The initial process involved when death occurs will vary depending on where the passing took place.
If an unexpected death occurs at home, then the first point of contact would be 999. If the coroner needs to examine the deceased, then your loved one will be collected and transferred to the nearest hospital. You are under no obligation to use the services of the funeral firm that collects the deceased, as they are working on behalf of HM Coroner for the collection of deceased only.
If death at home was expected, for example due to illness, then you must first contact your doctor who will, ordinarily, be the first to visit the place of death. They will proceed to issue a medical certificate of death, depending on if they are satisfied with the circumstances surrounding the passing. This will either be issued to you in person, or you may be requested to collect it from the registered surgery of the deceased. Once the doctor has completed his duties, you must then contact your chosen funeral director, and they will come and collect the deceased, and bring them into their care.
This may differ if the death was unexpected, or unexplained, in which case the death may be reported to the coroner. The coroner will also be involved if a doctor has not attended to the deceased 14 days prior to death occurring. You should still contact your chosen funeral director, and inform them of the coroner’s involvement, and they will explain the forthcoming procedures involved.
If someone passes away in hospital, arrangements will be made for the death certificate to be issued by the doctor within the hospital. You must inform the hospital if the deceased will be for burial or cremation, as it is required by law that two doctors are to complete documents for cremation. It is also important for you to inform the hospital who your chosen funeral director is as soon as you have made the decision. Communication between the undertaker and the hospital will become difficult if the hospital is unaware of your choice, and delays in bringing your loved one into their care may be incurred.
This process will be the same if a person has passed away in a nursing home.
You will have to register the death within five days of its occurrence, as requested by English and Welsh law, providing the coroner is not involved.
Your funeral director will further inform you of the process of registering a death if you are unsure, however, you will have to visit the registrar’s office within the district in which death took place. Upon contacting them, they will provide you with an appointment in which to visit and complete the registration. The details of local registrar offices are as follows:
Swindon: Civic Offices, Euclid St, Swindon, Wiltshire. SN1 2JH Tel: 01793 522738
Chippenham: 4 Timber St, Chippenham, Wiltshire. SN15 3BZ Tel: 0300 456 0100
(The registrar may be able to advise you of a more suitable location, or alternatively, please click here to visit the Wiltshire Council list of office locations. Please make sure you phone the chosen office to make an appointment before visiting.)
Who can register the death?
Ordinarily, a relative of the deceased would register the death, however if this is not possible, any person who was present when death occurred, the occupier of the premises where death occurred, or the person taking responsibility for the funeral arrangements (excluding the funeral director themselves) can register the death. You will need to take several documents with you in order to register the death, all of these may not be needed, but if possible take as many as you can obtain to avoid delays in registering the death.
- The death certificate
- The deceased’s birth certificate
- The deceased’s marriage certificate (if applicable)
- The deceased’s national insurance number
- The deceased’s driving licence (if applicable)
- The deceased’s passport (if applicable)
- Details of any benefits or entitlements the deceased was receiving, for example state pension
- Details of any local council services the deceased was receiving, for example Blue Badge
- The name and address of the deceased’s next of kin
- The name and address of any surviving spouse or civil partner of the deceased
- The name, address and contact details of the deceased’s executor. (the person or company dealing with their property, personal belongings and money)
Upon the successful registration of death, the registrar will issue you with several things.
A cream certificate showing a certified entry in the register of deaths will be provided to you, along with a green certificate, which you must give to your funeral director. The green certificate will be presented to the concerned authority allowing for the burial or cremation of the deceased to take place.
The registrar should inform you of a Tell Us Once service, whereby all statutory organisations concerned with the registration of a death are informed. These include:
- HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to deal with personal tax only
- The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to cancel the payment of any benefits
- The Passport Office, to cancel a British passport
- The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) to cancel a driving licence and to remove the person as the registered keeper of any vehicles
- The local council, to cancel Housing Benefit, a Blue Badge, Council Tax Benefit, and to remove the person from the electoral register, and inform council housing services
- Public sector or armed forces pension schemes, to discontinue any pension payments