When you lose a loved one, it can be very difficult to think about the practical steps you need to take next. Working through the grief and other emotions should always come first, but it is important to notify relevant authorities and put funeral plans in place as soon as possible. To help you get through this tough time, we have provided a five-step checklist to guide you through the process.
Register the death
To start, the person will need to be seen by a medical professional to officially be pronounced dead. If the death was expected, contact the family doctor, or if the death was outside the normal surgery hours the on-call doctor should be called. If it was unexpected you will need to call 999 to arrange an ambulance to meet you and attempt resuscitation – the doctors will then be able to confirm the death if they are unsuccessful.
Your next step will be to locate the nearest register office, to officially register their death. The office will require the medical certificate signed by the doctor, as well as other identification documents. This can either be the birth certificate, NHS medical card (or number), marriage or civil partnership certificate, driving license or proof of address.
Arranging the funeral
Inform all those who need to know as soon as possible including family, friends and work colleagues so you can begin putting together plans for the funeral. Some people also choose to write an obituary for the local paper, which can help with the grieving process and inform others about the funeral details, while others choose a simple announcement. Funeral directors can sometimes do this on your behalf if you would prefer.
When you have spoken to the rest of the family, see if your loved one has prepaid funeral plan in place and whether they had a preference on a cremation or burial. In most cases, funerals are paid for out of the deceased’s bank account, unless there is nothing left. In these cases, you may be able to get funding assistance.
Locate the will
Finding whether your loved one left a will or not is essential before you begin clearing out any belongings. If they have left a will and you are not the executer, you’ll need to contact them so they can get in touch with a solicitor and begin the process of probate. If there is no will, a member of their family will need to apply to the Probate Registry to distribute the deceased’s possessions. In these cases there are automatic beneficiaries like spouses, children, parents or grandchildren.
Settling the bills
When someone dies, the last thing you want to do is deal with paperwork, but all bills and credit cards should be cancelled as soon as possible, including TV license and council tax. Post will need to be forwarded to the most appropriate person.
Clear the house
Looking through possessions is part of the grieving process, so it is important to take your time and go through them carefully with close members of the family. The will might specify who should receive valuable items, like jewellery, but more sentimental items can be divided between relatives and friends.
Some people choose to use a professional bereavement clearance service to take away any remaining possessions, quickly and sensitively – particularly if the loved one lived in a care home, rented accommodation or the house needs to be sold. Not only is this cheaper than hiring a skip, but having an external company handle the heavy lifting for you makes this difficult time a lot easier.