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Dealing with a death in the family

 

Losing a loved one is a difficult time. Death in itself is distressing and unfortunately, the administrative procedures which must be followed can be an additional unwelcome burden

If the Death Occurs in Hospital

If the death occurs in hospital, the hospital staff will contact the person named by the deceased as next of kin. This may be, but need not be a relative. You may, if you wish, request to see the hospital chaplain. The hospital will keep the body in the hospital mortuary until the executor arranges for it to be taken away. Most funeral directors have a chapel of rest in which the deceased will be held pending the funeral. The hospital will arrange for the nearest relative to collect the deceased's possessions.

If the Death Occurs Elsewhere

Expected Death

If the death was expected, contact the doctor who attended the deceased during their final illness. If the doctor can certify the cause of death he or she will give you the following:

  • a Medical Certificate that shows the cause of death (this is free of charge and will be in a sealed envelope addressed to the registrar).
  • a Formal Notice that states that the doctor has signed the Medical Certificate and tells you how to get the death registered.

You may wish to contact the deceased's minister of religion if you have not already done so. Arrangements for the funeral may be made by a funeral director.

If the death followed illness from HIV or AIDS there may be special rules about handling the body. The following organisations can advise on funeral arrangements;

  • FACTS Health Centre - 23-25 Weston Park, Crouch End, London N8 9SY (Tel: 0208 3489195)

Unexpected Death

If you discover a body or the death is sudden or unexpected, you should contact the following people:

  • the family doctor (if known). The NHS website has a list of GPs at www.nhs.uk Link to External Website
  • the deceased's nearest relative
  • the deceased's minister of religion
  • the police, who will help find the people listed above if necessary. Information on Tameside Police Link to External Website

If there is any reason to suspect that the death was not due to natural causes, do not touch or remove anything from the room. The death may be referred to the coroner. The doctor may ask the relatives for permission to carry out a post-mortem examination. This is a medical examination of the body which can find out more about the cause of the death and should not delay the funeral.

Reporting a Death to a Coroner

In any of the following circumstances the doctor may report the death to the coroner.

  • An accident or injury
  • An industrial disease
  • During a surgical operation
  • Before recovery from an anaesthetic
  • If the cause of death is unknown
  • The death was sudden and unexplained, for instance, a sudden infant death (cot death)

You will be advised if the death has to be reported to the Coroner, in which case the death cannot be registered nor the funeral take place, without the Coroner's Authorisation. Where a death is reported to the Coroner, the Coroner's Office will contact the relatives.

A Coroner can order a post-mortem examination without getting the relative's permission. This examination will ascertain the cause of death. He may also wish to hold an investigation into circumstances leading up to a death. (This is called an inquest). When an inquest is called, the Coroner's Office will contact the relatives. This should not cause undue distress as it is a legal formality.

In such cases the Death Certificate will be issued direct to you from the Coroner's Office and the relatives must then go to the Registrar to register the death. When an inquest is to be held, the death cannot be registered until the conclusion of the inquest, but a certificate will normally be issued at the opening of the inquest to allow the funeral to take place.

For Tameside, the Coroner can be contacted on 0161 474 3993.

Image of church candlesRegistering a Death

The death must be registered in the District Register Office where it occurred.

The Register Office for Tameside is located at:

Postal Address The Register Office, Town Hall, King Street, Dukinfield, SK16 4LA
Telephone Number 0161 342 5032 Fax Number 0161 342 5036 Send Electronic Message Send Tameside Registrars a Message

Opening Times: Monday - Friday 9.30am to 4.30pm

The Registrars Office operate an appointment system - you can make an on-line appointment or telephone the office. We strongly recommend you read the conditions detailed on the booking screen before making your appointment.

It is also possible to make a declaration to register the death before any Registrar in England and Wales to be posted to the Register Office for the district where the death took place. If you choose to do this there could well be a delay in the funeral arrangements and in receiving documents.

An emergency service for weekends is available for the following:-

  • People needing to make funeral arrangements at short notice due to religious requirements (burial only)
  • People enquiring about marriage by Registrar General's licence (i.e. Marriages having to take place quickly due to illness of one of the parties.

In the first instance, contact should be made with the Council's 24 hour emergency call centre, telephone 0161 342 2222.

Home Visits

Home visits to register a birth, death or still birth are entirely at the discretion of the Registrar, and are subject to many and varied criteria. Please contact the Register Office for further details.

More information on Registering a Death.

Who else do I need to inform?

Tameside Registrar's will inform the Council of the death but you will need to contact the Council Tax Section. They will need to know the following:

  • Name and address of the deceased
  • Date of death
  • Next of kin's name and address
  • Whether the property is now occupied or vacant
  • If it is still occupied the name(s) of occupier(s)
  • If the property is empty has probate been granted
  • If probate has been granted, from which date
  • If  the property is owned or rented
  • The name of the owner if the property is rented
  • If the property is furnished or not
  • The name and address of beneficiaries
  • The name and address of the solicitor's of the deceased

Use the online form to register Information about a Deceased Person.

When does the Death need to be Registered?

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, a death should be registered within five days of it happening. Registration can be delayed for a further nine days provided the Registrar receives, in writing, confirmation that a medical certificate of the cause of death has been signed by the doctor.

Who can Register the Death?

People with legal responsibility to register include:

  • A relative of the deceased
  • A person present at the death
  • A person arranging the funeral - This does not mean the funeral director.

In certain circumstances others, such as the administrator of an elderly persons home, can register a death, for advice please contact the Register Office.

What is needed to Register the Death?

The Registrar will interview you in private and will need to know the following information:

  • The date and place of death.
  • The full name and surname, and maiden surname if the person who has died was a married woman.
  • The date and place of birth.
  • The occupation and, if the deceased person was a married woman or widow the full name and occupation of her husband.
  • The usual address.
  • If the person who has died was married, the date of birth of the surviving spouse.
  • Whether the person who has died was receiving a pension from public funds.

You will need to bring:

  • The medical certificate of cause of death issued by the doctor treating the person who has died. This is essential - the Registrar can do nothing without it. If the death has been referred to the Coroner, the Coroner's Office will advise you what to do.
  • If the deceased received a pension or allowance from public funds, eg. Civil Service or Army Pensions, please inform the Registrar.

The Registrar will enter all these details into a computer system and will then give you the opportunity to check they are correct. The register page will then be printed. This is the "original" legal record and you should check it through very carefully before signing it, as any mistakes discovered later on may be difficult to correct.

What Documents Will I Receive?

  • A "Green Form" which enables you to arrange the funeral (If the Coroner is involved different procedures may apply).
  • You will also be given a form for Social Security purposes.

Both of these documents are issued free of charge.

Image of a cemeteryFuneral Arrangements

When the death certificate has been issued by the Registrar, you will also be given a certificate authorising the funeral.

The choice of a firm of funeral directors is important as you should feel comfortable and confident with them. They may be known to you personally, may be recommended by a friend, your GP or religious adviser or may just have a good reputation in your area.

All have a code of practice and should give you an estimate of costs - their own and those fees they will pay on your behalf and add to the account. You can ask for this estimate in advance and it's a good idea to ask different firms to quote so that you can compare costs.

The Municipal Funeral Service is a service provided, at low cost to the customer, by Tameside MBC.

Your funeral director can make all the arrangements for the funeral, burial or cremation, religious or secular service. The funeral director can also advise on all the procedures and documents needed to register the death.

If you are considering a headstone most cemeteries will advise to wait for a period of approximately six months before placing it. However, we suggest you contact your preferred choice of monumental mason as soon as possible to avoid any unnecessary delay after this waiting period.

Non-Religious Services

There is no requirement to have a religious ceremony, or any kind of ceremony at all at a funeral. People that regard religion to be unimportant or have made a decision to live their lives without it may prefer a Humanist Ceremony

This type of ceremony is not intended to oppose a religious funeral, but to provide a dignified and respectful celebration of the death that has occurred.

At this type of funeral the services of an officiant, on the lines of a minister or celebrant are commonly employed. They will conduct the proceedings which can involve readings of appropriate prose, tributes by attendees or the officiant and the playing of appropriate music.

The British Humanist Association Link to External Website website offers advice on all aspects of humanist ceremonies and produce a booklet Funerals Without God: A Practical Guide to Non-religious Funerals which can be purchased for £5 (including postage and packing).

If you don't want a ceremony at all, members of the family or close friends can attend the committal, which can be in silence or with some music being played.

Non-Church of England Funerals

If you have to arrange a funeral for someone who is of a faith different from your own, it is important to contact the equivalent of the local priest of the denomination to find out what needs to be done.

Non-Christian and Minority Group Funerals

A brief word on the practices of other faiths is included below;

Muslims

Most Muslim communities appoint one person who is responsible for making funeral arrangements. It will be their job to advise of the rules and to select a suitable funeral director.

Hindus

Hindus are always cremated, and never buried. There are many possible variations of rites which depend on their form of Hinduism. The Asian Funeral Service can give advice on and arrange Hindu Funerals. They can be contacted on 020 8909 3737 or by emailing asianfuneralservice@btinternet.com

Jews

Jewish funerals are usually arranged by a dedicated Jewish Funeral Agency, or the local community may have a contract with a Gentile funeral service, which will be carried out under strict rabbinical control.

The Jewish Bereavement Counselling Service offers support and can be contacted on 020 8349 0839.

Legal Advice

If you have any difficulty in dealing with the deceased's property, possessions or guardianship of their children, get advice from a solicitor or Citizens Advice Bureau Link to External Website as soon as possible.

The Legal Services Commission Website Link to External Website contains leaflets and other useful information, as does Tameside's Community Legal Service.

Many solicitors are prepared to offer up to half an hour of legal advice for a small fee, some even offer a free initial consultation to discuss your situation.

What is Probate and Do I Need It?

The word "probate" is often misunderstood. It conjures up images of months of difficulty and delay. This is not inevitable and many simple probates are finished quite easily in a month or so.

What is it?

Putting it simply, a probate is a piece of paper, nothing more. It is a document issued by the Probate Registry confirming that an executor has the right to wind up an estate of the person who has died. The "estate" is the house, money and savings left by someone when they pass away. The "executor" is the person chosen in the Will to sort out the estate and make sure it goes to the people named in the Will.

Do I have to have it?

This depends upon the size of the estate. Quiet often, when the estate is very small no probate is needed.

How do I get it?

By filling in some forms. If the estate is small the forms do not have to give full details of it. The important form is the "Executors Oath". This is not usually available from stationery shops but can be found in books about probate. It has to be sworn as being true.

For more information on Probate, including application forms, fees etc. visit the DirectGov Wills and Probate page Link to External Website

Do I have to use a solicitor?

No, but it helps. You can also apply direct to the Probate Registry yourself. Most solicitors offer probate services and their fees depend upon the amount of work necessary and the size of the estate. Always ask them first.

Wills

In order for a will to be valid, it must be:-

  • Made by a person who is 18 years old or over; and
  • Made voluntarily and without pressure from any other person; and
  • Made by a person who is of sound mind. This means that s/he is fully aware of the nature of the document s/he is writing or signing and aware of her/his property and the identify of the people who may inherit; and in writing; and
  • Signed by the person making the will in the presence of two witnesses; and
  • Signed by the two witnesses, in the presence of the person making the will, after s/he has signed. A witness or the married partner of a witness cannot benefit from a will. If a witness is a beneficiary (or the married partner of a beneficiary), the will is still valid but the beneficiary will not be able to inherit under the will.

Although it will be legally valid even if it is not dated, it is advisable to ensure that the will also includes the date on which it is signed.

As soon as the will is signed and witnessed, it is complete.

What if there is no Will?

Speak to a solicitor - it is safer in the long run because various laws affect who is entitled to wind up the estate and receive the money.

Tax

When someone dies it's important to sort out their tax and National Insurance as soon as possible. There may be tax to pay or a rebate due. The executor or administrator sorts out the deceased person's tax affairs, as well as the rest of the estate.

DirectGov provides more information on sorting out someone's tax affairs after they die Link to External Website

Independent Financial Advice

Professional advice on financial matters can be obtained from a variety of sources:

  • Your bank or Building Society may be able to offer you assistance regarding investments etc. , However, they will generally only be able to recommend their own policies and investment opportunities.
  • An Independent Financial Advisor will be able to search around for the best investments, savings, life assurance, mortgages etc. to suit your individual needs. It makes sense to contact an Independent Financial Advisor so that you can make comparisons on all the different options that are available.

Searching the Death Indexes

You can search through the death Indexes online by visiting www.cheshirebmd.org.uk Link to External Website

Once is all it takes

When someone has died  …. we can help you tell the people who need to know

If you’ve just had a baby  …..we can help save you precious time

Tameside Council is working with other Government departments to offer a new confidential service which we hope will make things easier for those people who have been recently bereaved, and for those people who have just had a baby. For more information view Once is all it takes.