What To Do Immediately After Someone Dies

Man worryingly looking out his window as he is on the phone with emergency services

No matter how prepared you think you are for the death of a loved one, their passing could impact you more than you ever expected. And whether you’ve known about it for a while or it's a shock, it can be an emotional time for you. At British Seniors, we have seen that there needs to be more of an open conversation around death. For obvious reasons, people aren’t engaging with the topic of death much in their own lives. It can be tough to face up to your own mortality. Yet, it’s important to make certain decisions sooner rather than later. Preparation is key and knowing what to do if you find yourself in a certain situation could help you to manage it better.

When someone passes away at home

Passing away at home can sometimes be a choice but more often than not it can be a shock. If it is an unexpected event or if you’re unsure whether your loved one has passed away it’s best to call the emergency services on 999.

The emergency services will determine the extent of the issue when they arrive. If the person has been receiving regular care from their GP, it could be a good idea to get in contact with them. In the event that the person has passed away, the doctor will then issue a medical certificate. You will then need to give it to the chosen funeral director. You'll need this medical certificate when registering the death.

In some circumstances, there may need to be an inquest into how the person has died. This is determined by the doctor. The coroner will then investigate the death. A coroner is a type of doctor that determines causes of death. If this situation arises it may need to be factored into how it might delay the funeral.

When someone dies at a hospital

If given the choice, many of us would probably choose to peacefully pass away at home. Unfortunately, we don't get to choose and your loved one could pass away in hospital. In this situation, the hospital will usually help you through the process. It will work in a similar way in that once the person has passed away they will issue a medical certificate. From there they will offer you advice on what to do next and guide you through what you will need to do.

Usually, they will keep your loved one’s body in the mortuary in the hospital. This allows the funeral directors and relatives some time to make arrangements for you loved one's send-off.

When someone passes away abroad

The first priority when someone passes away abroad is to notify the British authorities. This can be the nearest embassy, consulate or high commission. From there you will need to register the death. Like with the other situations this will need a death certificate which could be issued by a local doctor. You will then need to arrange to get the body brought back to the UK. Depending on whether this is England, Northern Ireland, Wales or Scotland there are different regulations. For England and Wales you will need:

  • An English translation of the death certificate
  • Permission to move the body from the relevant local authorities
  • If the death was unnatural or violent a coroner in England or Wales will need to be informed.

You can find out the details on what you need to do for Scotland and Wales at mygov.scot and nidirect.gov.uk. If you would like to know more about claiming life insurance abroad you can find more information in this article

What else needs to be looked after when someone dies?

From this point on, there are a few things that will need to get sorted out. These things are largely to do with the administration. In order to make sure that it can be as smooth as possible you could have it as a checklist.

Choose a funeral director

This can be done after the person has passed away or can be chosen at a previous stage. The funeral director will help handle everything to do with the technical details of the funeral itself. They will handle the body and make sure it’s presentable, arrange the ceremony and most importantly support you through the process. It’s understandable if you wouldn’t feel like comparing a lot of them but it can be important to make the right decision.

Notifying the relevant organisations/people

You will want to make sure that certain bills in their name are transferred over or cancelled. This is especially relevant if there’s anything like electricity, heating or fuel in their name. It’s important to let the companies know and getting the process of transferring things over started sooner rather than later.

It’s at this point that you might want to let anyone close to the deceased know that they have passed away. This depends on who the person was close with but this can include family, friends and even neighbours. While it might be tough to have the same conversation multiple times, it can be important for people to hear the news first hand rather than reading about it or hearing it from someone else.

Considering the finances

One of the last things that anyone wants to be thinking about during this time is finances. It will be important though to start any kind of claims process for life insurance. When you are paying for things like funerals and burials it’s important to consider the costs. According to our survey on funeral costs in 2023, the average total cost of a funeral over the last five years was £4,515, which can rise to £13,622 for a burial or £12,668 for a cremation - depending on the choices that are made. Getting any kind of life insurance claim processed could be especially important for your family's finances.

Prepare for the emotional impact

As we’ve mentioned before, the death of a loved one can be a hugely stressful and emotional time. There’s a lot to organise and a lot to handle. It can be easy to get lost in all of the organisation without processing your own need to grieve. Thankfully many of us might have family members that could help us out. If you haven’t got any close relatives to help you there is plenty of support out there. Here are some helpful links:

  • NHS on coping with bereavement
  • National Bereavement Service
  • Counselling directory for the UK
  • Cruse Bereavement Care (for England, Northern Ireland and Wales)
  • Cruse Bereavement Care for Scotland

Start exploring your options today

Our life insurance has been designed with you in mind. We want to make it easy for older people to help protect their loved ones in the event of their death. With Over 50 Life Insurance you could take away some of the pressure that comes with financially preparing for death.

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