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Arranging a funeral

What to do when somebody dies

If someone dies in hospital the hospital staff will notify the next of kin. The hospital will keep the body in the mortuary until the next of kin or executor arranges for a funeral director to take it away.

If someone dies elsewhere - at home, or in a place they are staying in temporarily - and the death is expected the next of kin should contact the Dr who cared for them during their illness. The Doctor will attend and issue a medical certificate that shows the cause of death. This will be issued in a sealed envelope and the next of kin should take it, unopened, to the registrar. The next of kin will also receive a form confirming that the Doctor has signed the medical certificate and giving information on how to register the death.

If someone dies and the death was unexpected or due to violence or an accident then the police should be informed, and they will inform the Coroner. The Coroner will decide whether a post mortem or an inquest is required in order to establish the reasons of the death. Once the Coroner has made sufficient investigations and has either opened an inquest or has received the results of a post mortem, the body will be released to the next of kin and the funeral arrangements can be made. If an inquest has been opened the next of kin will not be required to register the death, and the Coroner will issue an interim death certificate, but if an inquest has not been opened the next of kin will be required to register the death.

Job Centre Plus, part of the Department for Work and Pensions, issue a free booklet "What to do after a death". You can obtain one by walking into a Job Centre Plus office or visit the GOV.UK website.

Registering a death

To find out how to register a death, visit our information page on how to register a death.

How to arrange a funeral

It is important to remember that if you go to a funeral director to arrange the funeral you are responsible for paying the bill. If you feel, after checking the deceased's funds, insurance policies and whether or not they had arranged a prepaid funeral (a funeral bond) you will not be able to afford the funeral you should contact JobCentre Plus to see if you qualify for the Social Fund. If not, it might be possible for the Local Authority (for the area in which the person died) to organise and pay for the funeral. But neither the Social Fund nor the Local Authority are able to pay if you have already begun the funeral arrangements.

The next of kin should contact the funeral director of their choice and ask for an appointment to make the funeral arrangements.The next of kin will need to take the certificate for burial or cremation (or the "After registration" form, in the case of a still born baby) issued by the registrar and hand it to the funeral director.

The funeral director will give a quote for the cost of the funeral, and if the next of kin feels it is too high they could ask another funeral director or two to supply quotes, so they can get the best value for money. There is no shame in this.

The funeral directors will take care of everything. They are the experts and will give all the advice, information and assistance needed to arrange for the funeral. They can arrange the care of the deceased, the coffin, funeral cars, the minister or conductor of the funeral, music, service details, flowers, obituaries and newspaper announcements, wake venues, caterers, etc.

Funerals without a funeral director

It is also possible to organise a funeral without the help of a funeral director and the staff of the crematorium or cemetery of your choice should be able to help you with that. Colchester crematorium office staff will be happy to help you obtain a coffin; will liaise with hospital, hospice and mortuary staff; advise to on transporting the deceased to the crematorium and cemetery; and will give help with the necessary forms, medical documentation, etc.

What to do when somebody dies abroad

When somebody dies abroad it would be advisable for the next of kin to contact a local funeral director in England for assistance. They will have up to date information on registering the death, transporting the deceased back here for the funeral or organising the funeral abroad.

A funeral director can also advise you on transporting cremated remains (ashes) abroad, or on bringing ashes back to England from abroad.

Page last reviewed: 14 October 2020


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