What to do when someone dies

What to do when someone dies

The main thing to know is that there is absolutely no rush to make decisions or take action at this stage. The time immediately after a person dies (and for up to three days afterwards, depending on your beliefs) is a very special time of transition. When you are ready, you can call Family Tree at any time; we will tell you exactly what you need to do, and help and guide you through each of the different stages.

We will talk you through any aspects of the process that you need to know at this early stage. We will arrange a time to come and collect the person’s body and take them into our care until the funeral, if this is what you want.  See also ‘Keeping the Body at Home’.

We will discuss the sort of funeral arrangements you and your family would like and make sure that you know what to do next.

Contact Family Tree Funerals

We can be contacted on 01453 767 769, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year

The Next Steps

1. Contact your doctor, even if it’s late at night.

The doctor or a District Nurse will come to the house, as soon as practically possible, to issue a Medical Certificate that confirms the cause of death. The person’s body cannot be moved until this has happened. The certificate will be available from the GP surgery the following day.

If you know that you would like the person to be cremated tell your doctor, as they will need to prepare different forms and arrange for a second doctor to visit and countersign.

N.B. If the death was ‘sudden’ (i.e if the person had not been ‘attended by a medical practitioner during his or her last illness’, or had not been seen by a doctor during the last 14 days) the doctor will need to report the death to the coroner: they will also need to do this if it might be considered that the person died:

  • Following an accident or injury
  • Due to an industrial disease
  • During a surgical operation
  • If the cause of death is unknown
  • Or if the death is unexplained

If these apply, the person’s body will need to go to the coroner’s office for further examination. While this may be upsetting for the family, it is currently standard practice in one third of all deaths, and is unavoidable.

2. Contact a funeral director (Family Tree Funerals - 01453 767 769)

A good funeral director will talk you through any aspects of the process that you need to know at this early stage. They will arrange a time to come and collect the person’s body to take them into their care until the funeral, (if this is what you want).  See also ‘Keeping the Body at Home’.

They will make sure that you know what to do and prepare you for the next steps; the authorities at each stage will be very helpful about what to do next as well.

Your funeral director will arrange a time to meet with you to discuss the funeral arrangements.

You can contact Family Tree on 01453 767 769 at any time for care and assistance.

3. Call the registrar of the district in which the death occurred

you Call the registrar of the district in which the death occurred, and arrange an appointment.

Gloucestershire Central Booking line: 01242 532 455.

Stroud: The Old Victorian School, Parliament Street, Stroud, GL5 1DY 01452 425 275. Closed for lunch. 12.30- 1.30.

Cheltenham: Council Offices, St. George’s Rd, GL50 3EW.

Cirencester: Cirencester Library, The Waterloo, GL7 2PZ 1285 650 455. Check for opening times on the central booking line.

Forest of Dean: The Oaks, Belle Vue Centre, 6 Belle Vue Road, Cinderford, GL14 2AB Check for opening times on the central booking line.

Gloucester: 01452 425 275, Shire Hall, Westgate St. GL1 2TG.

Moreton-in-Marsh: Moreton Library, Stow Road, GL56 0DR. Check for opening times on the central booking line.

Swindon: Civic Offices, Euclid Street, SN1 2JH Tel: 01793 521734 or 01793 522738.

You need to meet with the Registrar within five days (not always possible if they are fully booked, but call as a priority anyway).

Who can register the death?

  •    The next of kin, or a close relative of the person who has died
  •    A relative in attendance during the last illness
  •    A relative living in the district
  •    If none of the above are available, a person present at the time of death e.g. The Officer in charge of the Nursing Home, a solicitor, an executor or the person paying the funeral bill

For the appointment you will need:

  •    The Medical Certificate of Cause of Death, given to you by the person’s doctor
  •    Their medical card, if possible
  •    Birth and marriage certificates, if possible
  •    The registration number of the person’s ‘government pension’ (if applicable)

The information the registrar will require include:

  •    The date and place of the person’s death
  •    The full name of the person who has died and their maiden name (if relevant)
  •    The date and place of their birth
  •    Their occupation and home address
  •    If the person is a married woman, her husband’s age and occupation.
  •    Information as to whether the person was receiving any state benefits or pensions.

The Registrar will issue, and explain:

The Registrar’s Certificate for Burial or Cremation (The Green Form). This allows burial, or for an application for cremation to be made (see below). This form should be given to the Funeral Director.

Certified Copies of an Entry. An official certificate that death has occurred and has been registered; additional copies will be needed for probate, bank/building society, and others involved in the administration of the person’s estate. (An £11 charge will be made for these, and generally at least four extra copies are needed, depending on how complex the ‘estate’.)

The Certificate of Registration of Death (Form 344/Form BD8 or White Form) for Dept. of Social Security, if applicable. The Registrar will also provide leaflets relating to bereavement benefits and income tax for the surviving spouse (if appropriate).

You will also be able to access the Tell Us Once service which allows you to inform central and local government services of the death at one time, rather than having to contact each service individually.

N.B. Registration by declaration – the death has to be registered in the district where it occurred. If your loved one died elsewhere in the UK and you cannot get there to register the death you can apply to “register by declaration” at a registry office of your choice. This will entail a wait of an extra few days. If this needs to happen, we can liaise with both registry offices on your behalf.



4. Burial or Cremation?

Do you yet know if you would like a burial or a cremation? If it is to be a cremation, the first doctor will arrange for a second doctor who will need to examine the person’s body. This usually happens in a hospital before the body is allowed to leave their premises. If the person dies at home, the first doctor will arrange for the second doctor to come to the premises of the funeral director, unless you would like the body to stay at home for a short while (we can advise on how best to do this).

Generally, a minimum of five full working days is required before a cremation can take place, due to the paperwork needed. 7-10 days allows more time for travel, catering, service design etc. between the death and the cremation service.

5. Applications, certifications and approvals for cremation.

Unless you want to operate without a funeral director, Family Tree will handle all of the necessary paperwork for the cremation on your behalf.

Local Crematoria

Cheltenham: GL52 5JT. Northern edge of the town towards Prestbury, on Bounder’s Lane. Two bright new chapels which opened in Spring 2018.  45-minute service time

Gloucester: GL44PA. Turn right off the A38 Northern bypass, just after the Barton St/Painswick Rd. roundabout coming from Stroud. Functional, close. Good cafe. 30-minute service time.

Westerleigh: BS37 8QP. West off the A46, before the M4 roundabout coming from Stroud. Further, but nicer. Saturday service possible. 45-minute service time.


Forest of Dean: GL14 3HU. Opposite the Dilke Hospital on the Speech House/Coleford Rd from Cinderford.

Swindon, Kingsdown: SN25 6SG. East off the A419 Swindon bypass.

Bath, Haycombe: BA2 2RQ. South of Bath, off the A39/A4 heading towards Wells.

6. Application for burial.

Permission for the body to be buried is granted through the ‘Green Form’ (Certificate for Burial or Cremation) issued by the Registrar following the visit by the family.

A family who have a relationship with the minister will usually contact the minister personally, asking if they will conduct the funeral, and suggest two or three alternative dates and times. We can do this for you.

The Minister/Council Officer designates and marks the grave to be prepared. The funeral director confirms and arranges all the details for the preparation, such as the size of the coffin, the required depth of the grave (single or double), the date and time of the funeral, and whether the family are likely to want to fill in the grave themselves after the committal.

The funeral director will also liaise with the minister to establish and confirm the fine details of the arrangements.

If the family are not religious, Family Tree can recommend an appropriate and experienced celebrant who will work with them to create and conduct the kind of ceremony required.

7. Organ donation/ Medical research?

7. Organ donation/ Medical research?

The law around organ donation is England changes in Spring 2020 to an “opt-in” system. This means you will automatically be presumed to consent to organ donation unless you have taken the necessary deliberate steps to opt out. Organ donation only takes place if you die in hospital as it needs to be done quickly (exceptions to this are for cornea and skin donation).

This new law does not apply to children under 18, those lacking mental capacity, those here on holiday and who die whilst here, and those who have lived here less than 12 months.

If you are considering whole-body donation to science/research, there are protocols you need to follow. It’s not something your family can request after you’ve died as you need to have completed the necessary paperwork. Our nearest place for donation is Bristol University: http://www.bristol.ac.uk/anatomy/bequests/

8. Is repatriation required?

To return the person’s body back to their home country from the UK, or to bring a body home to the UK from abroad, the Coroner’s permission is required, usually at least four days in advance. There are very specific requirements for the closing of the coffin by Customs and Excise, and specialised regulations depending on the country to which the person is being sent. Family Tree can handle all of these arrangements for you, in conjunction with our worldwide agents.

9. Wills and probate.

Some short time after the person dies, someone needs to deal with their ‘estate’ – their money, property, possessions, and other issues arising from the will. This involves collecting all the information and monies, paying any debts and distributing the estate to those entitled. The person dealing wtih this is the executor (there can be more than one appointed). Or a solicitor can be appointed to deal with the estate.

Otherwise you can obtain the required forms from your nearest Probate Office. You may have to attend an informal interview to confirm the details on the form and to discuss any queries.

The Probate Office (Registry) issues a document called “the grant representation”. There are two basic types of grant/deed:

  1. Probate – issued to one or more of the executors named in the will.
  2. Letters of Administration – issued when there is a will but no executor has been named (or the one named is unable to deal with the estate), or when the person has not left a will, or the will is considered invalid.

The need for a grant:

Organisations holding money in the person’s name need to know to whom the monies are to be paid. The distribution of the estate is the responsibility of the person named in the deed.

A grant is sometimes not needed if the person’s money can be released without the holder of the monies needing to see a grant – i.e. when the amount is small and there are no complications.

Probate office:

Gloucester Probate Sub-Registry, 2nd Floor, Combined Court Building, Kimbrose Way, Gloucester GL1 2DC. Tel: 01452 522585 General Helpline: 0845 302090

The executor(s) will need to sort out at least some of the following:


The car insurance company (if you were insured under the deceased person’s name). DVLA, to return their driving licence, and change registration details.

Residential affairs:

  • Landlord/Local Council/Home Insurance Company.
  • Utility and service providers.
  • Post Office, to re-direct mail. The Bereavement Trust, who will arrange to take the person’s name off all mailing lists to avoid future unsolicited mail.
  • Dentists/opticians/hospitals etc. to cancel appointments, and to amend their patient lists.


  • Banks/Building Societies to close or amend account details.
  • Life Insurance companies to claim entitlements.
  • Social Security, to claim any pension or bereavement benefit to which you may be entitled.
  • Inland Revenue, Pension Plan Providers, Credit and Store Card companies.
  • Return National Insurance documents/State Benefit documents/Passport/Library books and tickets/and any season tickets/TV licences and claim for a refund.

10. Helpful resources.

Death can be a uniquely shocking time for a family, and no two people are affected in the same way; there is an increasing body of literature and media attention on the subject of Death and Dying, as well as workshops, Death Cafes and so on. But it’s different when it’s actually happening/ happened to someone close to you.

Please contact Family Tree if you want to go over anything, and consider making use of these friendly, understanding and practical support organisations – or any other sources of support.

Cruse Bereavement Support: 0844 477 9400

The Bereavement Trust

If children or young adults are involved, the Cruse young person’s helpline is 0808 808 1677

Children’s bereavement advice and help

Winston’s Wish specialises in helping bereaved families with children. Tel: 08452 03 04 05

Death Cafes are informal but facilitated groups who meet over tea and cake to discuss, share and explore issues about death. www.deathcafe.com

Testimonials from families

It was a beautiful funeral; I know that if you had not been so flexible and had so many good ideas it would not have been like this. We’ve had lots of feedback from Mum’s friends about what a good funeral it was.

We have only positive feedback to give you with regard to the care, support, and organisational help you both gave us – so thank you so much. You do a fantastic job; all the best to you.


I can’t thank you enough for your kind treatment of R and your valuable contributions to the whole process. We all appreciated it very much. It has been a pleasure dealing with you, and I’m only sorry that R could not have met you when she was still smiling.

C. G. Fairford.

Thank you for making things as painless as possible under the circumstances. We especially appreciated your carefully re-making J’s bed, and putting her teddy bear peeking out over the covers – we knew you would be taking the greatest care with her too, after she had left the house.
M.P. Edge.

What to do when someone dies


We will tell you exactly what to do, and help and guide you through each of the different stages.

Click here for more details.

Contact us at any time for funeral assistance

We will work with you to design and arrange the exact type of funeral that you and your family feel is right for the person who has died.

Our aim is to work with you to make it special, and then make it all happen smoothly.

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