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What to do following a death

If someone dies at home and their death was expected

Call the deceased's doctors surgery for their G.P to attend, if it is out of hours it may be the On Call G.P who attends and the nearest relative (if that is not yourself). A doctor or adistrict nurse can verify a death. If the death was expected for example due to a terminal illness, in most cases the doctor will issue a medical certificate of the cause of death to allow the death to be registered.

When the death has been verified you can then contact the funeral director to take yourloved one into their care. The funeral director will guide you through what you have to do next.

If someone dies at home and their death was unexpected

If someone dies unexpectedly you should call the emergency services immediately on 999. Describe the circumstances to the operator who will give you clear instructions what to do next, this is usually to attempt CPR. An ambulance and/ or police will be sent to the address.

The police might want to examine the place where the death took place. It is often not immediately obvious whether someone has died due to natural causes or as a result of an accident or a criminal act.

If this is the case, do not disturb the surrounding area, other than what is essential in trying to help the person.

If it is clear that the person is dead do not touch anything.

Once the police arrive they can give further information on how the area should be treated. They will be sympathetic to the person who has discovered the body, but they will also need information quickly to establish what has happened.

The police or paramedic will then contact a funeral director to take your loved one to the coroners mortuary. Details for the coroners office would be given to you.

If someone dies in hospital or in a care home

The hospital staff or care home manager will be able to advise you on what to do when your loved one has died. They will deal with the first stages of the paperwork for you by arranging to have the death verified by a G.P and obtaining a medical certificate if your loved one has died of natural causes.

If the G.P. is unsure of the cause of death they will speak to the coroner. If it is a death in hospital your loved one will be transferred to the hospital mortuary.

If it is a care home death from natural causes your loved one can be transferred directly into the care of the funeral home, but if the G.P. was unsure of the cause of death and it is referred to the coroner then your loved one would be transferred to the coroners mortuary by the funeral director.

If you are travelling abroad with someone who dies

If you are with your loved one when they die abroad, the first thing you should do is contact the nearest British Embassy, High Commission or consulate. If you're on a package holiday or a tour, reps and organisers will be able to help with any arrangements and contacts too.

If someone dies abroad when you're in the UK

If you're in the UK when your loved one dies abroad, you'll usually be contacted by a UK police officer who was contacted by the British consulate of the country where the person died. However, if you're notified by a tour operator or holiday representative, your next step would be to contact the foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) who can help with arrangements and advice.

Registering the death

You must register the death according to the regulations in the country where the person died and the British Consul can help you with this. It doesn't always require you to physically go to the country. Additionally you will need to register the death with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Whilst registering a death you will need to provide both information about yourself and the person who has died:

  • Full name
  • Date of birth
  • Passport number
  • Where and when the passport was issues
  • Details of next of kin, if you are not a close relative

The repatriation process

If your wish is for the funeral to be held in the UK, you will need to arrange for the body to be returned to you, which is known as repatriation. The process can be expensive, so before beginning this process, check whether your loved one had travel insurance as most policies include repatriation. You can get help from ourselves, international funeral directors and the British consulate during the process to get all the relevant documents needed.

Before you can bring the body home, you will need the following documents:

  • A death certificate from the country where the person died, this should be a certified English translation
  • Authorisation to remove the body from the country
  • A certificate of embalming

Funeral arrangements

The funeral director will inform the coroner that your loved one is coming back into the country and they may want to be involved. The Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages for the district where the funeral is to take place must be told and will issue a certificate before burial can take place. However, if you are planning a cremation the coroner will also need to give permission for this.

Funeral directors can help with the repatriation process or at least be there for you when your loved one is returned and you are ready to think about the funeral arrangements.