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What to do when someone dies: a financial checklist

What to do when someone dies: a financial checklist
Image source: Getty Images

The passing of a loved one is hard enough without worrying about arrangements. We have put together a checklist of what you need to do when someone dies.

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1. Get the medical certificate

You should aim to get the medical certificate of cause of death straight away. It will be required to register the death. How quickly you can get this document will depend on the cause and location of death.

If the cause of death is clear, the process is straightforward. If the cause of death is unclear or unexpected, then a post-mortem and inquest may be necessary. In this situation, the certificate will be withheld until the process is concluded.

How a death that happens abroad is dealt with depends on several factors. Further information is available from the website.

2. Register the death

You must register the death within five working days following the death in England, Wales and Northern Ireland or eight days in Scotland. You will have to contact the registry office and book an appointment.

You can go to any office, but it is best to go to the registry office in the county where the death happened. This will save time and you should get the documents on the same day.

Further information is available from the website about the nearest registry office by postcode in England and Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Documents and information to take with you

To register the death, you must take the medical certificate with you. You should also take the following documents about the deceased if they are available:

  • Birth certificate

  • Marriage or civil partnership certificate

  • NHS medical card

  • Official proof of last address

The registrar will ask for the following information:

  • Full name and any other names of the deceased (e.g. maiden name)

  • Date and place of birth

  • Occupation

  • Full name, date of birth and occupation of surviving spouse or civil partner if the deceased was married

You will also need to take official proof of your own identity.

Documents you should receive

The registrar will give you the following:

  • A certificate for burial or cremation (known as the Green Form)

  • A certificate of registration of death (a form BD8, which you will need to complete and return if the deceased was receiving the State Pension or any other benefits)

  • Information about bereavement benefits

  • A death certificate

It can help to ask for multiple copies of the death certificate at your appointment. You will need to send it to multiple financial institutions to close accounts and they won’t accept ordinary photocopies.

Death certificates cost £11 in England and Wales, £12 in Scotland and £15 in Northern Ireland. You can get multiple copies later, but they will cost more.

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3. Find out about benefit entitlement

If you are thinking about what to do when someone dies and you are on a low income, you may be entitled to one or more of the following benefits:

Bereavement Support Payment

If your husband, wife or civil partner died within 21 months of application.

Funeral Expenses Payment

If you are unable to pay for the funeral of your partner.

Children’s Funeral Fund for England

If the burial or cremation is to take place in England and the deceased is under 18 or a stillborn after the 24th week of pregnancy.

Guardian’s Allowance

If you are bringing up a child whose parents have died.

War Widow(er) Pension

If your partner died as a result of service in Her Majesty’s Armed Forces or during a time of war.

Details regarding these benefits are available from the website.

4. Use the government’s Tell Us Once service

Tell Us Once is a service used to report a death to several government departments in one go. When you book your appointment with the registrar, ask them if they offer the service.

The registrar will either complete the process during your appointment or give you a unique reference number so you can access the service yourself.

You will need the following additional documents and information:

  • National Insurance number

  • Driving licence number

  • Vehicle registration number

  • Passport number

  • A list of any benefits the deceased was receiving, including the State Pension,

Further information is available from the website.

5. Inform other organisations

You will need to contact other organisations to let them know about the death. These include the following:

  • An employer or social services

  • A housing organisation (e.g. mortgage provider or landlord)

  • Providers of services (e.g. utilities, broadband or TV)

  • Financial institutions (e.g. banks or building societies)

  • GP, dentist or optician

Also, contact the Bereavement Register to prevent unwanted marketing mail from being sent to the deceased.


If you are uncertain about what to do when someone dies, don’t feel you have to go it alone. Ask a close friend or relative to help you.

If there is a will, inform the executors. If the executors help you from the start of the process, this could make probate more straightforward.

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