When someone dies the first steps to be taken depend on the circumstances of the death and where the person is when they die. Who you need to call depends on whether the death was expected or sudden and unexpected. The people available to help you will also be different if you are at home, a residential or nursing home, hospital, hospice or in a public place.
The sections on this page provide guidance on whom you should contact, and the first steps that need to be followed, depending on the circumstances of the death. Each situation is completely unique so please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you would like some advice. Some people find it helpful to speak to us before the death has occurred, so they feel confident that they know what to do when the time comes.
First Steps: Dying at Home
There are various first steps that may be taken when someone dies at home; usually the doctor (GP) that has been caring for the person should be called to confirm that they have died, and that they are happy to issue the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death. If the person dies outside of their GP’s regular working hours, then another doctor may attend to them instead.
Sometimes, if the death was expected (the person may have been receiving end-of-life care at home) then a doctor may not come at all. Another professional, such as a palliative or district nurse, may come instead. To register the death of the person you will need the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death which the person’s GP should make available for collection within a few days of the person’s death.
When a person dies at home, sometimes those around them feel that it would be best for them to be taken into the care of a Funeral Director relatively quickly. Other people think that they would like to spend some time with the person that has died at home, before the funeral director takes over care of the person. Some people do not want the person that has died to leave the home until it is time for their funeral, so they care for them at home during this time. Whatever you feel is right for you Full Circle Funerals are able to provide you with support, guidance and advice about the best way you can go about making it happen.
When you let us know that a person has died, we will ask you whether the doctor (or other professional) has been to see the person, and if not when you are expecting them to arrive. Once the professional has been to visit the person that has died we can, if you would like us to, arrange for them to be brought into our care.
First Steps: Dying in Professional Care
When someone dies in professional care, the staff at the place they have died will know what to do next; the first steps in the process will be undertaken by them. They should support you by offering practical advice and guidance. If the person has died in a hospital you should be put in contact with their bereavement team who will be able to guide you through the next little while.
Usually, if the person has died in hospital they will be taken to the hospital mortuary. If the person has not died in a hospital, but rather in a hospice, a care home, or residential home, it will depend on the particular location as to what can happen to the person in the time immediately after their death. Sometimes there is a small mortuary or a cold room where the person may go. Sometimes the staff at the place the person has died will suggest that they stay in their room until they are taken into either the care of the family or into the care of the Funeral Director appointed by the family.
Like when a person dies at home, when someone dies in professional care then a healthcare professional able to will need to confirm whether or not a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death may be issued. If there is any uncertainty then the person’s death may be referred to the coroner, in which case the person’s funeral cannot be held until the coroner has completed their enquiries.
If you would like to contact us when a person has died, we will ask you for some details about what has happened and speak with you about what you would like to happen next. Some people would like a Funeral Director to move the person that has died to their local funeral home as soon as possible. Sometimes it might be possible for family and friends to spend time with the person that has died at the place they have died, but this might not always be possible. We will be able to speak with you about what is happening, and what you would like to happen next.
When we understand your preferences as to what you would like to happen next we can make contact with the hospice, nursing or residential home on your behalf to make the necessary arrangements. We will always tell you what is happening and you will always have control over the situation. You will be able to have as much or as little hands-on involvement as you would like.
First Steps: Sudden or Unexpected Death
Sometimes a doctor may not be able to issue the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death, in which case the coroner will need to investigate the death of the person. This might be the case if someone has died unexpectedly, the death was sudden, or if there are any suspicious circumstances involved.
When the coroner is involved it is their job to identify the cause of death. The coroner works in your interests and will be able to keep you informed throughout, should you wish to be. Your local Full Circle Funeral Directors will be able to support you through the coroners involvement, and help you understand what is happening at each turn.
We understand that when someone you care about dies unexpectedly or suddenly can be a very distressing and confusing time. We recommend that you make contact with us as soon as you feel ready to so we can begin to guide you through the next little while. If you have not expected someone to die and they do, it is possible that you had never considered planning their funeral, which might make the process seem that little bit more overwhelming. We understand how hard and confusing this time can be, and we will work with you help you make the right decisions for you.
If the coroner is involved it is possible that we might not be able to put your wishes into action straight away, but we will be able to plan and share ideas with you, so that when the coroner has ceased their involvement you are confident that the arrangements made are right for you.
Even in circumstances where someone has died suddenly and unexpectedly we believe that, with the right support, the funeral planning process can help friends and family to begin to come to terms with their loss.
First Steps: When a Child or Baby Dies
The time surrounding the death of a baby or a child can be very difficult, for everyone that is involved. There are usually several different professionals involved (healthcare workers and bereavement teams, for example), who should be able to offer emotional and practical support for the family. They should also be aware of local and national groups which can be contacted for additional support.
There are a range of funeral options available for a baby or a child, and some of these will depend on how old they were and where it was that they died. The healthcare professionals taking care of you and the baby or child will be able to start these discussions with you, and you can begin to think about what will be the right choices for you, your family and friends.
Sometimes after the death of a baby or child their family feel that they would like for the funeral to be planned by someone else and to take place without them present – this can be arranged by the healthcare professionals that are taking care of them and the person that has died. Other times the family can take great comfort in being a part of planning the funeral of their child, and find it a helpful part of the grieving process. There is no right way to go about this process, other than what you feel is the right thing for you and your family.
If you feel that you would like Full Circle’s help during this process we can support you to make the choices that are right for you, whatever they may be. We will support you to be involved as much or as little as you want, and we will always tell you what is happening every step of the way.
You might feel like you would like to spend some time with your child after they have died. This is completely normal and we will help facilitate this in the way that is right for you. We always work in a flexible, person-centred way with the people we are supporting as the focus. This extends to how we will facilitate you spending time with your child – we will do whatever you feel is right for you. You may want to spend time with your child at our local funeral parlour, or you may feel that you would like to take your child home to spend some time. We will always listen to you and support you in the way that is right for you, even if you ever change your mind.
There are lots of different memorial options that we can explore with you, if you feel that is something you would like to think about. Some ideas for memorial pieces are creating moulded footprints and hand prints, taking fingerprints for jewellery or to be made into art, personalising teddy bears, memory books, or commissioning portraits. We have information about all of these and more, and we can speak with you about them when the time is right for you.
First Steps: Dying Abroad and Repatriation
When someone dies abroad it can often be a particularly difficult time for the person’s friends and family. There may be a language barrier to overcome when speaking with professionals in the country where the person has died, and there are usually extra steps to take if you would like to bring the person back home. These extra steps might be unfamiliar and seem very confusing, but there is help to be had. Full Circle Funerals are experienced in repatriation (bringing a person back to their home country), and we will be able to advise you of the different options.
Sometimes the cost of repatriation can be covered by travel insurance, but often the person’s family will be responsible for covering the costs associated with bringing them home. These costs can be substantial, and because of this we recommend that you ask anyone who’s services you contract to help you with bringing someone home to be upfront about what they will cost. Below you can find some basic information, but we will always be most happy to advise you further if you would like our support.
If a British resident has died abroad then the death must be registered abroad, in accordance with local policy. This can only occur once a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death has been issued by local medical staff or a local coroner.
It is possible to also register the death with the British Consulate abroad and to request a UK death certificate (for which there may be a charge). A foreign certificate confirming that the death has been registered abroad is recognised by all the necessary UK organisations (like banks etc).
It is possible to arrange for a burial or cremation to take place abroad with the support of the British Consulate and a local Funeral Director. If cremation has taken place abroad you may wish to bring the cremated remains back home.
Alternatively, you may wish for burial or cremation to take place at home and in that case, the British Consulate and a local Funeral Director will support you to arrange for you and your loved one to return home.
In this case we could support you by liaising with a local Funeral Director, British Consulate staff, your travel insurance company and airlines. We could arrange to meet you immediately upon return to England and then support you with the remainder of the funeral arranging process.
Dying in Britain and wishing to be repatriated elsewhere
If a foreign resident has died in Britain then it is compulsory that their death is registered in the place where they have died. This is only possible once the coroner has provided permission for the repatriation to take place. We would suggest liaising with the relevant consulate abroad to see whether they recommend registering the death with them.
You may prefer for your loved one to be buried or cremated in Britain. Alternatively you may like to return home before making funeral arrangements. In that case, we can support you to liaise with your Consulate, insurance company, airlines, Funeral Directors in your home country.
If you wish to return home with your loved one then we can support you by making sure that all the necessary processes are adhered to and relevant people informed. For example, the individual who has died must be embalmed and placed in a special coffin for repatriation. Also, we will can ensure that the coroner, the Environmental Health professionals, the embalmer and medical staff complete all the relevant paperwork.
First Steps: Registering a Death
In most cases, a death should be registered within 5 days in the locality in which the person has died. However, there will be some occasions where this is not possible, for example if it takes some time for the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death to be obtained. In this case the registrar will likely give permission for a 14 days extension.
We can provide you with detailed information regarding local registry offices or you can contact them directly by telephone. You must make an appointment to register a death. Usually, it would be a family member who would register the death but it could also be the person organising the funeral (not the funeral director), such as a care home manager or hospital administrator. You must have the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death in order to complete registration process and you also need to know the individual’s full name, main address and date of birth of the person who has died. You should also have the details of the date and place of death to give to the registrar.
Ideally, the registrar would also like to know the individual’s occupation, whether the individual was receiving any state benefits and if they were married, the name and date of the surviving widow or widower.
Once the death has been registered, you will be given:
Certified copy of the death certificate and a green form (the green form needs to be handed to the funeral director).
DWP form and contact details – which provides information relating to benefits
The Registrar will provide you with the certified copy of the death certificate and extra copies can be purchased at a cost of £11 each. Copies are likely to be required if you are dealing with the financial affairs of the person who has died.
Many authorities have a ‘Tell us Once’ service which allows you to inform a number of government departments about a death in one go. It is a free and optional service which is available once you have registered the death with the registrar. You will be given a unique reference number to use, either online or by telephone (on 0800 0857308).