Practicalities following death in the family

Sangeeta Moore
2 June 2021

“Nothing is certain except death and taxes” – is a famous quote originating with Benjamin Franklin in 1789, which still rings true today. The focus of this piece is not taxes but the uncomfortable topic of death.

The loss of a family member or friend often comes as a shock with considerable grief and emotional trauma. If this is your first encounter with bereavement more than likely you are at a loss as to what you should do. Let us dive into this.

First and foremost, if you are a member of the family, you must register the death within 5 days of death. If you are not a member of the family and/or the person who has died has no family who can register the death, then a person who was present at the time of the death or a person who is responsible for arranging the funeral must register the death. The death is usually registered at the Registry Office in the area when the person died.

The Registrar will need various pieces of information about the person who has died. Usually you need to provide the Registrar with the

• Doctor’s certificate confirming the death;
• the deceased’s full name at the time of death including any name(s) they used previously;
• their date and place of birth;
• their last address;
• their occupation;
• the full name, date of birth and occupation of their surviving spouse or surviving civil partner (if any).

The hospital or care home will provide you with the certificate confirming death. You can find the rest of the information from the deceased’s documents namely their birth certificate, marriage or civil partnership certificate, passport, and utility bills.

When the death is registered, the Registrar will provide you with the

• Death Certificate and
• a certificate for either burial or cremation, known as the Green Form.

The certificate for burial gives permission for the burial to take place whereas the certificate for cremation is an application for cremation which you need to send to the crematorium. Once you have these papers, you can start making funeral arrangements. These can be arranged by the family or through a funeral director.

Funeral costs usually comprise of the fees for the funeral directors, various fees the funeral director pays on your behalf, such as cemetery or crematorium fees, newspaper announcement of death, local authority burial or cremation fees. You also need to find out if the deceased had a pre-paid funeral plan or life insurance to cover the costs of the funeral. If the deceased did not have either of these, then the costs of the funeral can be paid from their savings (if any) or by family and friends.

After the funeral, you need to collect all the papers with respect to the deceased’s estate, i.e. papers relating to all his assets including finances and personal belongings for you to administer their estate. If the estate is straightforward, you may deal with administration yourself, but if the estate is complex, it is prudent that you instruct lawyers who specialise in administration of estates to manage the estate on your behalf.

For guidance regarding access to the deceased’s funds to cover funeral expenses and/or to administer the estate, please contact Sangeeta Moore at Spencer West LLP on 020 7925 8080 or by email at

Sangeeta Moore
Partner – Private Client
Sangeeta Moore is a Partner Solicitor at Spencer West. She specialises in Wills, trusts, probate, lasting powers of attorney and estate planning.