What to do when somebody dies

What to do when someone dies?


We can be contacted 24 hours a day to provide advice and assistance when someone dies.  If the death occurs in hospital, the hospital staff will contact the next of kin and make arrangements for the doctor to sign the Medical Certificate of cause of death.  The hospital will usually have a ‘Patient’s Affairs Office’ or ‘Bereavement Support Office’ who you will need to contact in this regard.  They will advise on when the certificate will be ready for you to collect and will also hold any last effects and property if you haven’t already collected it from the hospital ward itself.


If the death occurs at home, you should first contact the deceased’s GP.  The GP’s surgery will discuss with you whether it is necessary for a doctor to attend at the place of death to see the body.  You may then contact the funeral director who will make arrangements to attend at the place of death so that the deceased may be removed to our Chapel of Rest.  If a doctor attends, he or she may well leave the Medical Certificate of cause of death with you. If not you should contact the doctor’s surgery to find out when it will be available for you to collect.


If the death has occurred outside of surgery hours, you should still contact the doctor’s surgery where an answerphone message will provide the phone number to contact the out of hours doctor’s service.  This service will then discuss with you whether the emergency doctor should attend at the place of death.


If the death occurs in a nursing home, the nursing staff will contact both the doctor and us on your behalf and make these initial arrangements.  You should contact the doctor’s surgery to find out when the Medical Certificate of cause of death will be issued and be made available for you to collect.


This ‘Death Certificate’ is necessary for you to comply with the legal obligation to register the death with the local Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages.

Registration Procedure


A death must be registered by law, preferably in the district in which it has occurred, by a near relative if possible and within five days.   


Please take with you:

· The Doctor’s Certificate of the cause of death;

· The deceased’s Birth Certificate if available; and

· The deceased’s Medical card if available.


If H.M. Coroner has assumed jurisdiction, no death certificate will be issued by a doctor.  The Coroner will send an equivalent certificate direct to the registrar so that you can register the death.


N.B. Do not delay to register if you cannot find the birth certificate or medical card.


Who should register?


If the person died in a house or hospital, the death can be registered by:

· A relative;

· Someone present at the death;

· An occupant of the house/official from the hospital, if that is where the death occurred;

· The person making the arrangements with the funeral directors.


Deaths taking place anywhere else can be registered by:

· A relative;

· Someone present at the death;

· The person who found the body;

· The person in charge of the body;

· The person making the arrangements with the funeral directors.


The majority of deaths are registered by a relative of the deceased. 

The registrar would normally allow one of the other people listed above to register the death only if there are no relatives available to do it.  The  death should be registered by as close a relative as possible.


What information will I be asked for?


You should be prepared to provide the Registrar with the following  information:


· The date and place of death;

· The full name of the deceased;

· Any names previously used, including the maiden surname if the deceased was a woman who had married;

· The date and place of birth;

· The Occupation;

· The name and occupation of spouse, where the deceased was married or widowed;

· The name and occupation of civil partner, where the deceased was in a civil partnership or was a surviving civil partner;

· The deceased’s usual address;

· Whether the deceased was in receipt of a pension or allowance from public funds;

· If the deceased was married or in a civil partnership, the date of birth of the surviving spouse or civil partner.


What documents will I receive?


The Death Certificate:

You will receive one certified copy of the entry in the death register and will also have the opportunity to buy one or more additional certificates, which are often required for a range of administrative purposes such as banks, building societies and insurance policies. 


Certificate for burial or cremation:

The Registrar will issue a certificate authorising the burial or cremation of the body and should be passed to the funeral director without delay.  This is green in colour.  In cases where a death has been reported to  HM Coroner and the funeral is a cremation no such green certificate will be issued, as the coroner himself will send direct to the funeral

director a certificate authorizing the cremation to proceed.


Certificate for social security benefits/pension:

A Certificate of Registration of Death (form BD8), issued for social

Security purposes if the person received a state pension or benefits

(please read the information on the back, complete and return it)



Where are the Registrar’s Offices?


The two nearest offices of the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages of West Sussex can be found at:


Bognor Regis Registrar,                                                         Chichester Registrar,

Durban House,                                                                        Record Office,

Durban Road,                                                                          3 Orchard Street,

Bognor Regis,                                                                          Chichester,

PO22 9RE.                                                                               PO19 1DD.


To make an appointment for West Sussex registration services you can use the online booking service at www.westsussex.gov.uk/registration or by telephone 01243 642122



Deaths Referred to H.M. Coroner


The coroner is a doctor or a lawyer responsible for investigating deaths in certain circumstances, particularly when the death is sudden, unexpected or unexplained. The Coroner’s duty is to establish the cause of death where a doctor is unable to certify this.


A death might be reported to the coroner for various reasons, for  example if the doctor is not certain as to the cause of death, if someone died unexpectedly, if someone died without having seen a doctor in the last fourteen days of their life, if the death followed recent surgery or if the death was due to an industrial disease etc. (This list is not exhaustive.)


If the Coroner decides he needs to assume jurisdiction it may well be necessary for a post mortem examination to take place at a hospital to ascertain the cause of death.  Relatives will be kept informed of the

situation by a Coroner’s Officer and will be advised about the

registration of death and the making of the funeral arrangements.