For You and Your Family

What to do when a loved one dies: Step by step checklist

When someone dies, there is often a lot to deal with and while the grieving period can be difficult, there are plenty of decisions that need to be made – their finances, legal issues, arranging their funeral and their estate. At BakerLaw Solicitors the team will support your individual circumstances with the utmost sensitivity and personal care during this very difficult and confusing time.

We can provide help and guidance every step of the way. Understanding these steps may help ease some of the stress and confusion you may be feeling.

STEP 1: Obtain a medical certificate

If your loved one dies at home, it’s essential to contact their GP to obtain a medical certificate and ‘green form’. If the death was in a hospital or a nursing home, you’ll need to get a copy of the medical certificate from the relevant doctor and ‘green form’.

As soon as the death is confirmed, it’s important to consider if your loved one has recorded their decision about organ donation and discuss this with the doctor or nurse. 

STEP 2: Dealing with the deceased’s body

If the deceased died at home, the doctor or community nurse could help you prepare for the funeral. You may want to consider if their body should be kept in a place where family and friends can pay their respects.

Alternatively, your loved one’s body can be kept at the funeral director’s mortuary where they will take your loved one into their care.

If the deceased died in hospital, their body can often be kept in the hospital mortuary until the morning of the funeral or until you arrange for a funeral director to take care of your loved one’s body.

STEP 3: Registering the death

If you’re in England, Wales, or Northern Ireland, you must register the death with the nearest register office and within five days of someone dying.

Before you register the death, you need to make sure you have the medical certificate for the register office and ‘green form’ for the funeral director to start to make funeral arrangements.

When you register the death, at the appointment you will need to provide the following information about the deceased, together with the medical certificate:

  • full name (and any other names they had, such as a maiden name)
  • date and place of birth
  • date and place of death
  • usual address
  • most recent occupation
  • whether or not they were receiving any benefits, including State Pension, and the name, occupation, and date of birth of their spouse or civil partner.

If possible, also have to hand the deceased person’s:

  • birth certificate
  • NHS medical card or number
  • marriage or civil partnership certificate
  • driving licence
  • proof of their address.

STEP 4: Let friends and family know

Sharing the news of a death to relatives and friends is never easy, yet this is a necessary part of the process.

Contact family members and close friends as soon as possible. This will give time to start making plans to attend the funeral and spread the word to close acquaintances. It may also bring certain matters to light, for example, whether the deceased left a Will.

STEP 5: Dealing with the deceased’s property

If your loved one lived alone and has pets, you should make sure the pets are cared for either with a friend or relative or with an animal rescue service.

You should make sure their property is kept secure by locking all the windows and doors. In addition, ensure all bank cards and valuables are kept in a safe place. You may also want to consider checking the property regularly from burglary.

STEP 6: Inform the insurers

Call the loved one’s home insurance provider to notify the death. This is essential to keep the insurance valid, ensuring your loved one’s house and contents remain covered.

STEP 7: Funeral arrangements

It is possible your loved one made their funeral wishes clear before their death and a local funeral director received instructions from them.

If your loved one did not make their funeral wishes clear, they may have been contained in their Will or within a Letter of Wishes stored with their Will. Contact their local solicitor if you are unaware of their wishes and do not have a copy of their will.

If you do not know who your loved one’s solicitor is, look for evidence in documents stored by your loved one or ask the local solicitors if they held a Will for them.

STEP 8: Inform the ‘Tell Us Once’ service

Phone the ‘Tell Us Once’ service and inform them about your loved one’s death within the first two weeks. The register office will let you know if the service is available in your area, give you the telephone number and online address. They will also give you a unique reference number to use online or by phone when contacting the ‘Tell Us Once’ service.

The service will notify the authorities and government services that your loved one has passed away, rather than contacting each of the following separately.                                         

  • HMRC
  • DWP
  • Passport Office
  • The local council
  • DVLA

STEP 9: Dealing with the estate

After a loved one passes away, either the ‘executor’ or ‘administrator’ must deal with the finances and property of the deceased person’s ‘estate’.

If you have not located a Will, it’s important to determine if they had one. The Will should set out your loved one’s wishes regarding their estate. If they did not leave a Will, they would be considered to have died intestate.

If a solicitor is holding the Will, only the executors will have access to it. If the deceased did not leave a Will, then the court will appoint administrators for the estate. If you are an executor or believe that you are entitled to deal with the estate, you will need to apply for a Grant of Probate.

Probate is the legal authority (known as the ‘grant of probate’ or ‘grant of representation’) that enables the executor in a Will, or the person entitled to deal with the estate (if no will have been left), to deal with the deceased's affairs. Until a grant of probate has been obtained, it is unlikely you will be able to sell or deal with any of the deceased's assets.

STEP 10: Applying for probate

There is no urgency in dealing with your loved one’s paperwork or legal affairs, but it might help start gathering the important paperwork.

Applying for probate does not have to be done through a solicitor, but it is usually quicker and a solicitor will have the necessary expertise to deal with the estate. This is because there are many complex matters during the estate administration, such as tax affairs, dealing with property insurance, selling a property and managing investments. 

At BakerLaw, we can support you with dealing with your loved one’s assets and reassure you that all matters will be dealt with correctly. Our Probate & Estate Administration services can guide you and assist you with dealing with a loved one’s estate after their death. We can provide one-off advice and checking service, obtain the grant of probate, or deal with the whole estate. Appointing one of our lawyers can also avoid the possible risk of a potential family conflict. 

Contact our wills and probate solicitors in Farnham, Surrey

Our focus is always to provide you with peace of mind – for wills, power of attorney, trusts and probate advice. If you would like to speak to one of our expert lawyers, contact our Farnham office on 01252 733770 or online.


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