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What to do when someone dies

When someone dies we can feel suddenly overwhelmed and feel we need to act quickly. However, the first thing we suggest you do is just take a moment. Give yourself time to breathe and to just be. Nothing untoward is going to happen in this moment. There is no rush. Allow yourself this time and space to take in what has just happened before rushing into organisation mode.

This time immediately after death is an important and precious time. So put the kettle on and make a cup of tea. We at Surrey Green Burials believe this very important moment in time is paramount and we do not want to interfere with it. Below are the practical things which need to happen when you are ready.

The practical stuff

On a practical level if the person has died at home you will need to call their doctor to certify the death. The Doctor will then issue a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death. You will need this certificate in order to register the death.

Provided everything is straight forward the next requirement for you is to register the death. By law, this must be done within 5 days.

A Medical Certificate of Death includes the following information:

Name, Age, Place of death and Cause of death

If the cause of death is straightforward and clear, a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death will be issued straight away. However, if the cause of death isn’t clear, there may be a need for further investigation before the certificate can be issued.

Unfortunately sometimes sudden or unexpected death can occur where the cause of death is not immediately known. In these circumstances, a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death may be delayed while a coroner is required to determine the exact cause of death. Once the coroner is involved they may decide that a post-mortem is required to determine the cause of death. This unfortunately will inevitably lead to further delays in funeral arrangements.

Registering the death

You will need to contact the registry office in the area where the person died. You need to book a telephone appointment with the registrar.

Once you have attended your phone appointment with the registrar and been able to register the death, the registrar will issue you with a Death Certificate and the certificate for burial or cremation. These are free of charge unless you want extra copies. The price of extra copies is set by the government and changes periodically. Please see the government website for details on cost.

You can book the funeral as soon as you are ready.


If the death needs the Coroners attention, the lawful registration process within 5 days no longer applies. Coroners are appointed by local authorities to determine the cause of death where the cause is not straightforward and clear. It is the job of the coroner to officially identify when, where and how the person died. This is necessary for official records but also for the families of the deceased. A coroners investigation is needed when:

The cause of death is not know

  • If the death was sudden, violent or unnatural
  • If the person was in prison or custody when the death occurred
  • If the person’s identity is in question
  • The Medical Certificate of Cause of Death is not available

If you have any information that might be helpful to the investigation at this point you should provide all the information you have. If you have worries and concerns around the circumstances of the death these should also be made known to the coroner at this time.  You will be asked not to share any confidential information that you are told whilst the investigation is ongoing.


Occasionally a post-mortem is required to determine the cause of death. This will be decided by the coroner. This is a process of a thorough examination of the body conducted by pathologists. If following the post-mortem the coroner is satisfied that the cause of death was natural, then they will issue the paperwork for you to register the death. If however, the cause of death is still not determined then the coroner will call for an inquest.


If the cause of death can still not be determined following a post-mortem, or if the death was deemed to be unnatural or the person died in police or prison custody, an inquest will follow.

An inquest is a legal investigation whereby all the facts will be determined as to the cause of death.

You will not be able to register the death during this time, however, the coroner will be able to issue you with an interim death certificate. This allows you to notify relevant organisations which in turn will enable you to apply for probate. Once the investigation is complete the coroner will inform the registrar of their findings and give them the information needed to complete the Pink form 100B. Once the coroner is allowed to collect the body the funeral can take place.

Arrange the funeral

This you can do yourself or with the help and support of your chosen funeral director. At Surrey Green Burials we believe that you should be in control of the arrangements and we will assist you to make the funeral something you and your family can feel proud of. 

We can assist you to decide on the sort of coffin, transport, music, natural burial or cremation you might like for your loved one.  We can give you all the options to be involved in as much or as little as you want to, of the care of the body and all the preparations before, during and after the funeral.

Please feel free to talk to us about all your options around funeral arranging and we can assist you to create the perfect send off for your friend or family member.

Once you have begun the process, you will need to think about notifying not only friends and family but other organisations. The employer of the deceased, their GP, mortgage, utilities, HMRC, banks building societies and even perhaps social media sites. The government has a service called Tell Us Once which allows you to tell them once of the death and they will then notify many of the government organisations saving you the repeated calls.

We know that funerals can be expensive and as such we at Surrey Green Burials we are doing all we can to make our services as affordable as possible for you. There are many options which may enable you to bring costs down. Please talk to us about all your options.

The government also have money available for those eligible for help with funeral costs all the details of this can be found on their website here.

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If you have any questions or would like further explanation regarding what you have read here reach out to us – we are here to help