What to do when someone dies | NatWest

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What to do when someone dies

A step by step guide

Let us know of your bereavement

When you’re grieving, all the practical tasks that need to be done can seem overwhelming. We’ve put together this step-by-step guide to help you manage things as smoothly and easily as possible.

Get a medical certificate

If the death was expected their GP will issue a medical certificate that states the cause of death. If the death was unexpected and the GP isn’t sure of the cause, they’ll need to report the death to the local coroner. This means it may take longer for a death certificate to be issued.


You’ll need to get a medical certificate before you can register the death, but you may be able to get an interim certificate from the coroner that can be used to notify some organisations of the death.

Register the death

Legally, a death needs to be registered within 5 days in England, Wales and Northern Island, and within 8 days in Scotland, unless the local coroner is investigating it. You can do this at any Registrar Office but if you do it in the district where the person died, you’ll get the documents (death certificate) you need straight away. It might be a good idea to buy extra death certificates to help you sort of the deceased’s affairs.


You might need to make an appointment to register the death, so check your local council website for more details. If you register the death in another district, the documents will be sent to the office in the district where the person died. So it’ll be a few days before you get the death certificate. You'll find full details on how to register a death at Gov.uk.

Find the will

Funeral arrangements are usually made in the first few days following the death, so try and find the will straight away.


The person may have included details about the type of funeral they wanted in their will. You don’t have to follow their wishes but you’ll be able to find out if they’ve made any provisions to pay for it, if they had a pre-paid funeral plan, and if they wanted to be cremated or buried.


It may be with a solicitor or a family member might know where it’s kept. 


What to do if there is no will


If there is no will, it’s called ‘dying intestate’ and means that the deceased’s estate is likely to take longer to be wound up.


If there is anything complex in the deceased’s financial, business or family affairs, it’s a best to take advice from a solicitor experienced in probate law. You can find a solicitor at The Law Society. The next of kin can also apply for a ‘grant of representation’ which gives them the legal right to access things like the person’s bank account and deal with the deceased’s estate (probate). 

Arrange the funeral

The funeral normally can’t be held until the death has been registered but you can start arranging it immediately. Most people pay a funeral director to organise it, but you can do it yourself.  If using a funeral director, you should get more than one quote to compare prices, as they will vary.  Make sure you ask them to include all costs.  You can find a funeral director at the National Association of Funeral Directors or the Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors.


Some local councils run their own funeral services and may organise Public Health Funerals in some circumstances. The Department for Work and Pension offers funeral support for those on low incomes. Down to Earth is a charity that offers advice and help paying for a funeral to those on low incomes.


Subject to certain conditions the deceased’s bank may be able to give you money from the deceased’s bank account to pay for funeral expenses.

Tell organisations that need to know

Contact their bank, mortgage lender or landlord, insurance companies, pension provider and utility companies as soon as possible.


Most councils run a service called Tell us Once, that your local registrar should tell you about when you register the death. This service lets you report the death to most organisations in one go, including: HM Revenue and Customs, Department for Work and Pensions, Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, Passport Office and the local council.


It’s also a good idea to redirect any post using a special circumstances form from Royal Mail so you can watch out for anything you might’ve missed.

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Most people don't know where to start when it comes to dealing with the financial and practical tasks that need to be completed after someone dies. We'll help you get things sorted as easily as possible.

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