What to do after someone dies

There are a number of steps that need to be taken when someone dies.

By law, a death must be registered with the local registrar, a service run by councils to register all births, marriages and deaths.

In England this must be done with five days of a death or eight days in Scotland.

If the death occurs at home, the family doctor is the first port of call in the event that the death is expected.

He or she will record the time of death and issue a medical certificate and the death can then be registered.

If the death is unexpected, the police should be contacted and nothing moved in the property before they arrive.

It may be decided there are no suspicious circumstances and a doctor can be called, or the death may be referred to the local coroner or procurator fiscal in Scotland for investigation.

A post mortem will be carried out and this will determine whether or not there will be an inquest (an investigation into the death).

If the death occurs in hospital, the nurse in charge will arrange for the medical certificate to be issued providing there are no suspicious circumstances.

It is okay to begin making funeral arrangements before a death has been registered.

Indeed, very soon after or perhaps even before, many people will have decided which funeral director they are going to use and the person who has died will have been taken into their care.

However, the funeral cannot go ahead until registration has taken place. Once this has happened, the authorities will issue the necessary documentation permitting a burial or an application for a cremation to be made.

In the event of a cremation funeral, further certification by doctors is required in order to provide safeguards, although a new system is being introduced with the aim of speeding up the process.

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