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. 

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

Planning the funeral

You may have a good idea of what the person who has died would have planned, or need some additional help and guidance from those close to you. Funeral directors can be supportive and help guide you through the process.  Their role is to help organise all aspects of the funeral for you, and make the process as stress free as possible. 

You may find that the person who has died, has had a pre paid funeral plan, or had funeral insurance. It is worth checking through the person’s paperwork to check if this is the case.

If you are concerned about how you will pay for the funeral, you may be entitled to help paying funeral costs. There is further information about help with funeral costs (GOV.UK). 


Wills, Probate, etc

If the person who has died has made a will, it makes life much easier for the surviving family member, or whoever has been selected as ‘Executor’.   The executor will need a copy of the will to help sort out many aspects of settling the person’s affairs and estate.  

If someone has died without a will it can take a little longer to sort things out. It is known as ‘dying intestate’. (The process is explained in the useful links below).

Wills and sorting out the estate can sometimes cause tensions within the family. You are all going through stress, and emotions are high. Open communication with each other, and being prepared to mediate in case of difficulties or misunderstandings can ease potential problems.

You may have a person’s personal effects to sort through, and possible clearing the house, and /or selling any property.  These can be painful task and it can help if others among your family and friends can give you practical assistance.  It is not something you need to do immediately, unless the accommodation has to be cleared quickly.  


Your feelings

After the death of someone you care about, your emotions may be very mixed.  You may be heartbroken, yet sometimes have a sense of relief that the person is no longer unwell or in pain.  Whilst all of us may face bereavement at some point in our lives, each loss is unique to each individual. 

Be kind to yourself. Seek support - you may not even know how support can help, but having people around you who care, and will listen, is invaluable.  Find out more in our section on bereavement.

If you would like to talk to anyone about how you feel, or how you’re coping practically and financially, you would be welcome to drop into your local Maggie’s Centre and find out about the support and advice available. You can also read our links and blogs for further information.


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