birth certificate
  • Marriage or civil partnership certificate (if appropriate)
  • NHS Medical Card


You will need to tell the registrar the deceased’s full name at the time of death, any names they previously used (maiden name etc), the person’s date and place of birth, their last known address, occupation, the full name, date of birth and occupation of a surviving spouse or civil partner. The registrar will also need to know if the deceased was in receipt of a state pension or other state benefits. If no post-mortem is taking place, the registrar will provide you with a certificate for burial or cremation (the 'green form'), which gives permission for the body to be buried or to apply for the body to be cremated. You will also receive a certificate of registration of death (BD8). This is issued for social security purposes, if the deceased was in receipt of a state pension or benefits. If a post-mortem is needed, the coroner will issue the documents you need as soon as possible.


Return to top of page