What to do when someone dies

When someone dies, you will need to inform a number of people and organisations and complete certain documents needed by law.

If you are a relative or friend you can do some of these things yourself.

Others will need to be done by the executor or administrator of the estate.

  • Register the death. At the time of registration, the registrar can also provide you with details of the Tell Us Once Service.
  • Begin arrangements for the funeral (You should check the will for any special requests)
  • Contact a funeral director if you intend to use one
  • Contact the executor as soon as you can to enable them to start the process of obtaining probate if necessary. The executor is usually nominated in the will.
  • If there is no will, decide who will apply to manage the deceased's affairs and contact the Probate Registry to apply for 'letters of administration' if necessary

How to register a death

When someone dies, you'll need to register their death within five days from when it happened. This registration must take place in the district where the death occurred.

Sometimes, in exceptional circumstances, and if a coroner is involved, the period in which you have to register the death can be extended.

If you live out of the county and it would be difficult for you to travel to Kent, then you can visit your local registration office and declare the necessary information. This process is called Registration by Declaration. In this case, your local registration office will then send the details to The Kent Registration Service, who will then issue the documentation that you will require to move forward with funeral plans.

You can book an appointment to register a death online at www.kent.gov.uk/registration or by contacting 03000 415151.

You can only register a death once you have been notified by the doctor that the medical cause of death certificate has been issued to the registration office. In the case of a death that has been reported to the coroner, you must receive confirmation from the coroner's office that the relevant paperwork has been issued to the registration office.

The death can be registered by the following people, in order of priority:

  • A relative (e.g. by blood, marriage or civil partnership)
  • Someone present at the death
  • The occupier of the nursing/ residential home/official from the hospital where the death took place
  • The person making the funeral arrangements
  • The person who found the body
  • The person in charge of the body

Information you will need to provide to the registrar about the deceased

  • The date and place of death
  • Their full name and any other names they are known by, or have been known by, including any maiden surname
  • Their date and place of birth
  • Their last main paid occupation (also if the deceased was married, widowed or had a formal civil partnership, the full name and occupation of their spouse or civil partner)
  • Their usual address
  • The date of birth of a surviving spouse or a civil partner
  • Details of any public sector pensions e.g. civil service, teacher or armed forces

If you are registering the death you are required to give the registrar the following information:

  • Your relationship to the deceased.
    (For example, son, daughter, widow, widower, niece, nephew, surviving civil partner)
  • Your full name
  • Your usual address

The documents that will be issued after the registration

  • A certificate for burial or cremation (called the green form) giving permission for the body to be buried or for an application for cremation to be made (unless this has been previously issued by the coroner)
  • If the deceased is to be buried or cremated outside of England or Wales the coroner will issue the necessary forms
  • A certificate of registration of death (form BD8) issued to inform the Department for Work and Pensions of the death
  • Tell Us Once unique reference number

You will be able to buy certified copies of the entry in the death register (death certificates). The executor or administrator will need certificates to sort out the deceased's affairs.

Anything that needs to be closed down or claimed - for example, bank accounts or mobile phone contracts will require a certificate.

They must be originals and not photocopies.

Tell us once and we'll tell the rest

When someone dies there are lots of things that need to be organised, at a time when you probably least feel like doing them. One of these is contacting government departments and local council services.
The Tell Us Once service has been set up to help you through this difficult time. Rather than you having to contact lots of organisations to notify them of a death, they can do it for you. All you need to do is provide some information at the death registration and they will do the rest.

The service is split into two stages

First stage

The first stage is a legal requirement where the registrar enters the deceased's details on the Tell Us Once national database. This is carried out immediately after the death registration.

Second stage

The second stage is completed at home by telephone or online, using the unique reference number given to you by the registrar at the appointment. You will need the following information about the deceased to complete the second stage:

  • Their national insurance number or date of birth
  • Name of their local council service
  • Details of any benefits or services they were receiving

If applicable:

  • Passport number
  • Driving licence number
  • Blue Badge number
  • Dates of last hospital/hospice/care home stay

You will also need:

  • Name, full address and telephone number of next of kin
  • Name, full address and telephone number of the person dealing with the estate
  • Name, full address, telephone number and either national insurance number or date of birth of surviving husband, wife or civil partner
  • You must obtain the permission of the persons listed above before you provide information about them

Organisations tell us once can inform

Local Council
  • Housing benefit office
  • Council housing
  • Council tax
  • Collection of payment for council services
  • Library services
  • Electoral services
  • Blue Badge
  • Adult services
  • Children's services
  • Concessionary travel
Department for Work and Pensions
  • Pensions and benefits
HM Revenue and Customs
  • Personal taxation
  • Child Benefit
  • Tax Credits
HM passport office and driver vehicle licence agency
Public Sector Pensions
  • NHS, Civil Service and Armed Forces pensions
  • Compensation scheme administered by Veterans UK
  • Local Government pension funds

Please note, organisations can be added to and removed from this list from time to time.

The coroner

What happens when the death is referred to a coroner?

Sometimes, a death might be reported to the coroner. This can happen for a number of reasons; it may be that the doctor is unsure of the exact cause, or that the person has died earlier than expected, suffered from an industrial disease, died during a surgical operation, or before recovery from an anaesthetic.

If the coroner determines the death is the result of natural disease or illness, additional paperwork giving the cause of death will be sent to the registrar on completion of the coroner's enquiries.

You can then proceed to register the death.

However, if the coroner requests a post mortem examination to be held, they will issue paperwork in place of the doctor's medical certificate.

You will be able to register the death once the registrar has received this paperwork from the coroner (usually a few days).

In cases where the cause of death takes longer to establish, the coroner will first issue an interim certificate relating to the death for you to use to settle some of the deceased's affairs. However, the death must still be registered with the registrar once proceedings are concluded.

In cases where the cause of death is unnatural, remains unknown or unexplained, the coroner will decide to hold an inquest and the registration of the death will be delayed.


The coroner needs to hold an inquest to investigate any death which:

  • is of a sudden cause
  • Is violent, unnatural or suspicious
  • Is due to accident or industrial disease
  • Occurs during an operation or before recovery from anaesthetic
  • Occurs in legal custody

An inquest is not a trial. It is a public court hearing held by the coroner in order to establish who died, and how, when and where the death occurred. The inquest will be held as soon as possible and the coroner will explain the process to you. If the death occurred in prison or custody, or if it resulted from an accident at work, there will usually be a jury at the inquest. The coroner or jury comes to a conclusion, which includes the legal determination that states who died, and where, when and how they died. The coroner or jury also makes findings to allow the cause of death to be registered and the next of kin will be given details of how to obtain a copy of the death certificate.

Local registration offices

Sevenoaks district

  • Edenbridge Library
  • Sevenoaks Library
  • Swanley Library

Tonbridge district

  • Tonbridge Library
  • Larkfield Library

Please visit the gov website for the most up-to-date information or contact 03000 415151

The Funeral

How to arrange the funeral

When someone dies, there are several ways to organise their funeral.

A funeral can be either by burial or by cremation and you can organise it with or without the help of a funeral director. In some cases the person who has died may have planned their own funeral in advance.

Using a funeral director

Many people choose to use a professional funeral director to help plan and organise the funeral during this difficult time. They will be able to offer advice to you about the different options available and help you in making the appropriate arrangements including the following:

  • Where the body should rest before the funeral
  • The time and place of the funeral
  • The type of service (religious or other) and who will conduct/ contribute
  • Costs
  • Where to donate flowers after the funeral
  • Sending out invitations

Organising alternative burials

If you are planning a burial on private land then a number of local authority permissions will need to be granted.

Even if you are the landowner, you must check the deeds to ensure there are no restrictions on what the property may be used for. It is important to consult the local district council and environmental health department which will want to ensure that the local water table will not be affected.

A record of the burial should be made and kept with the deeds or other relevant documents relating to the land. You will need a death certificate signed by a doctor and a certificate for burial from the registrar. If you are planning a private burial, for example not in a churchyard or cemetery, you must first register your intention to do so with the local authority.

Civil funerals

A civil funeral is for people who prefer not to have a religious ceremony. Your funeral director may suggest a list of civil funeral celebrants in your area.

Paying for the funeral

The cost of the funeral will need to be covered by the person arranging it, so if that's you, you'll need to ensure you know where the money will come from to cover all the costs.

Funerals may be paid for in different ways including:

  • From the estate of the deceased
  • The deceased may have been paying into a funeral scheme or have a prepaid funeral plan - you will need to check paperwork to see if a plan exists
  • Money from a life insurance policy or pension scheme
  • The deceased's bank or building society may agree to release funds to pay for funeral costs
  • You or the executor may need to pay and then recover the money from the estate later

Funeral costs can vary, so it is recommended that you obtain several quotes before deciding on a funeral director.

Financial help

If you need help to pay for a funeral you're arranging, you may be able to claim a funeral payment from the Department for Work and Pensions.

The amount you get depends on your circumstances and if you are eligible.

See the government website for more information. You must pay back the funeral payment amount if you later receive money from the deceased's estate.

The estate includes any money or property the person who has died had, but not a house or personal things left to a widow, widower or surviving civil partner.

To find out if you are eligible for other bereavement benefits visit www.gov.uk/bereavement-payment or telephone The Bereavement Service on 0345 606 0265. Textphone: 0345 606 0285. Monday to Friday, 8am-6pm.

Documents you'll need before you can arrange a funeral

You will need to give the funeral director, crematorium or cemetery office the following documentation:


  • Green Certificate for Burial (form 9) from the registration office


  • Order for Burial (form 101) if applicable - this would be issued directly from the coroner to the funeral director


  • Green Certificate for Burial or

Cremation (form 9) from the registration office


  • Order for Cremation (form 6) if applicable - this would be issued directly from the coroner to the funeral director

The estate

How to resolve the estate of the deceased

When a person dies somebody has to sort out their estate. Their estate includes their money, property and possessions. If you are the person doing this you will need to collect all the money owed to the deceased, pay any outstanding debts and then share out what is left of the estate to people who are entitled to it.

How can you get help to cancel council services?

The registrar who registers the death must inform certain departments that the person has died. These departments include the council tax office and electoral registration.

Services can also be informed of the death via the Tell Us Once service 

What does a grant of probate, or letter of administration, allow you to do?

A grant of probate is a legal document allowing the people named in it to collect and distribute the estate of the deceased. You can show it to organisations that hold these assets, such as banks or building societies.

Probate is the process of officially proving that a will is valid, but the following information applies equally where the deceased died without leaving a will - in which case the grant is called a letter of administration.

How to apply for probate

To sort out the deceased's estate, you may need to apply for probate. The Probate Office will give you a grant of probate if the person left a will, or will grant letters of administration if there is no will. Your local probate registry will send you the forms you need with notes and guidance on what you have to do.

For more information call the Probate and Inheritance Tax Helpline:

0300 123 1072 (Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm) or visit the HMRC website

Is a grant of probate needed in all cases?

Not always. For example, it may not be necessary to obtain a grant of probate where a home is held in joint names and is passing over to the other joint owner, or if a joint bank or building society account is held.

Production of a death certificate may be sufficient for the monies to be transferred to the joint holder and certain institutions may release monies without a grant of probate being produced if the amount held by the deceased is small.

You will need to apply to the institutions to see if they will release monies without a grant of probate.

Staff at probate registries will offer procedural guidance on how to obtain a grant but they cannot provide legal advice.

What to do if there is no will

If someone dies without making a will, they are said to have died intestate.

If this happens the law sets out who should deal with the deceased's affairs and who should inherit their estate.

This information applies in England and Wales only.

When there is no will, dealing with the estate can be complicated. It can also take a long time - months, or even years, in some very complex cases.

If matters are complicated or you feel you need help, it's a good idea to contact a solicitor as soon as possible.

Show them all the information and documentation you have about the deceased's estate.

More information can be found at the UK Government website

Who else should be notified of the death

When someone dies you may need to contact a wide variety of organisations to inform them of the death. In many cases you will need to close down accounts, cancel or change insurance details, subscriptions, agreements, payments or direct debits. You may have to send some organisations a death certificate before they can act.

The following can be used as a check list to see if you have contacted everyone you need to notify:

  • Banks and building societies
  • Private pension, shares or investments
  • Insurance companies - life, car, contents, medical, etc.
  • Loan companies
  • Mortgage provider
  • Credit card/store card providers
  • Land Registry
  • Landlord, local authority or housing association if they rented a property
  • Local authority, if they paid council tax, had a parking permit, were they issued with a Blue Badge or received any Social Services help
  • Utility companies, TV licence
  • Royal Mail, if mail needs redirecting
  • Doctor/Dentist
  • Employer School/College
  • Social groups to which the deceased belonged
  • Place of worship
  • UK Identity and HM Passport
  • Office, to return and cancel a passport
  • DVLA to return any driving licence and car registration documents

Remember that if the deceased owned a vehicle then it is possible that there is no longer insurance cover for it to be driven.

Many policies state that a vehicle may be driven by someone else with the owner's permission but as soon as the owner dies any such permission may cease. It is best to contact the car insurance company before anyone drives the vehicle to make sure they are insured.

Bereavement Support

There are many organisations that can help and support with bereavement.

The Bereavement Register

A service specifically designed to remove from databases and mailing files, the names and addresses of people who have died.

Consumers can register online, by phone or by picking up a leaflet at their local funeral directors.

Tel: 020 7089 6403 or 0800 082 1230

Visit The Bereavement Register website

Child Death Helpline

Helpline for anyone affected by a child's death, from pre-birth to the death of an adult child, however recently or long ago and whatever the circumstances of the death.

Tel: 0800 282 986 or 0808 800 6019

Visit the Child Death Helpline

Children and Young People

Bereavement Support Services

There are dedicated services to support those aged four to 19 years who have lost a loved one. Each provide strategies and information for families or carers to help them support their grieving child.

The Compassionate Friends

Gives support to parents, siblings and grandparents who have suffered the death of a child.

Tel: 0345 123 2304

Visit The Compassionate Friends website

Macmillan Cancer Support

Provides a cancer information service that gives information, practical advice and emotional support to patients, their families and friends and others bereaved by the illness.

Tel: 0808 808 0000

Visit Macmillan Cancer Support

Marie Curie

Provides a range of resources to help you cope emotionally as well as handle the practical side of losing someone close to you.

Tel: 0800 090 2309

Visit the Marie Curie website

Release the Pressure

A highly trained and experienced team available 24/7 to provide confidential support. Life can get really tough sometimes but talking can help.

Freephone: 0800 107 0160

The Samaritans

For someone you can talk to who will give you support. There are more than 180 branches that are open 24 hours a day.

Tel: 116 123

Visit the Samaritans website

SSAFA Forces Help

The national charity helping serving and ex-service men, women and their families in need.

Tel: 0800 260 6767

Visit the SSAFA Forces Help website

The Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society (SANDS)

Offers support to parents bereaved through pregnancy loss, stillbirth or neonatal death.

Tel: 0808 164 3332

Visit the SANDS website

Support and Care After Road Death and Injury

Support for people who have been bereaved, injured or affected by road death or injury.

Tel: 0345 123 5542

Visit the Support and Care After Road Death and Injury website

WAY: Widowed and Young

The only national charity in the UK supporting men and women aged 50 or under whose partner has died.

Tel: 0300 201 0051

Visit the Widowed and Young website

Glossary of terms


When a person has died without a will, the administrator is usually one of the deceased's closest relatives. They can also be the legal representative of a deceased person who has died with a will but where there are no executors able or willing to act.


A certificate of registration of death issued to inform the department for work and pensions of the death.


Someone who will inherit from the will or under the intestacy laws. Also, the recipient of a payment under a trust or a life insurance policy may be described as a beneficiary.

Certificate for burial or cremation

This is often called the green form.

The registrar will issue a certificate for the burial or cremation of the body, which is normally passed to the funeral director by the person making the arrangements.

Certifier of death

The doctor who completes the Medical certificate of cause of death.

Must have cared for the deceased during life and be certain of the cause of death and that it is natural.


The independent judicial officer who investigates unnatural and unexplained deaths. The coroner's officer works under the supervision of the coroner in the investigation of deaths and may be a civilian or police officer.


A qualified person who provides emotional therapy to others either in one to one interviews or though group meetings.


A person or organisation owed money by the deceased.

Death certificate

This is a certified copy of the death entry in the register and proves that the death has been registered. These have to be purchased.


Works for a funeral director to care for bodies.


A person appointed by a will to administer the deceased person's estate.

Funeral arranger

Works for a funeral director making the practical arrangements for a funeral.

Funeral director

Sometimes called an undertaker.

Takes responsibility for the care of the deceased person and arranging and conducting funerals.


There are three main categories of lawyer: solicitors, legal executives and barristers. They are all qualified professionals specialising in legal matters. Solicitors and legal executives are both able to assist in writing wills and in dealing with the administration of estates of deceased persons.

Barristers represent clients in court.

Medical certificate of cause of death (MCCD)

This is completed by the doctor who has been looking after the person who has died. This will be emailed to the kent registration service to allow them to carry out the registration of death.


A person appointed by a will to administer the deceased person's estate.


If a person dies without a will, the administrator is the term given to one of the deceased's closest relatives.

It can also be the name for the legal representative of a deceased person who died with a will, but where there are no executors able or willing to act.