When someone dies

Wednesday 22nd Feb, 2023

It can seem overwhelming working out what to do first when someone dies.   As well as letting family and friends know, there are organisations to notify, and a funeral to arrange.  But you don’t need to deal with the will, money or property straight away.


Immediate needs

You’ll first need to get a medical certificate.  If they died in hospital, the hospital will give it to you. If they died at home, call their GP.  The certificate is free.

Within five days (eight in Scotland), contact the Register Office to register the death (for nearest register office see www.gov.uk).  There is no cost to register a death, but a death certificate costs £11.  It may be worth getting extra copies as you may need them to notify organisations, and the cost rises if you go back later.

Once the death is registered, you can arrange the funeral.  Most people do this through a funeral director, but you can arrange one yourself.  The Money Helper website has useful information on what funerals cost.


Informing organisations

You can then start telling various organisations about the death.   These may include:

  • The deceased’s landlord, housing association or council housing department (if privately renting together with a lease in their name, ask for it to be transferred to your name)
  • Mortgage providers
  • Employer(s)
  • Government departments – these may include:
    • Passport Office – to cancel their passport
    • HMRC – for their taxes
    • Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) – to stop State Pension and benefits
    • DVLA – to cancel driving licence, car tax and registration documents
    • Local Council – for Council Tax, electoral register and other housing benefits
    • Public sector or armed forces pension scheme.

Most local councils offer a Tell Us Once service which notifies all departments at the same time.  Find out about it here: www.gov.uk

As soon as possible (ideally within a month of death) you should also notify:

  • Insurance companies
  • The deceased’s bank, building society and/or credit union
  • Utility suppliers (energy, water, TV, broadband etc)
  • Pension providers
  • Any other firms that owed money to the person or they owed money to.

You can do this either by visiting a branch, calling them on the phone or via their website, where there may be an online form you can complete.  Notifying them is free.  If you know the account details, you may be able to use the free websites Settld or LifeLedger to save time and stress.   You will need official copies of the death certificate and also to give contact details of the executor or administrator of the estate, to enable any outstanding bills or payment arrangements to be settled.  How the person’s financial affairs are sorted out will depend on whether they made a will or died intestate (without a will).


Paying for the funeral

The person may already have paid for their funeral, have a pre-payment plan, or have left some money in their estate to cover it.  Otherwise a relative or friend pays for it.  If they can’t afford to, and there isn’t enough in the estate to cover it, the local council or hospital can arrange a Public Health Funeral (usually a simple cremation).  If you are getting certain benefits, you can also apply for a Funeral Expenses Payment from the government towards the funeral.

There may be funds in the deceased’s bank account but usually a bank, building society or credit union will freeze the account when told of the death.  It may be possible to ask them to pay an essential funeral bill (direct to the undertaker) by providing a copy of the death certificate, an invoice for the funeral costs with your name on, and proof of your identity.  Always speak to the bank about this, never draw funds from a deceased person’s individual account, even if you know their debit card PIN or online banking log-in, as this would be a breach of the law.  But if it was a joint bank account and the joint owner is still alive, they can still access money in the account. 


Credit Union Members

If the person who died was a Member of HEY Credit Union, the member’s shares and any other savings account, less any outstanding loans, form part of their estate.   However, they may have made a Nomination, either when they joined or sometime later, naming one or more people (called Beneficiaries) to receive all their funds in the credit union, up to the value of £5,000.

Speak to the Credit Union staff, who will take a copy of the original death certificate and check whether a valid nomination is in place.  Once they have established who is legally entitled to the funds and taken proof of identity, they will be able to pay up to £5,000 to the beneficiary(ies).  On production of a funeral invoice, they can also pay the funeral provider, as above. 

If the funds exceed £5,000, then the first £5,000 will be paid to beneficiaries and the rest forms part of the deceased’s estate, to be distributed according to a will (if there is one) or the usual rules of intestacy.  Likewise, if no Nomination is in place, the will or the rules of intestacy apply.   Large disbursements may require sight of Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration, or an Indemnity form to be signed by the person claiming them.

It is worth mentioning that, by law, a Nomination is revoked when a member marries after making it, and if the beneficiary is under the age of 18, the credit union must pay the funds to a parent or guardian, or someone else willing to hold them in trust until the beneficiary turns 18. 

Finally, if the Member was under 70 years of age and had an outstanding loan at the time of death the Credit Union’s Member Death Benefit Scheme may pay off the loan, if there are insufficient savings to do so, up to a sum of £2,500.


Bereavement Support

It can seem overwhelming dealing with the death of someone close to you.  There are a number of sources of support including your GP, community or faith groups, and organisations that you can turn to for help coping with grief:

Bereavement UK

Counselling Directory

Cruse Bereavement Care (and Cruse Bereavement Care Scotland).


This article is for general information only and does not constitute financial, legal, or any other form of advice.



Updated 1.2.2023.

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