What to do when someone has died - Maggie's Centres

When someone has died

When someone dies, even if the death was expected, it can cause emotional distress and a huge sense of loss.

If the death has happened suddenly, then the feeling of shock and numbness may be intensified. In the midst of this, the last thing you may feel like is organising what happens afterwards.

However, after a death, there are a number of practical matters to manage. It can be a busy time, needing to find relevant documents, notify people and register the death. You may be having to plan the funeral and sort out the deceased person’s estate and wishes.

Find out more from Maggie’s about what to do when someone has died, including useful links to information and support.

Someone has died – what now?

After a death, there are a number of practical matters to manage. It can be a busy time, finding relevant documents, telling people and registering the death. There will also be a funeral to plan. 

You may be closely involved with carrying out the person’s wishes, the Will, their personal effects and the family home. This is all going on whilst you, your family and friends are grieving, and can feel emotionally and physically exhausting.

There is help and support available when someone has died – lots of organisations give detailed information on their websites, and the people you need to contact are usually very supportive.

Immediately after the death

When the person you care about dies, no matter how expected it is, you’re likely to feel sad and upset. You may feel numb, and things may feel surreal. 

Whether it’s at home, in a hospital, hospice or nursing home – you and your family may want to spend some time sitting quietly, and gathering your thoughts. 

If the death occurs at home, then you will need to let the doctor or nursing teams know – so that they can come and confirm the person has died.

You will then be able to contact the funeral director. They will understand what you’re going through, and will make sure everything is handled sensitively. They will arrange to take the body to the funeral home.You will be able to see the body afterwards, in the days up to the funeral if you wish.

If the death happens in hospital or hospice, you will be cared for. The staff should give you information about what to do next, and when and where to collect the death certificate. You will need this to register the death.

Who to tell

  • Family and friends – they are the first people you are likely to tell. It can be hard breaking the news to lots of people, and you may be able to share the task with other family members.
  • Key organisations – you will need to draw up a list of the key organisations who need to know. Usefully, you can arrange for all government services to know about the death at the same time. This is via the ‘Tell me once’ service and it can be done by the registrar when you register the death. They will give you a unique reference number, and a phone number (and online details) so you use the service. The website will detail all the information they need from you, to activate it
  • Banks and other financial organisations – this is so you can sort out accounts and close them if necessary. If you’re the executor of the Will, you may be asked if you would like money released from the estate to cover funeral costs etc.
  • Utilities, insurance companies, TV/broadband/telephone companies, etc. Most large companies have a specific bereavement department who will deal with your calls sensitively, ensure postal contact stops, and how to settle final accounts.
  • Redirect any mail, if the person lived alone. This can be done at a post office, face to face or online.  
  • Social media, digital accounts, online accounts with stores, etc. Find out more about dealing with digital legacies

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