What to do when a death occurs
About the Funeral or Cremation
Organising a funeral can be dealt with as soon after death as you feel comfortable. The deceased may have left instructions regarding their wishes for the funeral arrangements. If they have not done so it is possible you may feel at a loss as to what to do.
We are here to help and guide. You do not need to wait until you have registered the death before contacting us.
Take time to think about what you want, but feel free to contact us at any time.
However, do not feel you have to rush.
When telephoning to us you will always receive personal attention and not be faced with leaving an answerphone message.
Transfer of the Deceased
We will collect your loved one if the death occurs at home or Care Home, and any necessary documentation at any time of day or night and bring them to our premises in our own Special Private unmarked vehicle, so providing a very discreet means of transfer.
We have a Private Chapel of Rest where you may visit your loved one.
Visits are by appointment only.
If a death occurs in Hospital or Hospice we will be able to collect the deceased once authority is received from the Hospital, Hospice or Coroner. If the Death occurs in Hospital we will require a special form to be signed by the next of kin or person making the arrangements. The Bereavement Clerk will give this to you to hand to us BUT we have a supply if needed.
When a death occurs in a hospital, you may have to wait for the administrative staff to advise you when the Cause of Death Certificate is ready to be collected.
If a death occurs at home it is necessary to contact the usual Doctor of the deceased or the out of hours service (111), so that the death may be certified by a Doctor and permission given for us to collect.
Sometimes a qualified Nurse may verify.
If the person passes away in a Nursing Home, the staff will contact the Doctor to certify the death on your behalf or again, a qualified Nurse may verify.
Once the Doctor has confirmed the death, a ‘Cause of Death Certificate’ will be issued and you will be informed when this is ready for you to collect.
If someone dies away from home
If death occurs within the UK but away from home, it may be necessary to arrange for the deceased to remain close to the place of death for a short while to allow the local Doctors to complete their paperwork before we can bring them back to our premises. Contact us and we can deal with this as necessary.
We can also arrange for the deceased to be repatriated from within the UK or internationally.
Collection of the Medical Cause of Death Certificate
Wherever the death takes place, the Medical Cause of Death Certificate can take three or more working days to produce. This is because the usual Doctor who treated the deceased is responsible for completing the form and that Doctor may not be in the hospital or surgery for a day or so.
Please contact the local Surgery or Bereavement Clerk at the hospital in which the death took place and they will guide you.
We and the relevant Doctor will need to know whether the wish is for Burial or Cremation.
Local Hospital Bereavement Office telephone numbers are as follows:
• Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, Margate 01843 234452
• Kent and Canterbury Hospital, Canterbury 01227 864006
• William Harvey Hospital, Ashford 01233 616887
Their telephone lines are usually open from 10.00 am to 4.00 pm, but surgery telephone lines are open during normal hours. The hospital or surgery will notify you when the Cause of Death Certificate is ready for you to collect, unless the Coroner is involved.
Sometimes jewellery is left on the deceased, especially rings and earrings.
We will be able to remove the items and pass them to the authorised person if the wish is to retain them.
IF A DEATH IS UNEXPECTED
Where the death was sudden, unexpected, or the patient’s stay in hospital has been less than 24 hours, Doctors may not be able to issue a certificate. There are specific circumstances when the Doctor is required by law to report the death to the Coroner.
The Coroner is usually a Doctor or lawyer who has a legal responsibility for establishing the time, date, place, and cause of death and also any circumstances that may have contributed to the death.
The Coroner is an independent judicial office holder, appointed and paid by the relevant local authority (Kent County Council).
A Doctor may report the death to a Corner if the:
• cause of death is unknown
• death was sudden and unexplained
• medical records or circumstances suggest the death may have been caused by an industrial disease or industrial poisoning
• death was violent or unnatural
• the person who died was not seen by a Doctor during their final illness within 14 days before death
• death occurred during an operation or before the person came out of anaesthetic
• death occurred within 24 hours of being admitted into Hospital
If the Coroner is involved, the funeral may be delayed until they have finished their investigations. The Coroner’s Officer will liaise directly with the next of kin, who will be informed of the necessary procedures.
Please note that if the death has been reported to a Coroner, Registration may not take place until the Coroner gives permission.
The Coroner may decide that the cause of death is clear. In this case:
• The Doctor signs a medical certificate
• Take the medical certificate to the Registrar – See under Registration
The Coroner may, in some circumstances, arrange for a post mortem examination to be carried out. The Coroner has the legal right to order a post mortem examination. A Coroner’s Officer will contact the next of kin and they will explain the reason for their involvement and why a post mortem is necessary. As you will appreciate, there could be delays as a consequence of a post mortem and we do not recommend booking a date for the funeral at this stage. The general enquiries number for the Coroner’s office is:
If the Coroner decides to hold an Inquest
The Coroner must hold an inquest if:
the cause of death is unknown
the deceased died a violent or unnatural death
the deceased died in prison or police custody
The death cannot be registered until after the inquest, but the Coroner can give an interim death certificate to prove the person has died. You can use this to let organisations know of the death. When the inquest is over, the Coroner will give the Registrar the necessary details for registration.
All deaths should be registered (unless a Coroner is investigating the circumstances of the death- see above) with the Registrar of Births and Deaths.
The Registrar will understand when there are delays.
After you have collected the Medical Cause of Death Certificate from the Bereavement Officer or Doctor’s surgery, you should make an appointment to register the death. To make an appointment to register, please telephone 03000 415151. You will then be advised what documents you need to take with you.
There are a number of locations (libraries) acwhere registration can take place, which are open at a variety of times and the advice line will assist you with the best location and time for yourself.
Who can register the death
You can register the death if you are:
• a relative or Executor
• someone present at the death
• an administrator from the hospital
• the person making arrangements with the Funeral Directors
What you need to do
Take the Medical Cause of Death Certificate showing the cause of death with you. Do not open the sealed envelope.
If the Coroner is involved, the Coroner’s Officer will guide you, as the process may be different.
If available (but do not worry if not), also take the deceased’s:
• Birth Certificate
• Council Tax bill
• Driving Licence
• Marriage or Civil Partnership Certificate
• NHS Medical Card
• Proof of address (eg utility bill)
You will need to tell the Registrar:
• the person’s full name at the time of death
• any names previously used, eg maiden name
• the person’s date and place of birth
• their last address
• their occupation
• the full name, date of birth and occupation of a surviving or late spouse or civil partner
• whether they were getting a State Pension or any other benefits
Documents you will be provided with
When you register a death you will be provided with any necessary Certificates on payment of the prescribed fee.
These will be needed for sorting out the person’s affairs, obtaining Probate or Letters of Administration, closing Bank or other Accounts, making claims on Insurance Policies and various other Legalities.
If you need further information or advice about registering a death, telephone 03000 415151.
Informing Organisations about the death
There is a ‘Tell Us Once’ service. The Registrar will advise.