When a loved one passes away, it can be a complex time, filled with emotions and decisions. Making choices like funeral directors and arrangements can be difficult, especially if the death was unexpected. 

You may even feel panicked, pressed for time or unsure what the first steps to take are when a close relative or friend has passed away and you’re responsible for their send off.

This guide will aim to ease some of those worries by letting you know what to do in the event of a death.

What to do First, and Who to Notify

This process may differ slightly depending on where the death has occurred. If the death has occurred in your or their home, or any other private residence, you’ll first need to contact the deceased person’s GP – or the surgery’s out of hours service if the GP is unavailable at the time. 

If you cannot contact either of these services, then you’ll need to call for an ambulance to pick up the deceased’s body to be looked after and then let the GP know as soon as you can following this.

If the death occurs in a nursing home, hospice or hospital, then staff will contact a doctor or other medical professional on your behalf. It’s likely, where possible, that it will be the same doctor who had the deceased person as a patient.

If it is not the same doctor that had the deceased under their care, the important documentation will be forwarded to their regular GP’s surgery to be collected by you.

Once this documentation is completed by the doctor, you can make arrangements with your funeral director to take the deceased’s body to the chapel of rest.

Choosing a Funeral Director

Choosing a funeral director is something you should take your time doing. You should never be pressured or feel pressured into anything, and a good funeral director will not do this. Take as much time that you can to research funeral directors in your local area. 

For example, if you live in the Essex area, search something like funeral directors leigh and you’ll find suggestions for directors that you can compare by looking at their websites. Don’t forget you can contact them and speak with them directly to learn more.

What the Doctor Will Do

The doctor (or other medical professional) will need to issue a cause of death medical certificate, as well as a formal notice that states the certificate has been signed by the doctor. This notice will also inform you on how to register the death.

If the Doctor Cannot Determine the Cause of Death

In some situations, the doctor may not be able to determine a cause of death. This is most likely to happen if the death happens unexpectedly and/or in a public place.

Depending on the type of public place the death occurs you will need to take the following steps:

  • If the death occurs in a managed public place like a hotel or shopping centre, you’ll first need to contact the management, who will call an ambulance for you. If they are uncontactable, you can call the ambulance yourself.
  • If the death occurs in an unmanaged public place like a park or on the street, call 999 and ask for both the police and an ambulance.

If a situation like this does happen, the doctor will contact a coroner to investigate the circumstances of the death and establish the cause. It is possible that a post-mortem examination may take place.

Registering a Death

You are legally required to register a death within 5 days. However, this may be extended to 14 days in certain circumstances such as if a coroner is involved. The coroner will issue the death certificate directly to you.

Once you have the certificate, you can register the death. To register the death, you will need to be: a relative, a person who was present at the death, an occupier of the premises where the death happened (if you knew it happened), or the person arranging the funeral (not the funeral director).

Knowing What to Do

Knowing what to do when someone dies should bring at least some comfort to you at such a difficult time. It will allow you to prepare yourself, but never be afraid to ask professionals and funeral directors for advice.