When someone dies, it’s not always clear what your next step should be. There are a lot of things to take care of, and it can feel overwhelming. We’ve created this guide to help.

We’ll cover all of the key things to do after someone dies:

Days 1-2:

Days 2-5:

Days 3-21:

Days 21+

Of course, no two families are alike: feel free to call us anytime on 020 8629 1600 if you need further advice. Our expert team will be able to help you, whatever the situation.


What to do right away when someone dies

The first thing to do when someone dies is to call a doctor, who will then issue a medical certificate of cause of death.

If you’re not the next of kin – either the closest relative of the person who has died, or the person named in their hospital records – then it’s also important to contact them now to break the news.

Here’s what to do after someone dies:

At homeIn hospitalIn a care homeUnexpectedlyAbroad

What to do when someone dies at home

When someone dies at home, the first thing to do is to call their GP, or the NHS helpline 111. A doctor will then come to your house to help you.

If you need someone to collect the body, your next step is to find a funeral director. If you are interested in caring for the body at home, ask the doctor or a nurse for advice. The Natural Death Centre can also give you guidance on how best to do this.

When someone dies at home, they aren’t usually eligible for organ donation, but tissue donation might still be possible. Let the GP and the funeral director know if you’d like to explore this option.

But what happens when someone dies at home during the night? If the death was natural and expected, it’s okay to wait until the morning before contacting a doctor.

Next step: Finding a funeral director

What to do when someone dies in hospital or in a hospice

Medical staff will be there to advise you on what happens when someone dies in hospital. If the person who died is registered as an organ donor, it’s important to tell them as soon as possible so that steps can be taken to make this happen.

Hospitals usually have bereavement team who step in to support families after a death. You’ll be given a number to contact them for more information and to make an appointment.

If the person who has died lived alone, you may wish to go back to the house at this point to make sure that it’s secure and to make arrangements for their pets, if they have any, before heading home.

At the appointment with the bereavement team, they will give you the medical certificate of cause of death, advise you on your next steps and help you arrange to pick up any belongings.

When someone dies in a hospital, their body is held in the morgue until it can be collected by a funeral director or the family. This gives you at least a few days (or in some cases, weeks) to make funeral arrangements.

Next step: Finding a funeral director

What to do if someone dies in a care home

The first step is to call the person’s GP or 111. The care home staff can make the call for you, and will usually give you some time alone with the person who has died to say goodbye.

When you’re ready, you can arrange for the body to be collected by a funeral director.

Next step: Finding a funeral director

What to do when someone dies unexpectedly

Call 999 as soon as you can to request an ambulance and the police. Stay on the line with the operator and follow their instructions. Try not to disturb the area too much.

When someone dies unexpectedly or in suspicious circumstances, the paramedics and the police will contact the coroner, who will then investigate the cause of death. A procurator fiscal performs the role of the coroner in Scotland.

The coroner will usually arrange for a funeral director to pick up the body and take it to the morgue for a post-mortem. This does not mean you are obliged to use that funeral director to arrange the funeral.

When the coroner has determined the cause of death, they will supply the appropriate forms for registering the death and release the body for burial or cremation. This can take some time, and can delay the funeral.

Next step: Read our full guide on what to do when the coroner is involved.

What to do when someone dies abroad

The process for reporting and registering a death is different depending on the country the person has died in.

Your first step is to contact the British government office (for example, the embassy) based in the country the person has died in. You can find contact details for the various British embassies, consulates and high commissions here.

The UK government also offers two guides on death abroad. You can find these here.

Next step: Read our full guide on what to do when someone dies abroad.


How to find a funeral director after someone has died

A funeral director can collect the body of the person who has died and help you arrange their funeral. For this reason, finding a funeral director is often first on the list of things to do after a death has been certified by a doctor.

If you don’t already have someone in mind, you can use our ‘Find a funeral director’ service to see quotes, reviews, contact details and services for local funeral directors in your area.

Start here

Once you’ve chosen a funeral director, they will collect the person who has died – but you’ll need to register the death before they can start the arrangements for the funeral.

Next step: Registering the death


How to register a death

When someone dies, their death needs to be registered with the government. It’s best to do this at the registry office closest to the place they died.

If you’re in England, Wales, or Northern Ireland, you’ll need to register the death within five days. If you’re in Scotland, you have eight days to do this.

It’s important to call ahead to make an appointment at the registry office. Registering a death usually takes about half an hour.

Who can register a death?

To register a death, you need to be (in order of preference):

  1. A close relative of the person who has died (ideally)
  2. Someone who was present when they died
  3. If they died in hospital, an administrator from that hospital
  4. Someone who is in charge of arranging the funeral, such as the executor or administrator of their estate

What do you need to register a death?

The only thing you technically need to bring to register a death is the medical certificate of cause of death, but it can help to have:

  • The birth certificate of the person who has died
  • Their NHS card, or just their National Insurance number
  • Their marriage or civil partnership certificate (if applicable)
  • Their driving licence
  • Their passport
  • A Council Tax bill
  • Proof of address (like a water, electricity or gas bill)

When registering a death, ask about the government’s Tell Us Once service, which lets you notify several different official services at the same time. The registry office will be able to tell you if it’s available in your area, and if so, how to go about it.

Once you’ve registered the death, the registry office will give you:

  • The Death Certificate, and copies
  • The ‘Green’ Certificate for Cremation or Burial
  • The Certificate of Notification or Registration of Death
  • Information on government benefits for the bereaved

It doesn’t cost anything to register a death, but it’s a good idea to get four or five official copies of the Death Certificate for later use. If you get them now, they’ll cost £4 each. Later on, they can cost as much as £9.25.

Click the links below to find out more about how to register a death in:

England & WalesScotlandNorthern Ireland

Next step: Telling people about the death


Who to tell in the first few days after a death

Telling people about a death can be emotionally very hard. If possible, share this task with a few other people, such as other close family members or friends of the person who has died.

If each of you volunteers to tell a few people, and asks those people to notify others, it can make this task a little easier. Here’s who to notify shortly after someone dies:

  • Friends and relatives of the person who has died
  • Their employer – or their university or school
  • Their GP, if you haven’t already contacted them
  • Their landlord, if they have been renting accommodation
  • Your own employer, to request leave
  • Medical and social care professionals, to cancel any upcoming appointments

In the next few weeks, there will be more people and organisations to call – but this should be enough for now.

Remember: Take regular breaks, and ask for help if you need it. Bereavement support is available.

Not sure what to say? Try our guide to telling people a loved one has died.

Next step: Arranging the funeral


How to arrange a funeral

Arranging a funeral can be distressing, but it can also be very rewarding to celebrate the life of someone you love.

To help you keep track of what to do in the next few days, we’ve created a simple funeral planning guide, with links to other in-depth articles if you’d like to find out more. Click here to get advice on planning a funeral.

Concerned about funeral costs? We can help:

Next step: Notifying government offices, financial organisations and businesses


Who to tell in the first few weeks after a death

Who do you inform when someone dies, aside from family and friends? Once you’ve registered a death at the registry office, you’ll be able to begin notifying government and financial organisations as well as various businesses. We’ve created a list of who to tell when someone dies here:

Government organisations to notify after a death:

When you register a death, it’s important to ask about the government’s Tell Us Once service, which lets you notify all the main government offices at once with just one online form or phone call. The registry office staff can tell you if Tell Us Once is available in your area and give you a reference number for when you use the service.

If Tell Us Once isn’t available in your area, you can find a list of offices to contact directly here.

There are a few additional calls you might need to make, depending on your circumstances:

  • HM Land Registry, if the person who has died owned property
  • If the person who died had a firearms licence, notify your local police station by calling 101

Financial organisations to notify after a death:

  • The bank or building society
  • Pension providers
  • Credit and store card companies
  • Insurance companies
  • The mortgage provider

It’s particularly important to notify insurance companies if you’re a named driver on a car insurance policy owned by the person who has died. When you call, ask if the policy can be extended for a grace period while you make new arrangements.

Other companies and organisations to notify after a death:

Notifying people can be one of the most daunting steps to take when someone dies, but you can share the task with a few others to make it easier. If you’re thinking of using a probate service, ask if they can take on some of the work for you.

Next step: Settling the estate


How to settle the estate of someone who has died

When someone dies, their estate (their money, property and assets) needs to be transferred to their heirs and any outstanding debts and tax need to be paid.

Often called ‘probate’, the process of administering the estate can take between 9 and 12 months. It’s usually managed by the executor of the will, if there is one, or a close relative if there isn’t.

If you’re in charge of settling someone’s estate and you need help, Beyond has created a series of probate guides to take you through the process from start to finish.

Start here or call us on 0800 044 9568 to find out about our fixed-fee probate service.

Next step: Getting bereavement support


How to get bereavement support after someone dies

When you lose someone close to you, the grief can be incredibly hard to cope with. If you need help, there are many ways to reach out for support as you do what needs to be done when a person dies.

Your first option is your GP, who can refer you to local bereavement services. You may also be able to find them using the online search tool here.

Help is also available from dedicated charities:

Do you have advice on ways to cope or things to do after someone dies? We’d love to hear from you: share your experiences in the comments below.

Print this guide

Looking for a funeral director?

Compare funeral directors on price & service for free.

Or were you looking to 
Compare Funeral Plans