WHAT TO DO
There are certain practical matters that have to be taken care of. We hope the information given here will be informative and useful – please remember this is purely a guide and we will answer any questions that might arise, so do not hesitate to contact us.
If the deceased has a solicitor, contact him or her as soon as possible. If not, check whether the deceased had made a will – there may be detailed information as to certain requests for the funeral. Find out if the deceased had taken out a pre-paid funeral plan. Once the death has been registered or in the case of a coroner’s case the Coroner has been informed, we will see to all other details as to the arrangements of the funeral.
The death must be registered by the Registrar of Births and Deaths for the area in which it occurred. We will advise you on where and when to go.
If the death has been referred to the Coroner, it cannot be registered until the Registrar has received authority from the Coroner to do so.
The death must be registered within five days (unless the Registrar says this period may be extended).
When you go to the Registrar you should take the following:
- The Medical Certificate of cause of death
- The deceased Medical Card, if possible
- The deceased Birth Certificate, if available
You should tell the Registrar:
- The date and place of death
- The deceased’s last (usual) address
- The deceased’s first names and surname (and maiden name where appropriate)
- The deceased’s date and place of birth (town and county, and country if born abroad)
- The deceased’s occupation and the name and occupation of their spouse or partner (where applicable)
- Whether the deceased was getting a pension or allowance from public funds
- If the deceased was married, the date of birth of the surviving widow or widower.
The Registrar will give you:
- A Certificate for Burial or Cremation (known as the Green Form) unless the Coroner has given you an Order for Burial or a Certificate for Cremation. This gives permission for the body to be buried or for an application for cremation to be made. We will require this form as soon as possible.
- A Certificate of Registration of Death. This is for Social Security purposes only. Read the information on the back of the certificate. If any of it applies, fill in the certificate and send it to your Social Security office.
The Death Certificate is a certified copy of the entry in the death register. The Registrar can let you have a Death Certificate if you want one, but you will have to pay a fee. You will need a Death Certificate for the Will and for any pension claims, bank accounts, building society accounts, shares, insurance policies, savings bank certificates and premium bonds.
If a baby is stillborn (born dead after the 24th week of pregnancy) you will be given a Medical Certificate of Stillbirth signed by the midwife or doctor, which you should give to the Registrar. If no doctor or midwife has examined the body, you must sign Form 35 which the Registrar will give you.
The Coroner is a doctor or a lawyer responsible for investigating deaths in the following situations:
- The deceased was not attended by a doctor during the last illness or if the doctor who treated the deceased had not seen the deceased either after death or within 14 days before death
- The death was violent or unnatural or occurred while the patient was undergoing an operation or was under effect of anaesthetic
- The death occurred in prison or police custody
The Coroner may arrange for a post-mortem examination of the body. The consent of the relative is not needed for this, but they can choose a doctor to be present. It may be important to know the precise cause of death.
If you would like advice or information about a death reported to the Coroner, contact the Coroner’s Officer. We will advise you where they can be contacted.
An inquest is an enquiry into the medical cause and circumstances of a death. It is held in public, sometimes with a jury. It is up to the Coroner how to organise the enquiry in a way to best serve the public interest and the interest of relatives.
The Coroner will hold an inquest if the death was any of the following: violent or unnatural or caused by an industrial disease or the death occurred in a prison or if the cause of death remains uncertain after a post-mortem examination.
It may be important to have a lawyer to represent you if the death was caused by a road accident, or an accident at work, or in circumstances which could lead to a claim for compensation.
When someone dies, you may be able to apply for a ‘grant of representation’. This gives you the legal right to deal with the person’s property, money and possessions (their ‘estate’). The right to deal with the estate of someone who has died is called ‘probate’.
You can apply yourself or use a solicitor.
In most cases, the basic process is as follows:
- Check if there’s a will – this normally states who sorts out the estate; if there’s no will the next of kin can apply.
- Apply to get a ‘grant of representation’ – this gives you the legal right to access things like the person’s bank account/
- Pay Inheritance Tax – this is only paid if the estate’s worth over £325,000 and is part of applying for a grant of representation – once you’ve paid any tax due, you can collect the assets.
- Collect the assets – e.g. money from the sale of the persons property
- Pay any debts – e.g. unpaid utility bills
- Distribute the estate – this means giving any property, money or possessions to the people entitled to it (‘beneficiaries’).
When a grant of representation may not be needed
You don’t normally need a grant if the estate:
- passes to the surviving spouse/civil partner because it was held in joint names – e.g. a savings account
- doesn’t include any land, property or shares.
You should contact the organisation holding the money – e.g. the bank or building society. They may ask for proof of death – e.g. the death certificate after the death has been registered.
If the person left a will
You can apply for a grant of representation if you’re the ‘executor’ of the will – the person named to deal with the estate.
If more than one executor is named in the will, the probate application form and guidance notes explain what to do.
You should contact your local Probate Registry if either:
- no executor is named in the will
- none of the named executors are willing or able to apply
The Probate Registry will explain what you need to do.
If the person didn’t leave a will
The person’s next of kin – e.g. the spouse (or civil partner) or children – can usually apply for a grant of representation.
If there’s no will, the law decides who inherits the estate.
Partners and ex-partners
If you’re the partner of the person who has died but were not married to them (or in a civil partnership) you can’t apply. You’re also not automatically entitled to get any of your partner’s estate. You should get legal advice to find out about your rights.
If the person was separated but not yet divorced (or had their civil partnership dissolved), their spouse (or civil partner) would inherit some or all of the estate – and must apply for the grant.
Birmingham District Probate Registry
The Priory Courts, 33 Bull Street, Birmingham, B4 6DU
Telephone: 0121 681 3400
You should return the following, with a note of explanation and the date of death with each of the documents:
- Order books, payable orders, or giro cheques to the Social Security office or other DSS office which issued the payment. This applies also to a Child Benefit book which includes payment for a child who has died. Orders should not be cashed after the death of a person. It may be useful to keep a record of pension book numbers or other Social Security numbers before you send anything back.
- the deceased’s passport to the Passport Office. The Passport Office for this area is at 101 Old Hall Street, Liverpool, L3 9BD.
- the deceased’s driving licence to DVLA, Swansea, SA99 1AB.
- the registration documents of a car, for the change of ownership to be recorded.
- any season tickets. Claim any refund due.
- membership cards of clubs and associations. Claim any refund due.
- library books and tickets.
- any National Insurance papers to the relevant office.
- any NHS equipment such as wheelchairs, hearing aids, artificial limbs.
You should tell:
- the local Social Services department of the council if the person was getting meals-on-wheels, home help or day-centre care or had any appliance or piece of equipment issued by the department.
- any hospital the person was attending
- the family doctor to cancel any home nursing
- the Inland Revenue
- the Social Security Office if any money was being paid directly into a bank or building society account.
- any employer or trade union
- car insurance company (if you are insured to drive the car under the deceased’s name you will cease to be legally insured)
- gas, electricity and telephone companies
- the local council housing department if the person who has died was living in a council house
- the Post Office so that they can re-direct the deceased person’s mail.
If you are having problems with the cost of the funeral the Social Fund may be able to help you. The Social Fund is part of the Social Security system.
You may get help if there is not enough money to pay for the funeral and you are responsible for arranging it and you or your partner are getting any of these Social Security benefits:
- Income Support
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- or Housing Benefit
- or Council Tax Benefit
- or Working Families Tax Credit – must include the severe disability element or disability element
- or Child Tax Credit – must be at a higher level than family element
- Pension Credit
If you think you may be able to claim, then we will help you with the completion of the appropriate forms and deal with the necessary paperwork on your behalf.