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Government Services

Who to Contact When Someone Dies
Understanding who to contact when a loved one passes. 

 

When a loved one has passed, it is important to know who to call. This has been made accessible thanks to the Government’s Tell Us Once service, or the Bereavement Service if you are in Northern Ireland.

 

1. Government Services

 

Tell Us Once

 

This assistance permits you to illuminate the larger part regarding government offices about your misfortune at the same time, without reaching them separately. This help is accessible to you whenever you have enlisted the demise at your local registrar’s office. The registrar ought to illuminate you whether the assistance is accessible in your general vicinity, give you the contact details and issue you a unique reference number.

 

Tell Us Once service is only available in certain areas within the UK. By going to the Tell Us Once website, you can find out whether it operates where you live.

 

If this service is indeed applicable to you, your next step will be to provide the following information about your loved one:

 

  • Date of birth
  • Passport number
  • National insurance number
  • Driving licence number
  • Details of any benefits or entitlements
  • Details of any local council services
  • The address, name and contact details of the next of kin
  • The address, name and contact details of the executor or administrator
  • Details of public sector or armed forces pension schemes being paid into
  • Permission from the next of kin before entering this information

This service will inform the following government departments. If this does not apply for you, the following authorities will have to be informed of about your loss individually:

 

  • Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)
  • Passport Office
  • Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA)
  • The local council of your loved one
  • Public sector or armed forces pension schemes

The Bereavement Service

 

You can contact the Bereavement service if you are in Northern Ireland or your loved one was receiving social security benefits The Bereavement Service will record the date of death and inform all offices which paid benefits to the person who died. They could potentially offer you an eligibility check to see if you are entitled to claim benefits.

 

2. Non-governmental services

 

Redirecting post when someone dies

 

To stop or redirect posts addressed to your loved one, your local post office may be able to help. They will ask you to present the Death Certificate and the written confirmation that you are allowed to make these changes on the behalf of your recently passed. There are often charges included for this service.

 

Junk mail can be put on hold by informing the Bereavement Register. The majority of companies regularly compare their mailing lists to this register, this potentially lessens the quantity of junk mail being received. No additional charge is required for this service.

 

The Mailing Preference Service (MPS) might also help to stop marketing mail being sent to the deceased.

 

Closing a bank account after a death

 

It is also advisable to inform all insurers, banks and building societies of your loss. By doing so, you will reduce the quantity of mail being sent to your loved one, cancel any standing orders or direct debits, be able to amend the details of any shared accounts, and potentially uncover unclaimed plans or other funds that may contribute towards the funeral costs.

 

Banks will usually require proof of death in the form of the Death Certificate and proof that you are indeed the executor of the estate.

 

To find out more about the financial support available to you, visit our funeral costs page.

Bereavement Support Payment
Bereavement Support Payment information and how to claim it

 

The loss of a loved one can often make things financially challenging. To help you during this challenging time, the UK government offers the Bereavement Support Payment, which has been effective from April 6 2017. From this date, the Bereavement Support Payment has replaced the old three-tiered system of Bereavement Payment, Widowed Parent’s Allowance and Bereavement Allowance.

 

1. How much does the Bereavement Support Payment consist of?

 

The Bereavement Support Payment consists of a singular amount and regularly scheduled installments for a time of year and a half (18 months). There are two tiers of support, depending on whether or not you have dependent children.

 

Surviving civil partners or spouses who are pregnant or have dependent children will receive:

 

  • A one-off singular payment of £3,500
  • £350 a month for 18 months

Surviving civil partners or spouses who do not have dependent children will receive:

 

  • A one-off singular payment of £2,500
  • £100 a month for 18 months
2. How does one qualify for Bereavement Support Payment?

 

The Bereavement Support Payment is available to those who have lost a civil partner or spouse. It is not available to those who have lost a cohabiting or unmarried partner.

 

When your spouse or civil partner passed you must have been under State Pension age. You cannot claim the Bereavement Support Payment if you are imprisoned.

 

3. How do I claim the Bereavement Support Payment?

 

You can download the appropriate forms online if you are eligible to receive the Bereavement Support payment.

Bereavement Payment

The Bereavement Payment has now been officially replaced by Bereavement Support Payment. Within cases of bereavement, financial support is attained by applying to the Bereavement Support Payment scheme.

 

The loss of a loved one can often make things difficult financially. To aid you during this difficult time, the UK government offers a one-time, tax-free payment of £2,000.

 

1. Am I eligible for Bereavement Payment?

 

If you have recently lost your husband, civil partner or wife, you may be entitled to receive a Bereavement Payment if when they passed, you were either:

 

  • below the State Pension age when they passed
  • exceeding the State Pension age and not entitled to a State Pension due to their National Insurance contributions when they passed 

You could also potentially be entitled to this sum if your partner either:

 

  • paid enough National Insurance contributions to qualify
  • died as the result of an industrial disease or accident 

Be conscious that even if the above criteria mean you could be eligible to receive this sum, you will not be considered if any of the following are true:

 

  • you were legally separated from your partner when they passed away
  • you are living with someone as they were a husband, civil partner or wife
  • you are in prison
2. Will the Bereavement Payment affect my other benefits?

 

If you are already receiving governmental financial support, it may affect your following benefits:

 

  • Income Support
  • Housing Benefit
  • Employment and Support Allowance
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Universal Credit

For additional information on how this will affect you, contact your local Jobcentre Plus adviser.

 

3. What do I do now?

 

You can only get the Bereavement Payment within 52 weeks of your partner passing away. To gain this support, download the Bereavement Benefits Pack (form BB1) or order it over the phone from your local Jobcentre Plus. Once completed, take the form to your local Jobcentre Plus or send it to:

 

Dover Benefit Centre

Post Handling Site B

Wolverhampton

WV99 1LA

Bereavement Allowance
Information about Bereavement Allowance (commonly known as Widow’s Pension)

 

The Bereavement Payment has now been officially replaced by Bereavement Support Payment. Within cases of bereavement, financial support is attained by applying to the Bereavement Support Payment scheme.

 

After the death of a civil partner or spouse, you may find that added financial support is needed in order to help you get back on your feet again. To aid you in these circumstances, the UK Government provides a plethora of benefit plans that can give you extra financial support during the difficult months following your bereavement.

 

1. How it works

 

The Bereavement Allowance, commonly known as Widow’s Pension, is designed to provide you with additional financial support for just up to a year after the death of your civil partner or spouse. The amount you would receive from this allowance is dependent on the overall amount of National Insurance contributions your wife, husband, or civil partner gave before they passed away and your age  at the time of their passing.

 

Your age when your partner passed away

Maximum weekly rate

45 years old

£34.11

46 years old

£42.07

47 years old

£50.03

48 years old

£57.99

49 years old

£65.95

50 years old

£73.91

51 years old

£81.86

52 years old

£89.82

53 years old

£97.78

54 years old

£105.74

55 years old to State Pension age

£113.70

 

Due to the benefit cap the benefits you already receive can be affected by the Bereavement Allowance. These benefits include:

 

  • Income Support
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Incapacity Benefit
  • Pension Credit
  • Carer’s Allowance
  • Employment and Support Allowance
  • Universal Credit
2. How does one qualify for the Bereavement Allowance?

 

You are entitled to receive Bereavement Allowance if:

 

  • you were 45 or over when your partner had died
  • you’re under the State Pension age
  • your partner paid National Insurance contributions or their death was had been a result of an industrial accident or disease

You will be ineligible to get this support if you:

 

  • are raising children (you may be able to claim Widowed Parent’s Allowance instead)
  • remarry or form a new civil partnership
  • live with another as if you were married to them or in a civil partnership
  • were divorced from your partner when they passed away
  • were over State Pension age when partner passed away (you may eligible to claim extra State Pension)
  • are in prison

People who were in a long term or live-in relationship with their loved ones, but were not in a civil partnership with them or married to them at the time they passed on, do not qualify for the Bereavement Allowance.

 

3. What do I do now?

 

To claim Bereavement Allowance, download the Bereavement Benefits Pack (Form BB1) or order it over the phone from your local Jobcentre Plus. Once filled out, take the form to your local Jobcentre Plus or send it to:

 

Dover Benefit Centre

Post Handling Site B

Wolverhampton

WV99 1LA

Widowed Parent’s Allowance
Information about Widowed Parent’s Allowance and how to obtain it

 

The Bereavement Payment has now been officially replaced by Bereavement Support Payment. Within cases of bereavement, financial support is attained by applying to the Bereavement Support Payment scheme.

 

Widowed Parent’s Allowance or widow’s pension as it is commonly known as, is a regular payment given by the government to aid you in supporting your children after the death of your partner. This support is provided by the government to widowers, widows or surviving civil partners over the age of 45 and is available for up to 52 weeks from the date of death of your loved one.

 

1. How it works

 

The amount you would receive is based on the National Insurance contributions made by your husband, wife or civil partner and is limited to £113.70 a week. If your loved one had passed because of an industrial accident or disease, you are entitled to claim this allowance even if they made no National Insurance contributions in the past.

 

Widowed Parent’s Allowance may affect your entitlement to other benefits that you may already receive, so you should contact your local Jobcentre Plus to find out more.

 

2. Am I qualified for Widowed Parent’s Allowance?

 

If you are indeed below the state pension age and have at least one dependent child at the time of passing of your partner, you could be eligible to receive this support. Comparably, if you don’t have a dependent child but are pregnant, you are entitled to the Widowed Parent’s Allowance. The payments will cease, however, once your child becomes independent. In the UK, this can mean when they reach the age of 16, or in some cases 20 if they stay enrolled in an approved education or training scheme.

 

You cannot claim this support if:

 

  • you were divorced from your partner when they passed on
  • you remarry or are living with another person as if you are married to them or as if you have formed a civil partnership
  • you were over the State Pension age when your loved one passed
  • you are imprisoned
3. What do I do now?

 

Download the Bereavement Benefits Pack (form BB1) or order it over the phone from your local Jobcentre Plus to claim Widowed Parent’s Allowance. Once filled out, take the form to your local Jobcentre Plus or send it to:

 

Dover Benefit Centre

Post Handling Site B

Wolverhampton

WV99 1LA

Guardian’s Allowance
Information about Guardian’s Allowance and how to obtain it

 

If you have become the guardian of someone else’s children following their death then you have the possibility to be entitled to claim Guardian’s Allowance with other benefits.

 

1. How it works

 

The Guardian’s Allowance is given by the UK government to help you provide for children that you are responsible for but are not yours. At £16.70 a week per child, Guardian’s Allowance is a relatively minute payment but can be claimed alongside Child Benefit and is tax free.

 

This support is usually paid directly into your bank account every four weeks, but it can also be paid to you weekly if you are receiving other benefits.

 

2. The effects it can have on other benefits

 

Guardian Allowance will not be included as income if you claim:

 

  • tax credits
  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • income-based Employment and Support Allowance.

Guardian Allowance will not affect the High Income Child Benefit charge.

 

3. How do I qualify for the Guardian’s Allowance?

 

To receive Guardian’s Allowance, the following must be in order:

 

  • the children you are bringing up are not directly yours
  • Both parents have died
  • you are eligible for Child Benefit
  • At least one of their parents was born in the UK or resided in the UK from the age of 16 for at least 52 weeks in any given 2-year period

In other cases or special situations, you may be entitled to receive this support if one of the two parents has died:

 

  • the surviving parent cannot be found
  • the parents were divorced, the surviving parent doesn’t have or want custody and there isn’t a court order saying that they have to
  • the parents were not legally bound, the mother is deceased and the father is unknown
  • the surviving parent will be incarcerated for at least 2 years from the date of death
  • the surviving parent is placed in a hospital ordered by court

You are obliged to report any changes in the children’s current living situation as soon as changes happen. These changes include:

 

  • the children go to live with someone else
  • you go to live abroad for an excess than eight weeks
  • the children part from full-time educations or approved training
  • your bank or contact details are changed
  • you find out the location of a surviving parent
  • the surviving parent is equipped to leave the hospital or prison
  • the surviving parent makes a contribution in their child’s upkeep
4. What do I do now?

 

To guarantee you get all of the support you are entitled to, claim Guardian’s Allowance as soon as you become a legal guardian. Start by completing the claim form (BG1) before sending it to the Guardian’s Allowance Unit with the children’s birth certificates and their parents’ death certificates.

The Funeral Expenses Payment
Information regarding the Government’s means-tested funeral payment

 

You may qualify to receive a Funeral Expenses Payment to help towards your loved one’s funeral costs, if you are on a low income and claiming certain benefits.

 

The Funeral Expenses Payment can cover the cost of a person’s burial or cremation and other necessary expenses when someone passes away. For more information on either, browse through our guide to burials and our guide to cremations. This includes death certificates and help to transport a loved one more than 50 miles for their funeral, within the UK. It could also help towards your own logistics to get to the funeral.

 

This funeral payment is a means-tested benefit and there are forms that you will have to complete, in order to assess how much help with funeral costs you may be eligible for. You can request for funeral expenses payment before the funeral if you’ve got an invoice for the bill from the funeral director. However, you can’t make a claim if you’ve only been given an estimate.

 

With the Funeral Expenses Payment, you may also qualify to claim help to cover additional costs. Onwards up to £700 may be available to help pay for costs such as the funeral director’s fees for taking care of your loved one and arranging the funeral, the coffin, flowers, or hearse.

 

The money will be transferred directly to the funeral director if the bill is still to be settled, or into your savings account if you have already covered the funeral costs. Claims to the funeral social fund must be made within six months of a funeral.

 

Since April 2, 2018, it’s been possible to electronically present supporting evidence for a Funeral Expenses Payment application.

 

To qualify for the Funeral Expenses Payment, you need to be the person who is in charge of arranging the funeral with the funeral director and you or your partner must claim certain benefits or tax credits:

 

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Pension Credit
  • Housing Benefit
  • The disability or severe disability element of Working Tax Credit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Universal Credit

The funeral payment also depends on the relationship you had with the person who recently passed. To qualify, you must have at least been one of the following:

 

  • The partner, close friend or relative of the person who died
  • The parent, in the case of babies who were stillborn after 24 weeks into a pregnancy
  • The parent of a child who has died who was under 16, or under 20 and not in full-time education

If you fulfill the criteria, you can make a claim for the Funeral Expenses Payment even if you’re waiting for a settlement on a qualifying benefit.

 

If your recently deceased had a funeral plan to help with funeral costs, you may be able to claim a government funeral payment of up to £120 if qualified. This can only be claimed to pay off remaining funeral costs that were not covered by your loved one’s funeral plan, however.

 

When someone passes away, the cost of their funeral and any other bills owed may be taken from their estate directly. The estate includes any savings, money or property that person owed. This does not include personal belongings or a house left to a widow, widower or surviving civil partner.

 

You may be asked to reimburse any Funeral Expenses Payment you received, if your loved one’s estate is later assessed to have sufficient funds to pay off the funeral costs.

 

However, any money that you have raised to help cover the funeral costs – for example, from friends, charities, relatives, or fundraising – will not be deducted from the Funeral Expenses Payment you are granted by the Social Fund.

 

Find out more about financial help with funeral costs.

Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay
Information about paid time off work after the death of a child, introduced in April 2020

 

We are incredibly sorry if you are reading this because you have been recently bereaved. This article explains more about Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay, which came into effect in Great Britain back in April 2020.

 

This law has been passed to ensure that when a child passes away, their parents or primary carers can take paid time off work to grieve and attend to familial or administrative matters.

 

There is currently no required paid bereavement entitlement for workers, which means that employers can decide how and when they grant leave for staff, when someone dies. Known as compassionate leave, this may be paid or unpaid, according to your company’s policy.


If you are facing unpaid time off work to cope with the death of a child, or a dependant loved one, you may find that welfare funds are available if you are a member of a union or employee organisation.

 

Benevolent funds, connected to a broad range of employment sectors, may also provide aid to help families meet day-to-day living costs if their income has been affected by the passing of a child.

 

Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay – from 2020

 

Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay will entitle primary carers or parents to two weeks’ paid time off, when a dependent child under the age of 18 passes away. They will be able to take up to two weeks, or arrange leave over two separate weeks, up to 56 days after their child had passed away.

 

The statutory Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay payment is foreseen to be £139.59 per week, or no less than 90 percent of the bereaved person’s average weekly wage (whichever is lower).  Employers will be able to recover all, or most of this back from the Government.

 

Parents who are on paternity or maternity leave when their child passes away, will be able to claim Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay, while parents whose child is stillborn after 24 weeks of pregnancy will also be entitled to paid time off work to grieve. 

 

When a child passes away, people will be able to claim Parental Bereavement Leave and pay without any prior notice, without the need for employers to request a death certificate. A week’s notice is usually required by your employer if you require time off further into the 56-day “window.”

 

If you are having a hard time coping with grief, our Bereavement support pages lists bereavement organizations that provide parents, primary carers and families with support, counselling, reassurance, and advice when a child they love has died.

Organ Donation and Tissue Donation
How to donate tissue, become an organ donor when you die and sign up to the Organ Donor Register

 

Organ and tissue donations save and improve thousands of lives every year. By signing up to become an organ donor, you are providing many ways that you could help other people when you pass on.

 

While a rough estimate of 6,000 people in the UK are on a waiting list for life-saving organ transplants at any one time, a single organ donor’s gift could save up to eight individual lives through transplant surgeries and provide changes up to 50 lives through donated tissue.

 

Organ and tissue donations after death can also help with research regarding the prevention of diseases, as well as the education of future nurses and doctors.

 

1. How does one become an organ donor?

 

Currently in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, NHS organ donation is an opt-in scheme. You can sign up to the Organ Donor Register directly, or through your driving license.

 

Under the opt-in and soft opt-out donor schemes, when someone is near the end and clinically suitable to become a donor, their next of kin can ultimately grant, or refuse consent for their organs and tissue to be donated.

 

2. How do I sign up to the organ donor scheme?

 

If you live within England or Wales, you can opt in or out of the donor scheme by registering on the NHS Organ Donor Register.  If you opt in, you can express a wish to donate all of your organs and tissue, or specific organs solely.

 

In Scotland, you can register at Organ Donation Scotland, where you can also register a wish to opt out, or update an existing registration with new personal details.

 

People registering on Organ Donation Northern Ireland can also express the wish to all their organs and tissue, or to donate certain organs only.

 

3. How can I opt out of the NHS organ donor scheme?

 

In Wales, the organ donorship register is now an opt-out scheme. Anyone over the age of 18 who has lived in Wales for 12 months or more, must register to opt out of the organ donor scheme, if they would prefer not to be a donor when they die.

 

If donation is possible when someone is close to death, the organ donor register is checked and discussions are held with family members before an organ transplant or tissue donation takes place.

 

Under the opt-out organ donor scheme in Wales, anyone who has not signed up to the register, will be considered to have given “deemed consent” for organ donorship.

 

Under the organ donor scheme in Wales, you can also actively opt in, which enables potential donors to have a say over which organs or tissue they do – or do not– wish to be donated when they die.

 

A similar opt-out organ donor register scheme will be introduced in England in spring, 2020, followed by Scotland in autumn, 2020.

 

Consultations are also underway to move towards opt-out organ donor schemes in Guernsey and on the Isle of Man.

 

4. Which organs can be transplanted?

 

The following organs can be donated after death to patients awaiting a life-saving or life-changing transplant

 

  • Heart
  • Lungs
  • Kidneys
  • Liver
  • Pancreas
  • Small bowel
 
5. Can I donate tissue when I die?

 

When you sign the organ donor register, you can also choose to donate tissue. Organ donation requires a more limited and specific medical criteria to be possible, but tissue donation is much more feasible.

 

In fact, many body tissues can be taken for donation up to 48 hours after death and can be stored for several months until they are needed.

 

Which body tissues can be donated after death?

 

  • Skin
  • Corneas (from the eye)
  • Heart valves
  • Bone
  • Tendons.
How is donated tissue used?

 

Tissue donations can save lives and improve medical conditions such as heart defects, eyesight problems and serious skin burns.

 

Eye donation after death makes sight-saving surgery possible for many people. This procedure involves the removal or a clear, filmy layer called the cornea – there’s currently no transplant procedure which requires the donation of the iris or entire eyeball.

 

6. When are organs removed for transplant from a patient?

 

Removing someone’s organs for transplant only ever happens after either of the following signs have confirmed a patient’s death:

 

Brain stem death: The organ donor cannot breathe without a ventilator and has permanently lost any brain activity.

 

Circulatory death: This is when the heart and lungs are permanently unable to function and the patient cannot or should not be resuscitated. This procedure is known as a DCD transplant – donation after circulatory death.

 

Medical staff may begin conversations with the patient’s family about organ donation, when it is clear that the person is very close to the end of their life.

 

Organ donation can only happen when someone’s death takes place in the appropriate clinical environment, and medical staff have identified whether or not the organs are suitable for transplant.

 

7. Can you be an organ donor if you were ill?

 

Having a medical condition or illness doesn’t necessarily rule you out from being an organ or tissue donor.

 

There are certain conditions that might prevent organ donorship from going ahead, but all situations are decided on a case by case basis with the organ donation team.

 

8. How are donor organs removed?

 

Organ donation is a surgical procedure and, as with any operation, great care is taken by doctors to ensure the procedures are carried out with dignity and respect.

 

Before an organ transplant, deaths are confirmed by doctors at consultant level who are independent of the transplant team.

 

The person’s body is sewn up after their organs are removed, while skin tissue is usually removed from their back.

 

After the operation, families can arrange to view their loved one at the hospital. Any post-surgery marks will be covered by clothing, so families can still opt for their loved one to be laid out in an open coffin for a chapel of rest viewing before their loved one’s funeral. For some extra information, our guide on how to lay someone out is a great place to start.

 

Tissue can sometimes be donated up to 48 hours after someone has died. More people can be considered for tissue donation because, unlike organ donation, they don’t have to have died in hospital.

 

9. Am I too old to be an organ donor?

 

There is no maximum age limit for organ donation – nor a minimum age requirement. Children can even register themselves to be a potential organ donor, although parental consent is sought before any procedure involving a young person aged under 18 in the UK (or under 12, in Scotland) takes place.

 

10. Will my organ donation wishes be carried out?

 

Donating organs for transplant, can only happen if the person’s family has given consent. Alternatively, you can appoint a representative to convey your wishes, when you sign up to the Organ Donor Register.

 

If you’re a signed up member of an organ donation scheme, it’s worth letting family know about your wishes, as the circumstances in which they may have to make a decision may be difficult and distressing for them.

 

As a member of the NHS organ donor register, you can choose to appoint a representative who will be consulted over the donation of your organs or tissue.

 

To appoint an organ donor representative, you’ll need to fill in a form which will need to be signed by you, your chosen representative and a witness. You can appoint a family member or friend as a representative, and nominate or or two people for their role.

 

What happens after organ or tissue donation?

 

After someone has donated organs or tissue, their next of kin can arrange for their chosen funeral director to collect the person’s body from the hospital and prepare them for the funeral.

 

The Donor Family Network offers support and information to bereaved donor families who are grieving the loss of a loved one.

 

Living organ and tissue donations

 

You can donate a kidney, part of your liver, as a living transplant donor

 

You can also donate blood and register to become a bone marrow donor  on the bone marrow donor register.

 

If you are undergoing a hip replacement operation, you can donate the bone that’s removed during the procedure, while you can pledge to donate amniotic membrane (from the placenta) prior to an elective Caesarean.

 

11. Is organ donation permitted by my religion?

 

The NHS says that major religions in the UK support the principles of organ donation, but that this may be open to interpretation depending upon the school of thought you follow within your faith.

 

You may wish to talk matters over with your religious minister or adviser, and seek guidance before making a decision. In Islam, for instance, organ donation after death may be considered as a gift to save another human life, although the interpretation of Islamic law by other scholars is that organ donation after death is not permitted.

 

12. How do I donate my body to science?

 

Full body donation is something that you have to plan ahead for – you can’t decide to donate someone’s body to science after they have died.

 

Find out more about the steps you’ll need to take, in our helpful guide to donating a body for medical research.

What Does a Coroner Do?
What is the role of the coroner and when they are needed

 

When someone passes and is ruled unexpected, a coroner will investigate the  cause of death. A coroner’s hearing will be set up if someone took their own life, passed from an industrial disease, or from a medical accident or  medical negligence.

 

1. What is a coroner?

 

A coroner is a type of judge, who is chosen by the Crown. Their role is to hear the evidence presented by witnesses and experts, to rule out causes or circumstances surrounding  someone’s death.

 

As independent judicial officers, coroners must have a legal background in the domain. To become an appointed coroner, you must be a solicitor or barrister with no less than five years experience in the profession after qualifying. The occasional coroner will also have other medical qualifications on top of their legal training.

 

2. What is the role of the coroner?

 

Coroners are appointed by local councils to investigate when the circumstances surrounding a death are unclear or in question. This may include when:

 

  • The cause of death is unknown
  • The death was unnatural or violent
  • The person died in prison or custody
  • The identity of the person who has died is unknown or uncertain
  • A medical certificate isn’t available

The coroner’s job is to find out when, how and where the person officially died for official records, as well as for the benefit of the bereaved.

 

In some cases, the coroner will decide that the cause of death is clear. They will then issue a certificate to the registrar stating that a post-mortem examination will not be needed. You will then be able to register the death with the registrar’s office.

 

A coroner may decide that a post-mortem examination is needed if the cause of death or circumstances surrounding the death are still not clear after an initial look into the death.

 

3. Post-mortem examinations

 

Post-mortem examinations, sometimes called autopsies, are conducted by a pathologist and involve studying the body for evidence of how the person died.

 

If the post-mortem is successful and reveals the cause of death, the coroner will send a form directly to the registrar stating the cause of death. They will then release the body to the funeral director so that a funeral can take place.

 

If the post-mortem report fails to clarify the cause of death or suggests that a unlawful action may have been committed, then the coroner will begin an inquest.

 

Find out more about post-mortem examinations.

 

4. How long does a coroner’s investigation take?

 

An inquest is a legal investigation into the cause of a death. The coroner must hold an inquest if they happen to believe that the person died an unnatural or violent death, or if the person died in police custody or prison.

 

5. Can you hold a funeral before an inquest?

 

Until the inquest has been completed, you will not be able to register a death. However, the coroner can provide an interim death certificate in the meantime, which will allow you to apply for probate and hold a funeral.

 

Inquests sometimes require the aid of a jury, and if the investigation reveals that the death was the result of an unlawful act, a prosecution may take place.

 

Find out more about coroner’s inquests.

What Is A Post-Mortem Examination?
Find out what a post-mortem examination is and when it is needed

 

Commonly known as an autopsy, a post-mortem examination is conducted by a pathologist at the request of the coroner when a cause of death is thought to be unnatural or unknown.

 

1. Who requests a post-mortem examination?

 

A post-mortem exam is usually requested by a hospital doctor or the coroner investigating the death.


When a coroner requests for a post-mortem to take place, you will not be given the choice to give consent, as the examination is a legal obligation to determine whether an inquest is needed. However, the coroner will consult with the next of kin if any religious requirements need to be kept in mind during the procedure.

 

If a hospital doctor has requested for an examination, the next of kin will need to give consent for the post-mortem to take place. The purpose of a post-mortem requested by a doctor is usually to discover the cause of death or gain more information on a disease, rather than to decide whether an inquest is necessary.

 

2. What is involved in the post-mortem examination?

 

During the examination procedure, the person who has passed will be examined and thoroughly inspected by pathologists, and doctors specialising in the body after death.

 

The pathologist may need to take samples of tissue or remove certain organs during the post-mortem. Any organs removed will be returned to the body once the post-mortem examination is fulfilled, although small samples may need to be kept to the side if an inquest is necessary.

 

3. What happens after a post-mortem examination?

 

The pathologist will write a report of their findings once the post-mortem is complete. Release papers will be issued, allowing the funeral director of your choice to collect your loved one.

 

Should you wish, you will usually be able to view your loved one after a post-mortem.

 

If the coroner requested the examination, they will contact you to tell you what the cause of death was, or if an inquest is needed. You can also request a full copy of the coroner’s report, but you may have to pay a fee.

 

If a hospital doctor requested the post-mortem, you will need to request the results directly from the hospital. Again, you may be charged a fee for this. You may be able to arrange a meeting to discuss the results with the doctor or your GP. They will be able to further explain the findings of the examination.

 

Find out more about coroner’s inquests.

What Is A Coroner's Inquest?
Learn what a Coroner’s Inquest is and when it is required

 

When a coroner is brought in to investigate a death, it is their job to determine how, when and where a person died.

 

If a coroner cannot determine the cause of death from initial investigations or a post-mortem examination, they will hold a legal investigation called a coroner’s inquest.

 

A coroner’s inquest is a public court hearing, which may involve a jury. It will be held as soon as possible, usually within six months of the death.

 

During the coroner’s inquest the evidence will be reviewed to try to determine how the person died. At the end, the coroner or jury will come to a conclusion, in the form of a legal ‘determination’, which states who, where, when and how the person died.

 

You can request copies of post-mortem reports and inquest documents. Usually, the coroner’s office will not charge a fee for the documents before or during the inquest process, but a fee may apply if you request documents afterwards.

 

An inquest can be very daunting for bereaved families, but in most courts in the UK volunteers from the Coroners Courts Support Service can provide advice before and during the proceedings.

 

1. Will the funeral have to be delayed if there is an inquest?

 

As it may be several months before the coroner’s inquest takes place, the coroner will usually issue an interim certificate of death. This will allow you to apply for probate and hold a funeral.

 

Although there may be some delay while the post-mortem examination takes place, a coroner’s inquest should not unduly delay your loved one’s funeral.

 

2. Challenging the coroner’s conclusion

 

It is possible to challenge a coroner’s decision or the findings of the inquest if you feel that the conclusions given are not correct. You should do this as soon as possible, as there is a limit of three months for some types of challenge.

 

It is essential to seek advice from a lawyer with relevant expertise if you wish to challenge the findings of a coroner’s inquest. You may be able to find a suitable solicitor via the Law Society.

 

3. Making a complaint

 

If you are complaining about the standard of service, you should complain to the coroner in the first instance.

 

If you wish to make a complaint about the coroner’s personal conduct, you must contact the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office.

How to Get a Burial at Sea Licence in the UK
Learn more about sea burials and how to get a burial at sea licence

 

To bury someone at sea in UK waters, there are a number of requirements that need to be met in order to ensure the safety of mourners and that the burial is environmentally friendly. You will need to apply for a licence, which will cost £175, and make sure that the burial happens in accordance with the rules set by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO).

 

If you are in Scotland, you will need to contact the Burial, Cremation and Death Certification Team by calling 0131 244 2711, or emailing certificationofdeath@scotland.gsi.gov.uk.

 

1. Meeting the requirements

 

It will be your responsibility to make sure that your loved one, their coffin and the boat you use is prepared to the standards set by the MMO. Your loved one has to be prepared for a sea burial in a particular way. They must:

 

  • be cleared of all fever and infections by a doctor
  • not have undergone embalming
  • have permission to be removed from the UK by the Coroner
  • be clothed in only biodegradable materials

A coffin fit for sea burial must also follow strict and precise guidelines. You must ensure that the coffin is:

 

  • made of solid softwood
  • contains no plastic, lead, copper or zinc
  • has 40-50mm holes drilled throughout
  • is constructed with several mild steel bands across the coffin at 30cm intervals along its length
  • made with butt-jointed and strengthened corners with mild steel right angle brackets screwed internally, or substantial wooden bracing struts of 50 x 38mm
  • weighed down with approx 200kg of iron, steel or concrete clamped to the base with brackets of 10mm mild steel bars, or blocks of – weak concrete mix
  • constructed with the weight evenly distributed along it’s base
  • made with two long mild steel bands running from top to bottom

You also must ensure that the coffin and any inside liner is made from natural, non-toxic and biodegradable materials.

 

The boat that you use for the funeral also needs to be fit for purpose. Among these requirements, you must ensure that boat is:

 

  • big enough to carry the coffin and the mourners
  • equipped with positioning technology to ensure that the burial happens at the correct coordinates

The MMO has the right to inspect your loved one, their coffin or the boat you will use at any time before the burial to ensure that all of these criteria are met.

 

2. Where can you bury someone at sea

 

The water around the UK are some of the busiest in Europe. To get permission to bury your loved one at sea you must do so at a predetermined location. The areas in which the MMO encourages sea burials includes:

 

  • off the Needle, Isle of White
  • between Hastings and Newhaven
  • off Tynemouth, North Tyneside

You can also request a sea burial in other areas off of the UK coast when you apply for your licence. To propose a location, you will need to provide the coordinates of your preferred site and evidence that the area is suitable for a sea burial.

 

3. What you will need to apply

 

With your application, you should include:

 

  • your loved one’s death certificate
  • a Certificate of Freedom from Fever and Infection from your loved one’s GP or doctor
  • a notice of intention to remove a body out of England or Wales (given by the Coroner in exchange for a Certificate of Disposal provided by the Registrar)

To ensure that your loved one gets the sea burial they wanted, you can even apply for your licence before they pass away. You will, however, need to submit all of the above documents before you can go ahead with the burial. Once your application is submitted, it will be published on the MMO’s website.

 

4. Considerations

 

If you want to scatter your loved one’s ashes at sea, you don’t need any documentation or licence to do so. Whether you’re planning a sea burial or want to spread your loved one’s ashes, you should consider separating the committal from any funeral service you wish to have.

 

The waters around the UK can be rough, making any service you have out at sea difficult and uncomfortable for mourners. Many choose to have the service on the shore or arrange a memorial service at a different time.

 

The safety of everyone involved is of most importance. Because of this, if the conditions are too rough, the burial will be cancelled. If you are wanting a sea burial in Scottish waters, you will need to contact the Burial, Cremation and Death Certification Team.

 

If you would like help planning other aspects of your loved one’s funeral, why not consult our guides to arranging a funeral?

How to Get an Exhumation Licence
Exhumation information and how to get an exhumation licence

 

If you need to remove a loved one from their final resting place, you will need to apply for an exhumation licence. Exhuming ashes in these cases also requires a licence. The scenarios that require this licence includes when you want to:

 

  • move a loved one from the pre-existing grave to a new grave
  • deepen an existing grave so that another person can be buried there
  • remove them so that they can be cremated and scattered

Those living in Wales or England will need to complete the application form and get the signatures of the owner of the grave, any close relatives, and the relevant burial authority. Those living in Northern Ireland and Scotland should first contact their local authority for additional assistance.

 

There is no fee for getting an exhumation licence, but there may be other charges you incur throughout the process:

 

  • Cemetery fees
  • Removal of memorials
  • Funeral director fees
  • Bishop fees (if your loved one is buried on consecrated ground)
  • Re-burial costs

Before making these arrangements, consider that exhuming or removing  a loved one from their grave can be distressing for some family members. It is important that you talk about your plans with your family and the local authority before you proceed further.

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