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What happens after a death

When a loved one passes away, it is often an emotionally distressing time. But what happens after death and do you know what to do when someone dies? Although this is a subject that few of us want to think about, it’s important to understand the process involved. We have prepared a checklist below to help you make the necessary preparations.

What to do when someone dies

We have listed the usual process of what happens when someone dies:

  • Call their GP – when someone has died at home, call their GP as soon as possible. They will visit the deceased at their home and as long as there aren’t any uncertainties, they will issue a death certificate. You will need this to be able to register their death.

  • Register the death – a formal record of someone’s death is a legal requirement and it’s a criminal offence if you do not register their death. The government website has an online facility for registering a death:

  • Cause of death – if the cause of someone’s death warrants investigation, the police or a doctor will report it to the local coroner. This usually happens if the cause of death is unknown, uncertain or if someone hasn’t been seen by a doctor within 28 days. In some instances, this could lead to a post-mortem being carried out. You cannot register a death until the coroner has finished their investigations, and this may delay the funeral. When a death has been violent, unnatural or uncertain after the post-mortem, the coroner might order an inquest. This is a legal inquiry, which only a coroner can order.

  • Reporting the death – the government offers the Tell Us Once service in England and Wales. This service enables you to report someone’s death once to several organisations, such as the local authority and government departments.

What to do after a loved one dies

After a loved one has died, you may need to get involved in funeral preparations and distributing their Will. We have listed below the next steps you will need to consider:

  • Planning the funeral – hopefully, the deceased will have left instructions in their Will relating to their funeral wishes, including a preference for burial or cremation. If they were not religious, you could book a celebrant to carry out the funeral service. Although a funeral can take place at any point after someone has died, timings and availability will vary depending on the geographic location. When you engage a local funeral director, they will explain the process.

  • Choosing a funeral director – also known as an ‘undertaker’, the deceased may have already specified a funeral director in their Will. If this isn’t the case, then use a funeral director who’s registered with an association that has a code of practice and complaints procedure. Approved associations include the Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF) or the National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD). The funeral director will move the deceased’s body to their morgue. Family members can usually pay their respects to their beloved in the funeral director’s Chapel of Rest. If needed, they will help you choose between a burial or a cremation.

  • Dealing with the estate - if you are named as an Executor on someone’s Will, then you have a legal responsibility to administer their estate after they have died. You will need to get an up-to-date value of the deceased’s estate and apply for Probate. When someone dies without a valid Will, the rules of intestacy will apply.

  • Dealing with mail – receiving mail after someone has died can be problematic and distressing. Depending on whether someone is still living at the deceased’s home, you might decide to redirect their mail to another address. You can complete a ‘special circumstances’ form through the Royal Mail. You can also prevent future mail from being sent to the deceased person by registering with the Mailing Preference Service.


Administering an estate after death

Administering an estate after someone dies can become complicated if you are unsure of what’s required. Therefore, it is worthwhile engaging a qualified and experienced solicitor to assist you with this process. If you are looking to write your Will, always ensure you can trust the people appointed as your Executors to manage your estate. It is also important to keep all named Executors up to date in your Will, so they can be easily contacted upon your death.


At Salusbury Harding & Barlow, we can help you check a Will and apply for Probate. Our Wills, Trusts and Probate team have decades of experience and we understand the emotional turmoil involved when someone dies. We will provide sympathetic and sensitive advice to help you manage your loved one’s estate. You will be kept informed at every stage of the Probate process.

If you need support with Probate, please get in touch or email: to arrange a face-to-face or telephone appointment.


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