Dealing with the death of a loved one – checklist and next steps

Dealing with the death of a loved one – checklist and next steps

The death of a loved one is undeniably stressful. In fact, one academic study used by doctors proved this. The Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale put the death of a spouse as the most stressful life event, with death of a close family member also at fifth in the list.

It can, understandably, be tough to keep a cool head during this difficult time and that makes it hard to do all of the sadly necessary pieces of paperwork that you’ll come across.

Our checklist will help you to work through all of the things that you must do after the death of a loved one to help ease the burden:

Obtain a medical certificate

This will be issued to you by a hospital or GP after the death, unless the circumstances require there to be a coroner’s inquest. This is free.

Get the information you need together

Alongside this medical certificate you could also do with getting a number of important pieces of paperwork and information to hand. You’ll need to know their full name, date and place of birth, full address and the same details of any surviving spouse or partner. You should also search out their birth and marriage certificates, NHS card, National Insurance number, passport, driving licence and proof of identity (such as a utility bill) for both yourself and the deceased.

Make sure you register the death

Within five days, you should then register the death (again, unless there is an inquest required). You can find a register office by searching on the Government website. This is free but you must pay £4 for a certificate. The Money Advice Service suggests obtaining more than one copy of this. It states:

The cost does rise if you later decide you want more copies. We suggest getting additional copies, as it usually cheaper and easier to do so at this point. This lets you deal with several organisations at the same time, instead of having to wait for your only copy to be returned before you can deal with the next one.”

Arrange the funeral to lay your loved one to rest

Next, it’s time to turn your attention to the funeral. This typically happens within a fortnight of the death. Most people will contact a funeral director and entrust them with carrying out the wishes of the deceased – be it cremation or burial. The Guardian recently investigated the rising costs of funerals and found some ways that the cost can be reduced below the £3,700 average.

Let the authorities know they have died

Sadly, registering the death won’t automatically alert the authorities to the fact they have passed away. To make things simpler, it is worth exploring whether your local authority offers the ‘Tell Us Once’ service. This can ensure numerous agencies are contacted at once. If this isn’t an option, you should make sure the tax office (HMRC), Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), local council and Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) are all told to avoid complications with tax, pension, benefits and driving arrangements.

You should also return their passport and driving licence at this stage.

Manage the estate left behind by your loved one

Once they’re all told it’s time to deal with the estate of your loved one. This may involve the process of probate and will depend on whether or not they left a will to outline how they wish their assets to be handled. It’s believed that 64 per cent of people turn to a solicitor to help them with this process and this is especially important if you need to ensure that inheritance tax is paid or if the deceased left behind a complicated set of financial accounts as you will want to ensure these are properly dealt with.

Notify everyone else

The above actions might be the important administrative steps that you need to take, but you might also see fit to let others know of your loved one’s death. If they attended a social club or had a hobby, you might want to inform them. Some people also like to place a notice in their local newspaper. This can be a mark of respect to record their passing, as well as serving to alert friends you might not be in contact with.