WHAT TO DO WHEN SOMEONE DIES
Notifying West Midlands Police
As soon as practicable after the death of a retired police officer or police widow/widower in receipt of a police pension from the West Midlands Police contact the Pensions’ Dept. at West Midlands Police Headquarters, Lloyd House - Tel. No. 0121 626 5100 If they were in receipt of any additional occupational pension, e.g. from a job after retirement, then that firm or undertaking needs to be contacted as well.
If the deceased was a NARPO member then, in addition, contact the local NARPO Secretary either on-line or by phone to ensure entry on the obituary list.
Much, but not all, of the following can also be found on the website:- https://www.gov.uk/after-a-death. Note that the following relates to England and Wales and in Scotland and Northern Ireland different laws apply but access to information on how to register deaths in those places is possible via the above website.
Registering a death
To register a death you will need a Medical Certificate of Death from a doctor who has seen the deceased in the past 14 days or from the hospital where he was being treated at the time of death or a Form B from the Coroner’s Office where the Coroner has decided that there is no need for an inquest.
Note:- If a Coroner decides that a post mortem examination is necessary to determine the cause of death there is no appeal against that decision. You, and your doctor, are entitled to know the time and place of the examination if you so request but you have no right to be present.
Where can the death be registered?
The death must be registered within five days of the death at either the registration district in which the person died or at any other Register Office. The disadvantage of the latter is that the paperwork has to be forwarded to the area in which he died and the Death Certificate, and any copies, can only be obtained from the district in which the deceased died and this takes time when copies of a death certificate are most needed. The five day period may obviously be extended if the death has had to be referred to the Coroner. The process usually takes less than 30 minutes but you may need to make an appointment, especially if it is a Register Office attached to a hospital or an office that is only part time in smaller towns.
Who may register the death?
The following persons may register the death:-
• A relative; (probably the most common case)
• Someone present at the time of death;
• An administrator of the hospital where death occurred;
• The person making arrangements for the funeral.
How to register the death
Take the medical certificate showing the cause of death that has been signed by the doctor with you.
Although you can register the death without them it may ease the process if the following documents of the deceased are taken with you if readily available:-
• Birth Certificate;
• Council Tax Bill;
• Driving Licence;
• Marriage or Civil Partnership Certificate;
• NHS Medical Card;
• Proof of address (e.g. a utility bill bank statement, etc.)
The Registrar will require the following details:-
• The deceased’s full name at time of death;
• Any names previously used (e.g. maiden name or change by deed poll)
• The deceased’s date and place of birth;
• Their last address;
• Their occupation;
• The full name, date of birth and occupation of a surviving or late spouse or civil partner;
• Whether they were getting a State Pension or any other benefits.
You should also take some proof of your name and address but the registration can take place without it.
Documents you will receive
When you register the death you will receive:-
• A Certificate for Burial or Cremation (often referred to as the ‘green form’) which gives permission for burial or an application for cremation. (If using an undertaker they will require this form.)
• A Certificate of Registration of Death (Form BD8) - you may need to fill this out and return it if the person was getting a State Pension of other benefits. However note that in some areas the registrar will contact D.W.P. on your behalf but this relates solely to the State Pensions and not any occupational pension so you still need to contact the West Midlands Police Pensions’ Dept. and any other provider.
You can buy additional death certificates - two or three may be needed, especially if you deal with persons by post with a turn round time of two weeks or more. (Remember to enclose an S.A.E. if you expect the document/s to be returned.) It is illegal to make photostat copies and most persons you need to produce it to will only accept an original.
Tell Us Once procedure
This is a scheme to allow one call by phone or online to cancel all relevant documents, i.e.:-
• H.M. Revenue and Customs (H.M.R.C.) - to deal with tax and cancel benefits;
• Department of Work and Pensions (D.W.P.) - to cancel benefits;
• Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (D.V.L.A.) - to cancel a driving licence;
• Passport Office - to cancel any passport;
• The local council - to cancel housing benefits, council tax benefit and a Blue Badge. Also to inform council housing services and remove the person from the electoral roll.
The Registrar should give you a unique reference number (U.R.N.) to enable you to carry out the procedure. You can access the Tell Us Once service online or by phone. You will require the deceased’s:-
• Date of birth;
• National Insurance Number - this is normally shown on pension advice slips;
• Driving Licence Number;
• Any current Passport Number;
• Details of any benefits they were receiving such as State Pension;
• Details of any local council services they were receiving, e.g. Blue Badge;
• Name and address of their next of kin;
• Name, address and contact details of a person (executor) or company (administrator) dealing with the deceased’s estate.
Note:- You need permission from the next of kin, executor/administrator or anyone who was claiming joint benefits or entitlements with the deceased, before you give their details.
Not all Register Offices offer this service or you may choose not to use it but in these cases you will need to contact all the organisations listed above separately and in the case of the local council this may mean several departments.
What if there is an inquest?
If there is to be an inquest this will usually be because the law requires there be one and in some, but not all, cases also requires a jury. A Coroner may, however, decide that an inquest is in the public interest.
After the post mortem examination, if the cause of death is established and no further medical examinations are required, the Coroner may release the body for burial or cremation.
At the end of the inquest the Coroner or jury will state whether the death was accidental, misadventure, etc. He will forward details to the Registrar telling him what to put in the register and this can take a week or so. He will issue an interim death certificate which can be used in lieu of a death certificate to enable one to let organisations know that the deceased is dead - although from personal experience you may have to explain to them what the form is - and to obtain probate.
What if the death occurs abroad or on a ship or aircraft?
If the death occurs abroad the death has to be registered in that country in the normal way under their laws - which may be very different to ours. The British Embassy, High Commission or Consulate can render assistance. In some cases this may be an Honorary Consul and in others you may be a considerable distance from the nearest British Consulate. (Getting assistance on Public Holidays in the host countries or on British Bank Holidays may be more difficult than usual.) Before travelling abroad, unless you are really fluent in the language of the country you are visiting, it is useful to make a note of the consulates and embassies that you may need to call on for assistance - just in case.
If the death occurs on a ship or aircraft registration of death is in the country where that ship or plane is registered. (The majority of the world’s ships are registered under flags of convenience the three largest being Panama, Liberia and the Marshall Islands.)
In all of these cases there is no need to register the death in this country. The foreign death certificate can be used in lieu of a British one provided it is in English or accompanied by a certified translation - frequently charged at so much a word.
You may wish to have the body returned to this country for burial - the airline companies dislike carrying bodies in the hold of their aircraft and show this by charging exorbitant rates for doing so. (Some travel insurance - including that available to members of NARPO - covers the cost of repatriation whilst others do not.) Before bringing the body home you must:-
• Get a certified English translation of the death certificate;
• Get permission to remove the body issued by a coroner (or equivalent) in the country where the person died;
• Tell the Coroner in England if the death was violent or unnatural.
Also seek advice from the British Embassy, High Commission or Consulate.
Once home take the death certificate and, certified English translation if required, to the Registrar in the area where the funeral is taking place who will issue a “Certificate of no liability to register” which the funeral director will accept in lieu of the Certificate for Burial
The Coroner will usually hold an inquest if the cause of death is unknown or if it was sudden, violent or unnatural.
You need a certificate from the Coroner (form “Cremation 6") if the body is to be cremated.
If the deceased is cremated abroad, and some countries do not permit cremation, then the ashes can be carried back in one’s luggage. However you will normally need to show:-
• The death certificate;
• The certificate of cremation.
Each country has its own rules concerning leaving with human ashes and there may be additional requirements. Seek advice from the British Embassy, High Commission or Consulate.
You will need to contact the airline to see if they will accept the ashes as hand luggage or only as checked-in luggage. They may ask that they be in a non-metallic container so that they can be X-rayed. (Note some countries have a practice of soldering or brazing the lid to the body of the container.)
(Where travel insurance covers repatriation of the body they usually offer a contribution towards the cremation abroad as an alternative.)
If you feel that you would like a British death certificate then (with some exceptions*) any death of a British National abroad after 1st. January 1983 can be registered in this country. Registration (as at January 2015) will cost £105, a Death Certificate £65 extra plus postage. If there is any error in the paperwork it will be returned but the fee will not and you will have to pay again if you reapply.
*In the case of a number of countries, e.g. Australia, Canada and South Africa, you are not able to register the death in this country. Going to the website https://www.gov.uk/after-a-death and then going to the section “Death abroad” and looking at the sentence covering registering the death with the UK authorities and filling in the questionnaire will give a result as to whether you may, or may not, register the death in this country.
The funeral can normally only take place after the death has been registered. However if there is to be an inquest the Coroner may, and often does, release the body for burial prior to the inquest.
Most people use an undertaker and those that belong to:-
• National Association of Funeral Directors
• National Federation of Funeral Directors
• Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors
have codes of practice and are required to give you a price list when asked.
If you get a quote check what it covers. Apart from their own fees there are ‘disbursements’ that the funeral director pays on your behalf, e.g. newspaper announcements about the death, crematorium or cemetery fees. Ensure that these are included in the quote and ask if there will be any additional costs.
Due to the high expense of a funeral an increasing number of families are arranging the funeral themselves, often using a cardboard or recycled newspaper coffin. (Note:- Check with the crematorium prior to purchasing the coffin as there are some restrictions as to what they will accept.)
If you wish to move the body abroad for the funeral you will need to apply to the local Coroner. You need to apply at least four days before you wish to remove the body.
Reporting details to the bank
In cases where there is a joint account with the deceased there should, in theory, be no problems, merely transferring from a joint account to a personal account. (Sometimes they do try and place unreasonable obstacles in the way.) However it is useful to get a list of Direct Debits and Standing Orders as you may wish to alter or delete some, e.g. any personal to the deceased, joint membership of the National Trust or English Heritage etc.
If the deceased had a personal account then it should be closed to stop money going out unnecessarily. However if you remain at the address you may need to set up Direct Debit mandates for things such as utilities, Council Tax, house insurance, etc., treating it as a matter of some urgency.
Once the account is closed nothing can be added or taken from it and the outstanding amount will be settled with the executor or administrator - although the bank will not be speedy in doing so. However they will, if necessary, release money to cover the funeral expenses by means of a cheque made out to the undertakers as that expense has first claim on the estate.
Some insurance companies believe than any insurance policy dies with the deceased - in the case of car insurance even if you were a named driver - or charge an exorbitant fee for the alteration to the details. Others, including Roland Smith/P.M.A.S., will continue the insurance and change the name of the insured without any difficulty.
Obviously you will need to contact the insurance companies involved as soon as possible to ensure that you are covered.
It can take time to be able to carry on as ‘normal’. If you feel that you would like someone to talk to there are a number of counselling and bereavement services one of the most widespread being Cruse Bereavement Care.
Website:- www.crusebereavementcare.org.uk or phone:-
• Birmingham 0121 687 8010
• Coventry 02476 670714
• Dudley 01384 262 878
• Sandwell & Walsall 0121 558 1798
• Wolverhampton 01902 420055
Members of a church or other religious group may well find that they are able to help in the grieving process.
If the deceased was a NARPO member or a widow member then contacting the Branch Secretary or a named Welfare Officer will provide someone able to offer practical advice or just a person to listen to you.