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Bereavement service

Losing a loved one can be simply devastating. It turns your life upside down – whether you were ‘prepared’ for it, or if it came completely out of the blue. At times like this, we often tend to turn to family and friends for comfort and support.

When someone dies, however, there are also many practical matters that we must attend to.

Many people are unfamiliar with what they need to do, especially at such an emotional and distressing time. So, we’ve pulled together a simple bereavement guide with practical information on what to do if you have recently lost a loved one.

Further information can be found at the National Bereavement Service or call our dedicated bereavement support helpline provided by the National Bereavement Service on 0800 023 5298 for free and impartial advice and immediate emotional support.

Registering a death

When a person dies, their death must be registered by the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages for the area where the death occurred.  You will need to make an appointment to register and you will find the phone number or an online appointment system on the county council website or equivalent local authority website. Registration has to be done in a face-to-face appointment.

Online and phone registrations were only in place during the covid pandemic and have been withdrawn. This should be done within five days. It is a criminal office not to register a death. However, the involvement of the coroner or procurator fiscal investigating the death often delays registration. They will explain when you are able to register the death.

The death can be registered by one of the following:

  • A relative of the person who has died
  • A person who was present at the death
  • An owner or ‘occupier’ of the building where the death took place and who was aware of the death
  • The person arranging the funeral (but not the funeral director)

If possible, you should take the person’s NHS medical card and you may find it helpful to take birth and marriage and similar certificates if you have them. None of these are mandatory.

The registrar will need the following information:

  • Date and place of death
  • Full name of the person (including maiden name and any aliases or previous married names) Their final permanent address (this may be a residential home or similar)
  • Date and place of birth
  • Occupation and the occupation of their spouse/civil partner whether surviving or predeceased.
  • If the person was in a legal relationship, the name and date of birth of the surviving spouse/civil partner
  • Whether the person was receiving a pension or other social security benefits

The registration service is free of charge, and you will receive a form for the funeral director to allow them to proceed with the funeral (in some cases this may be issued by the coroner). You must buy certified copies of the death certificate. These are needed by banks and other organisations and are what they mean when they ask for an ‘original’ death certificate.

For further information visit: https://thenbs.org/practical-support/death-registration

The registration service is free of charge, although there is a charge for buying copies of the death certificate.

Arranging the Funeral

Before you start to arrange the funeral, it is a good idea to see if the deceased person has left any instructions about the type of funeral or burial they wanted, or if they had any specific requests about things such as music or flowers. You may also wish to check if any money has been set aside to help pay the funeral costs.

Most funerals are arranged by a funeral director. It is possible to arrange a funeral yourself; The Natural Death Centre or Cemeteries and Crematorium department of your local authority can offer help and guidance.

It is the responsibility of the person organising the funeral to pay for the service. The funeral director will be able to provide you with a price list for their services. A basic or simple service is likely to include:

  • A plain, lined coffin
  • Transporting the body of the person who has died to the funeral director’s premises
  • The care of the person who has died until the funeral including washing and dressing them but not embalming
  • Taking the body to the crematorium or burial ground
  • Providing the necessary people to carry the coffin (pallbearers)
    Arranging a minister or celebrant to conduct the funeral
  • Making all other necessary arrangements (e.g., paperwork)
  • The funeral director will also be able to provide additional services such as flowers or extra cars, but it may cost you less if you arrange these yourself.

For further information on this topic visit:  https://thenbs.org/practical-support/covering-funeral-costs

Informing the right people

There are many people you will need to inform after receiving the death certificate including:

Most central and local government services can be informed by using the Tell Us Once service (not N Ireland). The registrar of deaths will provide you with a unique reference code which you can use online at www.gov.uk or over the phone.

Others needing to be informed are:

  • Employers / business partners/customers or clients
  • Banks, building societies and insurance companies
  • Credit card and store card providers
  • Utility companies
  • Mobile phone, internet and TV providers
  • Education providers
  • Social clubs, subscriptions

Compassionate Leave

Many employers will have a policy regarding compassionate leave. This is usually found in your contract or employee handbook. Some employers have a paid compassionate bereavement scheme which will allow you a set amount of time off. If your employer doesn’t have such a scheme, it is at their discretion how much, if any, paid leave you can receive. There is no statutory entitlement to bereavement leave except for parents of a child who has died under the age of 18.

All employees are entitled to ‘time off for dependants’ (e.g., a spouse, partner, child, parent or anyone living in your home). This is a ‘reasonable’ amount of unpaid time off to deal with unforeseen matters and emergencies involving a dependant, including leave to arrange or attend a funeral. Reasonable is not defined and will depend on the situation.

Wills, probate, and inheritance

Please note that the information provided here is a very brief overview of a complex subject. National Bereavement Service has detailed knowledge and can provide guidance specific to your personal circumstances.

Probate is the process of proving the Will is valid and dealing with the estate of the person who died. Probate is also used when there is no Will, and the estate is administered according to the Rules of Intestacy. You may need to apply for a Grant of Representation from the Probate Registry when dealing with the estate. The Probate Registry is part of the Court system.

If there is a Will, it is the executor who deals with the administration of the estate. You will need to locate the Will. 

You will also need to gather all the documents giving information about any assets the deceased person owned. These may include savings accounts, life insurance policies, shares, pensions, and premium bonds as well as bank accounts. It is also a good idea to make a list of all the deceased’s personal possessions such as jewellery which may need to be valued and eventually given to the relevant beneficiaries. You should also locate all the documents which confirm any debts that the deceased person had such as mortgages, loans, credit card debts and utility bills.

Whether probate is needed will depend on what is in the estate and the organisations who hold the assets. The National Bereavement Service can give your further guidance on this. If probate is required and there is a Will, you need to apply for a Grant of Probate.  If there is no Will, an Administrator needs to be appointed and a Grant of Letters of Administration should be applied for.

A Grant of Representation is a term for both types of Grant, and is a legal document confirming your entitlement to manage the deceased person’s estate. Before applying for the Grant, you need to know if Inheritance Tax needs to be paid, as this must be done before the Grant is issued.

It is essential you do not give any beneficiaries named in the Will or entitled under the Rules of Intestacy anything from the estate until you know you have paid all outstanding taxes and other debts that the person who died may have owed.

For further information on this topic visit: https://thenbs.org/probate-services

The National Bereavement Service

The National Bereavement Service can help you through the whole process in more detail, offering practical support and guidance including on legal matters.

The National Bereavement Service is a free and confidential service. Every situation is individual so a team of trained bereavement advisors are available to talk to you about your circumstances, answering any questions or queries you may have.

Check their website for free downloadable guides or call your dedicated Roy Castle helpline on 0800 023 5298 for free and impartial advice and immediate emotional support.

You can download their free Coping with Grief leaflet below.

How to contact the National Bereavement Service

The National Bereavement Service provides both practical and emotional support for those who have lost a loved one. You can contact them by calling 0800 023 5298, through their website here, or via their free online chat service, available through the blue icon on the bottom right of this screen. Please see below for further details on this service.

National Bereavement Online Chat

We’ve teamed up with the National Bereavement Service on this page to answer any questions you may have. This is a service not provided by Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, and please visit the link below for a full list of terms and conditions.

Useful contacts

National Bereavement Service
0800 023 5298

0845 790 9090

0800 282 986 (0808 8006019 free for main network mobiles)

Government Services and Information
0800 0235 298

Citizens Advice

Money Advice Service