What to do when someone dies

We know how difficult and disorientating it can be when someone you love dies, we’re here to help. We’ll guide you through all the different things you’ll need to think about, decide and do. From what to do when someone dies, through the ceremony and on to what happens after the funeral.

Here are some steps to help support and guide you through the key things you'll need to do after a death. Alternatively, you can contact us straight away and we can advise you on what to do next, whichever is best for you. We're here to help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Medical Certificate of Cause of Death

Whether someone dies at home, in a nursing home or in hospital, you’ll need to arrange for a doctor to issue a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death. You'll need this certificate to register the death. Things are a bit different if the person has died abroad, or unexpectedly, as a Coroner may need to be notified. In these cases it can take longer for the certificate to be issued.

What to do when someone dies at home

If the person has died at home or in a nursing home and doctor has issued the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death, you can contact your chosen funeral director who will collect your loved one from your home or the nursing home, and take them into their care until the funeral takes place.

The death will need to be registered within 5 days in England or Wales, and within 8 days in Scotland. Some funeral arrangements can be made during this time, but the death will need to be registered to complete the funeral arrangement.

What to do when someone dies in hospital

If someone has died in hospital and the death was expected, the doctor will issue a medical certificate of cause of death. In most cases, you'll need to register the death before your loved one is collected by a funeral director or family member. During this time the person who has died will be kept in a hospital mortuary until the death has been registered.

Once the death certificate has been issued, your chosen funeral director will be able to collect your loved one and bring them into their care. You'll usually need to let the hospital know which funeral director you have chosen so they are permitted to collect your loved one, this may involve signing a form. Alternatively, a relative will be able to collect your loved one, and take them home to rest if you wish.

If someone has died unexpectedly in hospital, the hospital may need to ask the deceased next of kin for permission to conduct a post-mortem examination to determine the cause of death. If the hospital is unable to find out the cause of death, the doctor will contact the Coroner's office to conduct a further investigation.

What to do when someone dies abroad

It can be very distressing if someone dies abroad, as it was unexpected and you might not be able to speak the native language. You'll need to contact the local British Embassy in the country where the person died who will help guide you through next steps including registering the death in the country where the person has died.

If you need to bring the person who's died back to the UK, or transport them to another part of the world, we can help. Our worldwide repatriation team can help you with everything from liaising with overseas representatives, to booking the airline to bring your loved one back home. Once they've arrived back to the UK, the Coroner will need to be notified and they will decide whether further investigation is required.

Find out more information here on what to do when someone dies abroad.

What is a Coroner?

The Coroner, known as the Procurator Fiscal in Scotland, will investigate the cause of death if someone has died unexpectedly. The emergency doctor or police will contact the coroner to begin their investigation, where a post-mortem may need to take place to identify the cause of death. The Coroner doesn't have to ask the next of kin's permission to conduct a post-mortem. Once this is complete and cause of death has been identified, your chosen funeral director will be able to collect the person who's died and bring them into their care to rest up until the day of the funeral.

If the Coroner still hasn't been able to identify the cause of death, or if the death was violent or happened in prison or police custody, an inquest must be held.

Click here for more information on what happens when a death is reported to the Coroner.

How to register a death

You'll need to register the death within 5 days of the death in England, Wales & Northern Ireland, and within 8 days in Scotland. You can register the death by visiting your local Registrar's Office. The Registrar will need to know some details about the person who has died and see relevant documents before they can provide you the death certificate. However, we can start making arrangements and giving you advice before that.

The person who registers the death is usually a relative of the person who has died, but there are other options if this isn't possible. If you'd like support, we can accompany you to the Registrar's Office.

Find out more information here on how to register a death.

Choosing a funeral director

When someone has died, you need to start thinking about which funeral director you'd like to use, as the person who has died will most commonly rest and be cared for at this funeral home. The chosen funeral director will collect your loved one from the place of death and bring them into their care.

At Co-op Funeralcare, we can take care of your loved one, even before funeral arrangements have begun. We’ll prepare them for the funeral, keep them safe, and treat them with the utmost respect and care, either at one of our funeral homes or in a specialist mortuary. Your local funeral director can help you with anything from letting family and friends know about a death, to creating a truly personalised service most fitting to your loved one. With over 1,000 funeral homes across the UK, we'll be right by you when you need us most.

You can find your local funeral home online or call us anytime on 0800 088 4883

Our legal support with Wills and Probate

It’s recommended that you locate the Will of your loved one before you finalise any funeral arrangements, as this could contain funeral wishes of the person who has died. If you can’t find the Will, or if you're unsure whether one was made, Co-op Legal Services can help you.

We know that thinking about the cost of a funeral at this time can be very stressful. If you choose Co-op Funeralcare, we can pay all the costs and pay back any deposit paid if you instruct our Probate team in Co-op Legal Services. Providing that the estate has sufficient assets that can be sold in due course. (e.g. a house to be sold or money in bank accounts).

Our Probate Solicitors can also provide Probate advice and guidance when a death has been reported to the Coroner.

Arranging a funeral

Once you've completed the steps above you need to begin considering the funeral arrangements. For example:

• Will it be a burial or a cremation?

• Where will the funeral take place?

• Did your loved one have a funeral plan?

If you're ready you can begin the arrangements online. We'll just need to know some details about you and the person who has died. Then your local funeral director will be in touch to arrange an appointment at your local funeral home, or, if you prefer, we can arrange a home visit, whichever is best for you.