If you’ve never had a close bereavement before it can be overwhelming when you’re suddenly faced with the responsibility of making arrangements, particularly at a time when you are grieving.
This funeral guide answers all the questions you might have about what to do, where to go and how to find further information.
Immediately Following the death
When someone dies, the process depends on where the death occurred and whether or not it was expected.
Funeral Guide - When someone dies at home - expected death
You should call the doctor who has been treating them, or the family doctor, along with the next of kin (if that’s not you). Once the doctor arrives, they will conduct a brief examination and if there are no unusual or suspicious features, and providing they have seen the deceased in the previous 14 days, they will issue a formal notification and medical certificate which gives the cause of death. This allows you to go on to register the death (see below). You will also be given documentation which explains how you go about this. In this funeral guide there are also useful addresses to find more information
Funeral Guide - When someone dies in hospital - expected death
When a death occurs in hospital and it’s not unexpected, the notification of death and medical certificate will normally be issued by the hospital. The body will remain at the hospital, in the mortuary, until the funeral directors come to collect it, it moves to a chapel of rest or there are arrangements for the body to be taken home.
Funeral Guide - Unexpected deaths and the role of the Coroner
If the death is unexpected, there are unusual circumstances or if the doctor hasn’t seen the individual in the preceding fortnight, the Coroner may be involved.
The Coroner is an independent doctor or legal professional who is responsible for reviewing deaths which meet the above criteria and overseeing any necessary investigations. They have the power to request a post mortem or a full inquest which could mean that the funeral has to be delayed.
If the death was not as a result of natural causes, the Coroner is legally obliged to open an inquest. This allows full investigations to take place into the circumstances and for a verdict to be reached.
The death cannot be registered until investigations have taken place and a formal cause of death established.
Funeral Guide - Deaths away from home
If you’ve already organised a funeral for a family member before, you may have a preferred funeral director. No matter where the death occurs they can organise the repatriation of the body from overseas or back home from another part of the country.
The costs can quickly add up so in practice most funeral directors who are local to where the death occurred provide assistance to make arrangements to transport and look after the body. This can be a much less expensive option.
Funeral Guide - Overseas deaths
If an individual dies overseas, the process will depend on the country’s regulation. It’s important to make sure that the British Consul registers the death because this allows a record to be maintained in the UK. You will however still need to register the death in the country in which it occurred.
The British Consul will be able to provide advice on how to bring the body home and how to arrange the funeral.
If you need further help, you can take a look at www.fco.gov.uk (Foreign Commonwealth Office - Deaths Abroad). For family members and friends who live in the UK, help can be obtained by calling the Consular Assistance Team on 0207 008 1500, a helpline which is open 24 hours a day. They will be able to offer further advice beyond this funeral guide.