In the event of a death

When someone dies

You need to inform a number of people and organisations who will require you to complete certain legal documents.

  • If the death occurs at home, you will need to contact the deceased’s doctor to obtain a medical certificate of death. This is the form that you need to take with you to register the death. If the cause of death is unknown then the doctor will refer the death to the coroner.
  • If the death occurs in a hospital the hospital staff will arrange for a doctor to issue the medical certificate of death, which you will need to collect. The medical certificate needs to be given to the registrar when registering the death and the green form needs to be given to the Funeral Director so that we can collect the deceased from the hospital and bring them back to our private chapel of rest.
  • If the death occurs in a nursing home, then the staff at the nursing home will liaise with the doctor who, if satisfied with the cause of death, will issue the medical certificate. This may need to be collected from the doctor’s surgery or the nursing home and taken with you to register the death. If the cause of death cannot be determined then the doctor will refer the death to the coroner.

We can offer you plenty of advice and support through this difficult and sad time. It is important to remember that you will not be able to do everything right away, but if you can, you could complete the first few days checklist below.

  • Contact us and then we can arrange to move the deceased from your home, a nursing home or hospital to our private chapel of rest.
  • Obtain a medical certificate of cause of death signed by a doctor or, if the Coroners’ office is involved, take instructions from the coroner regarding registration.
  • Make an appointment to register the death.
  • Contact the executor as soon as you can to allow them to begin obtaining probate if necessary.
  • Check to see if the deceased had a funeral plan or a will. If there is no will, decide who will apply to sort out the deceased’s affairs and contact the probate registry for more information on how to do this.
  • After you have registered the death, make an appointment with us to discuss funeral arrangements, either in one of our offices or we can visit you at your home.

A death must be registered within five days from when it occurred.

This period can be extended in exceptional circumstances and if the coroner is involved. The registration must take place in the county where the death occurred. You can only register a death once you have the medical cause of death certificate from the doctor or, in the case of the death been reported to coroner, confirmation from the coroners’ office that the relevant paperwork has been issued to N E Downing.

If the death has occurred abroad please contact N E Downing for advice.

A death must be registered within five days from when it occurred.

This period can be extended in exceptional circumstances and if the coroner is involved. The registration must take place in the county where the death occurred. You can only register a death once you have the medical cause of death certificate from the doctor or, in the case of the death been reported to coroner, confirmation from the coroners’ office that the relevant paperwork has been issued to N E Downing.

If the death has occurred abroad please contact N E Downing for advice.

Most deaths are registered by a relative of the deceased. The registrar would normally only allow one of the people listed below to register the death if there were no relatives available.

  • Someone who was present at the death
  • An occupant of the nursing/residential home or an official from the hospital where the death took place
  • The person making the funeral arrangements
  • The person who found the body
  • The person in charge of the body
  • The date and place of death
  • Their full names they are known by, or have been known by; maiden name of a woman who has been married
  • Their date and place of birth
  • Their last occupation (if the person was married, widowed or had formed a civil partnership, the full name and occupation of their spouse or civil partner)
  • Their usual address
  • The date of birth of a surviving spouse or civil partner
  • Details of any public sector pension, e.g. civil service, teacher or armed forces

When registering the death you must take with you:

  • The medical certificate of cause of death, signed by a doctor, unless the coroner is issuing the paperwork

It would also be helpful if you can take the deceased’s:

  • Birth certificate
  • Marriage / civil partnership certificates
  • NHS medical card

The registrar will offer you the ‘Tell Us Once’ service

Information will be passed onto the Department of Work and Pensions, who will notify government and council departments on your behalf that the death has occurred—this is a free optional service and will be offered to you at the end of registration. If you wish to use this service then please also take with you the deceased’s:

  • National Insurance number
  • Driving licence (if applicable)
  • Bus pass (if applicable)
  • Passport (if applicable)
  • Blue badge (if applicable)

If a post-mortem is not being held, the registrar will give you:

  • A certificate for burial or cremation (‘the green form’). This form gives permission for the body to be buried or for the Funeral Director to apply for the body to be cremated and must be given to us as soon as possible. We also require it if the deceased dies in hospital. It is proof to the hospital we have been instructed to look after the deceased, copies will not be accepted.
  • You will be issued with one death certificate, which is a certified copy of the original register entry, but will be able to purchase more copies if required. They are needed by the executor or administrator when sorting out the deceased person’s affairs and need to be originals not copies. Anything that has to be closed down or claimed for will need a certificate

A doctor may report the death to a coroner for many different reasons, for example:

  • The cause of death is unknown
  • The death was violent or unnatural
  • The death was sudden and unexplained
  • The deceased was not visited by a medical practitioner in the 14 days leading up to their death.

If a death is reported to a coroner which does not need to be the subject of an inquest (when the death is a result of natural disease or illness), a certificate giving the cause of death will be sent to the registrar of deaths on completion of the coroners’ enquiries. You can then go ahead and register the death.

In a small number of cases—where the cause of death is unnatural or remains unknown—the doctor or hospital or registrar will refer the death to a coroner. In this case registration of the death will be delayed as an inquest will need to be held.


It is the duty of coroners to investigate deaths which are reported to them and which:

  • Appear to be due to violence
  • Are unnatural
  • Are of unknown cause
  • Occur in legal custody

An inquest is not a trial, it is an enquiry to establish who the deceased was and how, when and where they died. The coroner will issue an interim death certificate to enable the estate to be dealt with. On conclusion of the inquest, the next of kin will be provided with details about how, where and when a copy of the death certificate can be obtained.

Whether you choose a burial or a cremation, we will make all the arrangements on your behalf.

Points to consider for burial:

  • A grave will be prepared in advance. If there is a family plot, we can arrange for this to be reopened and the headstone removed before burial.
  • You may want to reserve a larger plot if you or your family want to be buried close by.
  • Some cemeteries no longer have space for additional graves and land prices can be at a premium.
  • After the burial you will need to consider if you want a new memorial headstone, or an inscription added on an existing headstone. We can provide you with details of local stonemasons who will advise you on memorials and any local regulations you should know about.
  • Some mourners may hold back from attending this part of the ceremony, but the burial is a deeply moving part of the funeral and the family may need and welcome support.

Points to consider for cremation:

  • Service times vary between crematoria and our staff will be familiar with local rules and regulations.
  • All cremations are carried out individually to a strict Code of Practice.
  • Services can be held at the crematorium or elsewhere, for instance in a church, garden or hall, beforehand.
  • Cremated remains may be scattered, buried or kept as you wish.

Cremated Remains

The cremation procedure is very strictly regulated and great care is taken to ensure that ashes are kept separate from anyone else’s. Dealing with a loved one’s ashes is a very important part of the funeral rite, yet can often be overlooked. There are many options available, including scattering in the crematorium gardens, burial in the local churchyard, cemetery or woodland site, keeping the ashes at home or even scattering at sea. We have a range of ashes caskets and memento urns and can also advise on options for memorials, including plaques that can be placed with a tree or shrub.

When it comes to arranging a funeral there are lots of things that you need to think about. At the meeting your funeral director will discuss all the different options available and give you lots of advice and guidance. These are a few things that you might start to consider before your meeting:

  • Burial or cremation?
  • Where the service will be held?
  • A religious or non-religious service?
  • What type of coffin?
  • If you would like to provide clothes for the deceased
  • If you would like to come and see the deceased
  • If you want Press notices
  • Hearse and limousine options
  • If you require printed orders of service
  • Flowers and donations

Once you have entrusted us with the care of your loved one we will ensure the appropriate respect and professionalism will be shown towards them.

Your loved one will be taken from their place of death to our specialist modern mortuary facilities. We take enormous pride in the quality of our facilities and employ a team of professionals, who will ensure the right level of care is given.

You may wish to consider providing us with items of clothing for your loved one to be dressed in, maybe a favourite outfit or something chosen by family and friends. Alternatively we can provide a traditional shroud, although this has become less common as providing own clothing can help when visiting the chapels of rest.

In most cases it will be possible to visit the person who has passed away in our private chapel of rest before the funeral and say your last goodbyes. Some people find this helps them come to terms with the death, especially if it was unexpected.

It is entirely your decision if you wish to visit or not; at the time of arrangement, your funeral arranger will discuss this to help you make the right decision for you.

Once the coffin or casket has been decided upon, you will be asked to choose what you would like the person who has died to be dressed in. This could be their own clothes or one of our range of gowns which complement the style of coffin or casket. If you choose own clothes, we would need a full complement, (including underwear). Shoes may also be worn for viewing but may need to be removed at the final stage before cremation depending upon the material – your arranger will advise you.

Once all of the legal documentation has been completed by the doctors or coroner we will begin our preparation for the chapel of rest. Your funeral arranger will contact you to advise when visiting the chapels of rest is possible.

Funeral Procession

The funeral cortège will arrive at the agreed address at the time given to you on your confirmation letter. The Funeral Director will greet you at your door, and escort you and your family to the limousines or family cars. Once the family are ready, the Funeral Director will walk the cortège away from the house, before seating themselves back in the hearse. It is also possible to choose a specific route for the procession to take. This may be comprised of a journey which includes treasured memories or personal landmarks.

Arriving at the church or crematorium

Your Funeral Director will ensure every detail has been taken care of in advance. On arrival at the church or crematorium, the Funeral Director speaks with the minister/celebrant who will be conducting the service. When it is time for the service to commence, the Funeral Director will speak with you briefly before leading the bearers carrying the coffin in to the church/ crematorium. We will provide pallbearers and ensure they escort the coffin with dignity and respect. If you wish to select your own pallbearers, the Funeral Director will be able to oversee these arrangements and ensure everything runs smoothly. We will make sure that all your guests have arrived before proceeding with the funeral service. Once inside the venue, the Funeral Director will show you and the rest of the family to your seats.

Committal Service

For cremation, you may wish to have the main service at a religious venue and then have a shorter committal service at the crematorium afterwards, though both may take place at the crematorium if you wish. During a committal, there may be a closing of curtains, or the coffin may be gently lowered from the catafalque ready for cremation. For burials, the committal service typically takes place at the graveside of your loved one and may include prayers and readings. When you are ready to say goodbye to the deceased, the coffin or casket is lowered into the ground. You may scatter soil onto the coffin or throw flowers into the grave as it is lowered. When the committal service concludes, we will give you enough time to view the floral tributes outside the venue. Our staff will be more than happy to place these floral tributes on to a family grave or garden of remembrance on your behalf. Our Funeral Directors will always be in attendance throughout the proceedings, to ensure the smooth running of events. If you or a member of your family is unsure of anything on the day, they are there to guide you and help in any way they can.

Funeral Reception or Wake

A reception or wake often celebrates the life of the deceased and is typically less formal than the ceremony which precedes it. If you are unsure of where to hold the wake, your Funeral Director will be able to provide of list of local venues which you may wish to choose from.

After you have arranged the funeral, we will provide you with a detailed written estimate of charges; this will be divided into two parts:

Part 1. Professional services

Including supervising and conducting the funeral arrangements in accordance with your instructions, preparation of documentation and liaison with the appropriate authorities, making and receiving all necessary telephone calls, arranging for the attendance of the minister/celebrant for the funeral service and making the necessary disbursement payments on your behalf. Also transferring the deceased from place of death to our private chapel of rest, including full preparation and care of the deceased. Your choice of coffin and provision of a hearse and any following limousines.

Part 2. Disbursements to be paid on your behalf

Disbursements are the fees that we pay out on behalf of the family. These can include doctor’s fees, cremation or cemetery fees, parochial fees, celebrant’s fees, flowers, printed orders of service and newspaper notices. However as we have no direct control over these charges, they may slightly differ from the estimate to the invoice.

If the estimate meets with your approval, we ask for you to sign a copy and return it to us before the funeral is due to take place.

We will then pay all disbursements and incidental expenses incurred on your behalf and a detailed invoice will follow the week after the funeral has taken place. Payment terms are then 28 days from date of invoice.

Payment may be made by cash, cheque, bank transfer or debit or credit card. If payment is not received within 28 days of invoice, interest will be charged at 1.5% compounded monthly.


We require a deposit before the funeral can take place this is made up of the funeral disbursements we pay out on your behalf.

Assistance with paying for a funeral

You may be entitled to a Funeral Expenses Payment from the Department of Work and Pensions if you get certain benefits and need help to pay for a funeral you’re arranging. Please ask for more information.

Russell’s Hall Hospital Telephone: 01384 244198
New Cross Hospital Telephone: 01902 695091
Sandwell General Hospital Telephone: 0121 507 3464
Queen Elizabeth Hospital Telephone: 0121 371 2450
City, Birmingham Hospital Telephone: 0121 553 1831
Worcester Royal Hospital Telephone: 01905 1760762
Alexandra Hospital Redditch Telephone: 01527 512 083

The Bereavement Register

By registering with this free service, the name and addressee of the deceased are removed from mailing lists, stopping most advertising mail within as little as six weeks. Registration can be done by phone or online.

Telephone: 0800 082 1230

We are on hand, offering support 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
For immediate help and advice please call 01384 77098 or send an email.

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