What to Do After a Death in England or Wales

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Teresa Evans, campaigner for the Rights of the Bereaved at http://www.evansaboveonline.co.uk believes that information about home care funerals should be delivered to the bereaved by default. As it is not, she has created this page, and continues to campaign to convince the relevant public bodies to consider that information about what to do after a death in England & Wales is as valuable as other information pertaining to citizenship.

What to do after a death

A funeral can be either by burial or by cremation. You can organise it with or without the help of an undertaker (more commonly known as a funeral director), and personalise it as much as you wish.

In some cases the person who has died may have planned their own funeral in advance. Check if there is a Will, or another form of advanced funeral directive.

Gov.uk offer practical, first step guidance, about what to do when someone dies, but please be mindful at all times that it is your right as a Citizen in the UK to provide your own personal care, in preparing the body for the funeral, in the privacy of your own home.

This is your right whether the death was caused as a result of natural or unnatural death, even if the person who has died has undergone a post mortem examination. Preparing a body for burial/cremation is termed as ‘Last Offices’.

The only legal requirement in the UK regarding funerals is that the death is certified and registered and the body "disposed" (an insensitive legal term) of by either burial or cremation or "any other means".

Independent Funeral Guide

It is often assumed that funerals can be arranged only with the services of a funeral undertaker. Some people, however, find great comfort from being involved, partly or totally in the arrangements for the funeral of a loved one.

If a decision is made to employ, make a contract with an undertaker, Citizens Advice provides basic, but sound advice about your rights as a consumer. [1]

When a death occurs

If the death occurs at home, contact the general practitioner who attended the person who has died during their last illness. The GP will confirm the death and issue a certificate stating the cause of death if there is no questionable circumstance. The GP may give you the certificate straight away or advise you to collect it from the surgery later.

Please be mindful, that you do not have to send the body away to a commercial premises / funeral home, and that you may keep the body at home until the day of the arranged burial or cremation.

If the death occurs in hospital, normally the doctor attending will issue the certificate to you or via the hospitals administration office.

When a death occurs in, or outside of a hospital, and the doctor attending is unable to state the cause of death, or where a medical practitioner had not recently attended to the person who has died, the Coroner will be informed. Should a post mortem be ordered by a Coroner, please familiarise yourself with the post mortem guide produced by the Human Tissue Authority [2]

When the body is released for burial/cremation, you may return the person who has died directly home. There is no lawful requirement that one must employ, make a contract, with an undertaker.

Registering a death

The next of kin or person arranging the funeral must take the certificate issued by the doctor to the Registrar of Births and Deaths within five days of the death. Most Registrars' operate an appointment system, so it is worthwhile telephoning your local district office first. When you register the death, make sure that all the details are given fully and correctly, as it is very difficult getting any changes made later. It is also advisable to obtain extra copies of the death certificate at this time in order to be able to claim the assets of the person who has died at a later date.

If the Coroner has been involved, and an inquest is to be held, then they will issue a form to the Registrar who will issue a Coroners Order for burial.

When an inquest is not held, the nearest surviving relative can register the death only when the Coroner has confirmed the cause of death to the Registrar.

Statutory forms

Before any burial or cremation can take place, certain forms are required by law to be submitted to the burial or cremation authority. The Bereavement Services Officer in your own Local Authority can discuss exactly what is required.

Care of the body of the person who has died awaiting a funeral

If the death occurs in hospital, the mortician may agree to keep the body of the person who has died in the hospital mortuary until the day of the funeral, possibly at no charge. If the death occurs at home, a local undertaker may agree to provide the mortuary facility. Alternatively the body could be kept in a well ventilated, cool room.

A coffin can be purchased from an undertaker or directly from a coffin manufacturer. Many manufacturers can be found online. Alternatively it is possible to make a coffin providing it conforms to the crematorium's regulations. You can locate many templates online too. Note that there is no lawful requirement that a coffin must be used.

For detailed guidance on how to handle, bathe and transport the body, a free download entitled ‘Undertaken with Love’ is available at Undertaken with love. This is a guide created by an American home funeral movement, but the principles are the same.[3]


It is your right to collect the body of the person who has died in a suitable vehicle, but may lack a suitable vehicle. This part of the funeral can be contracted out to an undertaker.

Where the body has to be removed from a hospital, remember to contact the mortician first and check the documentation required. If you intend to use an estate car, van or people carrier ensure the coffin or container if used, will fit in it. You will need help to handle a coffin.

The service

For a cremation service you will either need to arrange for a minimum of four people to carry the coffin into the Chapel or arrange for an undertaker to provide staff to do so.

For a burial, should a family wish to lower the coffin into the grave, you will either need to arrange for a minimum of four people to carry the coffin or arrange for an undertaker to provide staff to do so.

All people intending to carry or lower the coffin may be asked to complete a disclaimer provided by the bereavement service.


None. Not for Profit


Email: goodevans06(at)aol.com
Website: http://www.evansaboveonline.co.uk



  1. [[1]], Citizens Advice website, accessed 05th October 2016,
  2. [2] the Human Tissue Authority website, accessed 05th October 2016,
  3. [3], Home Funeral Directory website, accessed 05th October 2016,