What to do When Someone Dies

Death at home

When a person dies at home, the next of kin or executor and the family doctor should be informed.

The doctor who cared for the person during the last illness will complete a free Certificate of the Cause of Death (called the "death certificate", hereafter).

If cremation is intended, this doctor will complete cremation Form B and will arrange for another doctor to complete the confirmatory Form C. The second doctor will need to view the body at some stage. These forms are provided free of charge from the administration office for the crematorium. The two doctors will require payment for completing the forms. These forms are not required if the death is taken over by the Coroner.

The death certificate must be taken to the Registrar of Births and Deaths within five days. In Scotland, you can visit any Registrar of Births and Deaths within eight days. Ensure you visit the correct office and check opening times, as they may operate limited hours. The doctor may send the death certificate direct to the Registrar, and not give it to you to take.

Death in hospital

If someone dies in hospital, the death certificate will be issued there. The next of kin may be requested to authorise a post-mortem. If cremation is intended, the hospital will arrange the necessary documentation. The deceased will be transferred to a mortuary.

Arrangements to deliver the death certificate to the Registrar of Births and Deaths and to register the death are as above. The Registrar will be the one covering the Hospital area, which may be different to the home address of the deceased.

Death in residential or nursing home

If the death occurs in a residential or nursing home, they may follow a similar routine as for that in hospital.

In addition, they may have an arrangement with a funeral director for the removal of the body to a mortuary or a Chapel of Rest. This funeral director does not have to do the funeral for you, neither should they canvass your business. You may choose your own funeral director, or you can do the funeral without one.

Coroner (sudden or accidental death)

If the death was sudden or due to an accident, or no doctor had attended for some time, the Coroner must be informed. On some occasions the Registrar of Births and Deaths may also report the death to the Coroner.

The Coroner will decide whether to hold a post-mortem and/or an inquest. As most cases are found to be due to natural causes, inquests are rarely required. The Coroner will then notify the Registrar that the death can be registered. The person registering the death will need to visit the Registrar to do this. The Coroner's Officer will keep this person informed about what to do.

As these arrangements may cause delay, you should not arrange the funeral until authorised by the Coroner's Officer. The Coroner will issue an Order for Burial (white certificate) or for Cremation (yellow certificate) without charge. The certificate should be given to your funeral director or sent to the cemetery or crematorium as soon as possible.

The deceased

While the above procedures are taking place, it is essential that the deceased is cared for.

With death at home, if you are using a funeral director, he or she should be called as soon as possible. They will remove the deceased and complete laying out and possibly embalming. The deceased may remain at their Chapel of Rest or may be returned home, should you so wish. If the death was in hospital, the staff usually complete laying out and your funeral director will collect the deceased and carry out your instructions.

If you are not using a funeral director, and the death occurs at home, you may complete laying out, or have this done by a district nurse or some other person. The deceased can remain at home and must be kept as cool as possible. Your local mortuary, cemetery or crematorium may have facilities to hold the deceased pending the funeral. If the death was in hospital, the deceased will be taken to the hospital mortuary. You can collect the deceased yourself, provided you have a coffin and suitable transport. You can keep the deceased at home, or you may be able to use the mortuary until the day of the funeral.

These arrangements are not mandatory and can be varied in accordance with ethnic or other needs.

Child bereavement

In the UK, when a baby or child dies, or a child is bereaved, many of those affected are unable to access good quality support which meets their individual needs.

Child Bereavement UK (CBUK) supports families and educates professionals when a baby or child of any age dies or is dying, or when a child is facing bereavement. CBUK believes all families should have the support they need to rebuild their lives when a child grieves or when a child dies. Their aim is to make sure they do.

Death abroad

Please visit www.gov.uk for more details on deaths abroad as well as further information on what to do when someone dies. Refer to your Local Burial Authority or Funeral Director for further advice.

Register a death (or birth or marriage)

Registrations of births, deaths and marriages/ceremonies are handled by Kent County Council's registration service by appointment. Please visit KCC Registration Services for full details.

The Registrar can register the death only if he/she is given or has obtained the death certificate or has received notification from the Coroner. He or she will require to know the following details about the deceased:

  • Full name - including any other names they were known by
  • Maiden surname - if the deceased is a married woman
  • Date and place of birth
  • Occupation - and the husband's full name and occupation, if the deceased is a married woman or a widow

You will need to confirm the date and place of death. Other questions will be asked about the date of birth of the surviving spouse, and information about the state pensions and allowances the person was receiving, including war pensions. The NHS insurance number will be requested and the medical card of the deceased should be surrendered to the Registrar, if it is available. If the number is not known, and the medical card unavailable, you can still register the death.

The Registrar will issue a free social security form to ensure that benefits are being paid correctly. If the Coroner is not issuing an Order for Burial or Cremation, the Registrar will issue a free certificate for this purpose. This should be given to your funeral director or sent to the cemetery or crematorium as soon as possible.

The Registrar will advise you over any further certificate copies you require and the cost involved. These will be for obtaining Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration, to show banks, social security or building societies, and to claim insurance to:

If you do not have access to the internet and would like some advice from KCC about registering a death, please call 03000 41 51 51.


It can be difficult enough dealing with bereavement without having to deal with the deceased's property, possessions and personal matters. For this reason it is advisable to contact a solicitor to help with such matters. You should ascertain if the deceased made a will and consult the solicitors who hold it, to see what the deceased's wishes were as to the funeral arrangements. The will also discloses the names of the executors or the persons legally entitled to deal with the deceased's estate. The solicitor will assist you with the administration of the estate and any questions relating to taxation that may arise.

Funeral directors

Usually the 'Executor of the Will' or closest surviving relative will employ a professional funeral director to make the funeral arrangements. These include completing the necessary forms, moving the body and helping with registering the death.

Your Funeral Director will usually include all costs in their final bill but you should check this at the start. For more information about funeral directors and to find one in your area visit the National Association of Funeral Directors.


Embalming is defined as the preservation of a body from decay, originally with spices and, more recently, through arterial injection of embalming fluid.

Historically, the process is identified with the Egyptians and the mummification of bodies. In fact this complicated and extreme method was abandoned, although in recent centuries ways of preserving bodies has received considerable attention. Varying levels of success were achieved, but probably due to expense, they were utilised by very few people.

The current use of the word "embalming" is misleading. The process is generally referred to as hygienic treatment. It is used to improve the visual appearance of the body and to prevent deterioration in the period leading up to the funeral which would make the viewing of the deceased by relatives a less distressing event. It has no long-term preservative value and cannot be compared with the Egyptian concept of preserving bodies.

Environmental issues

The embalming process involves removing the body fluids and replacing them with a solution of formaldehyde, often containing a pink dye. The body fluids are treated and disposed of via the public sewer. The embalming fluid normally consists of a 2% solution of formaldehyde, an irritant, volatile acid. Those who have concerns that embalming fluid may pollute the environment have a right to stipulate that this is not carried out on their body after death. Similarly, executors or nearest relatives making funeral arrangements can specify that embalming is not carried out on the deceased.

In some burial schemes, such as woodland burial, all chemicals may be prohibited. This restriction may apply to embalming fluid as well as to horticultural chemicals.

Do you have a choice?

You should reasonably expect to be informed about the embalming process.

If you are opposed to embalming, it may be advisable to expressly forbid it.

What if the person who has died had no relatives?

If there is no will, and the person who died leaves no surviving husband, wife or civil partner or blood relatives, the estate will go to the crown. For more information, you should contact the Treasury Solicitors Department:

The Treasury's Solicitors Department (BV)
One Kemble Street

Arranging a cremation

Ashford Borough Council does not have any crematoria. The nearest crematorium is in Charing, the telephone number is 01233 712443.

Alternatively, you can visit Charing Crematorium website. Or speak to a funeral director of your choice who will organise this on your behalf.

Arranging an independent funeral

If there is no family or other agency to make suitable funeral arrangements, the council will arrange a cremation for a deceased person, as part of its public health duties. This will not apply if the person died in hospital. It will only occur if we establish there is no alternative, following a thorough investigation. We will recover any expenses from the deceased person's estate, or from anyone responsible for maintaining the deceased prior to their death. The first claim on the deceased's estate is for funeral expenses. The council has no powers to accept responsibility after private funeral arrangements have been made.

Public health funerals

If somebody dies and it appears that no suitable arrangements have been made then Ashford Borough Council has a responsibility to make sure that a person receives a proper burial or cremation (Section 46 of the 1984 Public Health Act).

This usually happens when someone dies with no known blood relatives or has relatives that do not want, or who are not able, to be involved.

When does this happen?

Ashford Borough Council normally act's on instructions from the local Coroner's Office.

In some cases managers of residential homes or sheltered accommodation tell the council when a death has happened at their home or accommodation.

This happens when they do not think that there are any relatives willing or able to make the funeral arrangements.

If a person dies in hospital then arrangements for burial or cremation are the responsibility of the health authority.

What happens next?

When the council has been told about a death the deceased person's belongings are collected by the council from the police or whoever else has them.

If the address of where the deceased person lived is known, the council will search their home to try and find a will or any other documents that will tell us if they have any relatives, religious beliefs or funeral preferences. If details about family and friends are found, they will be told about the death and they will be asked if they want to make the funeral arrangements. If a will is found the executor (the person who will be responsible for looking after your estate when you die) will be asked to make the funeral arrangements in line with the deceased person's wishes. The council will then take no further action.

Burial or cremation?

Unless the council know that the deceased would have wanted a burial, funeral arrangements will be made with a funeral director of our choice to have a cremation service. If the deceased has left paperwork or told family or friends that they wanted to be buried, suitable arrangements will be made. In either case an appropriate religious or non-religious ceremony will be arranged depending on the deceased's beliefs (if we know what their beliefs were).

Financial help

If someone in your family dies, it can cause money problems. This may only be for a short time, while you wait for their estate to be distributed, or you may need long term help.

Job Centre Plus and HM Revenue and Customs can offer you help and advise about any entitlements you may have if you lose a loved one.

Gov.uk's births, marriages and deaths section offers advice on claiming bereavement benefits including widowed parents allowance/bereavement allowance.

For tax credits visit HMRC, or call 0845 300 3900 and for other HM Revenue and customs assistance including maternity benefits, child benefit and guardians allowance.

Funeral payments

If you're on a low income and need help to pay for a funeral you're arranging, you may be able to get a Funeral Payment from the Social Fund providing you are in receipt of one of the following:

  • Income support
  • Jobseekers' allowance (income based)
  • Housing benefit
  • Council Tax benefit
  • Child Tax Credit which includes an amount higher than the family element
  • Working Tax Credit where a disability or severe disability element is included in the award

For further information on Funeral Payments please see Gov.UK's advice on funeral payments.