What to do when someone dies

Information on how to fulfill any legal requirements and guidance on the necessary paperwork.

If someone dies at home
Call the family doctor and nearest relative. If the death was expected, the doctor will give you a medical certificate showing the cause of death. They’ll also give you a formal notice that states they’ve signed the medical certificate and explain to you how to register the death. If the person is to be cremated, you’ll need two certificates signed by different doctors.
If someone dies in hospital
The hospital will usually issue a medical certificate and formal notice. The body will often be kept in the hospital mortuary until the funeral directors or relatives arrange a chapel of rest, or for the body to be taken home.
Unexpected death

If someone dies unexpectedly, or the family doctor hasn’t seen them in the last 28 days, the death is reported to a coroner. A coroner is a doctor or lawyer responsible for investigating unexpected deaths. They may call for a post-mortem or inquest, which could delay the funeral.

Death abroad

If someone dies abroad, you will need to register the death according to the regulations of the country and get a consulate death certificate. Register it with the British Consul in the country too, so a record can be kept in the UK.

The GOV.UK website offers two leaflets which explain the practical support British consular staff can offer and what you need to do.

Register the death

The first thing to do in the event of a death is to contact the GP or hospital doctor. They will certify the death and provide the Medical Certificate of Death. Then you will need to book an appointment with a registrar to deliver the certificate, usually within 5 days of the death. This process can be sped along by asking the registrar if they have any cancellations.

If it is difficult to attend the office in the district where the death happened, it is possible to register the death by ‘declaration’ at any register office in England or Wales. However, as the death will not be registered there, the funeral arrangements could be delayed if you choose to do this. Please note: that before the registration can take place, a death certificate issued by the doctor (or by the Coroner, if there has been a post mortem) must be seen by the Registrar.

Brighton and Hove Registry Office

The death must be registered at the Registry Office in the district where it occurred. If it happened in Brighton or Hove you should attend:

Brighton & Hove Register Office
Brighton Town Hall
Brighton, BN1 1JA

An appointment system is in operation between 9.30am – 5pm on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday & – Friday 10am – 5pm on Wednesday. To make an appointment follow this link, or telephone on (01273) 292016.

On Sundays and bank holidays, if you need to contact a registrar to arrange an urgent burial, you can do so between 10am-12 noon, by telephoning (07979) 648 227

Who can register the death?
  • a relative
  • a person present at the death
  • a person who is making the funeral arrangements

Other people may be able to register the death in certain circumstances. If you are unsure as to whether you can register, please telephone the registrar who will be happy to advise you.

When should I register?
You should usually register a death within five days. If the death has been reported to the coroner there may be a delay. Again, if you are in Brighton and have any queries, you can contact the coroner’s officers on (01273) 665572 or the registry office on (01273) 292016.

What information will the registrar ask for?
  • the date and place of the death
  • the full name of the person who has died (and maiden name if the deceased was a married woman)
  • his/her date and place of birth
  • the occupation of the person (if the deceased was a married woman or widow, the full name and occupation of her husband)
  • their usual address
  • if the deceased was married, the date of birth of their surviving spouse
  • whether the deceased was receiving a pension from public funds
  • his/her medical card

Don’t worry if you don’t have all this information to hand, the registrar will support you through.

What documents will the registrar give me?
  • a green form to take to the funeral director or to use yourself to book the cremation or burial. In some cases this will be issued by the Coroner
  • occasionally a registrar may be able to issue a certificate for burial only (but never cremation) where no one has yet been able to register the death.
  • a white form (called a BD8) for the DSS

These documents will be issued free of charge.

If you need death certificates (which are certified copies of the entry) you will be able to purchase them from the registrar. These may be required for:

  • banks or building societies
  • probate insurance companies
  • stocks and shares solicitor
  • private pensions
  • post office accounts

If you do not purchase enough certificates at the time of the registration, further copies can be obtained at any time in the future.

Registering the death will provide you with the necessary paperwork for burial and cremation.

Arrange care of the body

When you are ready to have the body of the person who has died moved form the place they have died, we can collect them and bring them into our care to stay with us. In certain circumstances you might choose for them to be kept in a local mortuary, or can be left where they are or kept at home ahead of the funeral.

You do not have to employ the services of a funeral director – even if there was a previous arrangement or the body is already in a funeral director’s mortuary. What happens is up to you.

It is worth considering that, especially when the death is expected, the best moments to spend time with your person might be just after they die. Allowing time and space at critical times can help those involved to begin to process what has happened.

You may like to employ someone to support you with logistics. A funeral arranger or undertaker can manage your experience. Some may also be able to help you care for the body yourself.

Think about arranging a funeral

A funeral is about bringing people together to confront the sadness of what has happened, and then move forward collectively. Alternative funerals enable the loved one’s family to be a part of the final farewell.

In the immediate event of a person’s death, it can be helpful to give some consideration to funeral arrangements, but there’s no need to be too concerned with details right away. A funeral arranger can guide you through the options and processes.

To begin with, simply reflect upon the sort of event which would best represent the deceased. Think about funerals you’ve been to: What worked? What didn’t? Could there be an element of participation or creativity? How did the dead person live? How can this be reflected and discovered in the way we say goodbye?

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