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What to do when a loved one passes away

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The difficulty of losing a loved one cannot be expressed in words. It is enough to say it is the worst thing you can experience. Unfortunately, it is also a time when much needs to be organised. You may want to shrink into your shell, but the realities of death require you to be proactive and decisive. Oddly, you may find the need to act helpful in some ways, as you go through those tasks that are expected of you.

Here we offer some guidance on what to do when a loved one passes.

Expected death at home

If the death was long predicted and so expected by your doctor and others, then there will be little delay in the issuing of the death certificate. Your GP should be able to do this, and as soon as you receive it, you should then be ready to begin arrangements for a funeral.

Unexpected death at home

Action in the event of a sudden death depends on the circumstances. It is best to call 111 and ask the adviser what you should do. The death may need to be reported to a coroner, who may request a post-mortem and inquest. It may be that this delays your ability to begin arrangements.

Dying in hospital

Hospitals are well versed in dealing with the events after death, and they will be prompt in delivering the certificate that acts are a formal notice of the death.

Registering the death

You are expected to register the death within five days in England and Wales. In Scotland, you have eight days. You could be subject to a fine if you fail to register the death in time. If there are questions about the death, the registrar can delay the formal notification for a further nine days if they are aware a medical certificate has been issued.

To register the death, you need first to locate the nearest births, deaths and marriages offices. This office is likely connected to the council offices. Call the office and request an appointment, selecting the close relative who will visit the offices.

Before attending the appointment, you will need to gather appropriate paperwork, such as the medical certificate, a birth certificate, council tax bill, driving licence, passport, marriage or civil partnership certificate. The appointment will take about 30 minutes. You will be issued with a Certificate of the Registration of Death and other relevant documents required for the next steps, such as a green certificate for burial or cremation.

You may need a Death Certificate for financial matters. You will need multiple copies direct from the registrar, as companies are unlikely to accept a photocopy. You may need to pay a fee for these copies of the Death Certificate.

Arranging the funeral

It may be that the person who has passed will have left instructions in a will or a letter. You can then give this information to the funeral director who will enact the wishes. If there is no direction, then it falls to the executor or nearest relative to decide what to do next. Fortunately, the steps for organising a funeral have been made as straightforward as you hoped.

First, you need to select your funeral director. Although you may be tempted to go with the first company you find, you should seek more than one quotation. The differences in services and costs vary significantly between companies. You will hope they will provide a break down of the services they will offer and the connected price. They will work with you to select the coffin, transfer your loved one from the place of death to a chapel of rest and then to the funeral. These costs will likely cover the hearse and other cars, as well as the arrangements and paperwork.

The funeral director can also deal directly with the crematorium, the pastor and the collection of paperwork from doctors and others. They will work with you to talk through the options available to you – including the music, who will speak and who you wish to invite to celebrate the life of the person.

Informing others

You must tell government organisations. There is a Tell Us Once service, where you can inform all departments via one online form. You can notify the broader community via a notice in the local newspaper.

Support services

You will need support. There are many groups, such as Grief Encounter and Cruse Bereavement Care, who understand the help you might need at this time.


Image by Ria Algra from Pixabay

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