Death and bereavement

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On this page we hope to help you through this difficult time by giving you all the information you need when you have suffered a bereavement.  This includes registering a death, making funeral arrangements, types of funeral service, legal advice, wills and financial advice.

Registering a death

In England and Wales, you normally need to register the death within five days.  It's best to go to the register office in the area where the person died, as otherwise it may take longer to get the documents you need and this could delay the funeral.  Directgov has lots of information about what to do when someone dies. Cumbria County Council also has information on registering a death.

It will take about half an hour to register the death.  You may need to make an appointment beforehand. Cumbria County Council runs all the local register offices.

If the death occurs in hospital

  • Hospital staff will contact the person named by the deceased as next of kin.  This may be a relative, but need not be.
  • You may wish to see the hospital chaplain.  Ask hospital staff for more information.
  • The hospital will arrange for the nearest relative to collect the deceased's possessions.

Please note that most funeral directors have a Chapel of Rest where the deceased can be held until the funeral takes place.

If the death was expected

  • Contact the doctor who attended the deceased during their final illness.  If they can certify the cause of death, they will give you:
  • a Medical Certificate showing the cause of death (this will be in a sealed envelope addressed to the registrar and is free of charge); and
  • a Formal Notice stating that the doctor has signed the Medical Certificate and telling you how to get the death registered.
  • You may wish to contact the deceased's minister of religion if you have not already done so.  A funeral director may make arrangements for the funeral.

 If the death was unexpected

If the death is sudden or unexpected or you discover a body, you should contact :

  •  the family doctor (if known)
  •  the deceased's nearest relative (if known)
  •  the deceased's minister of religion (if known)
  •  the police, who will help find the people listed above if necessary.

If you suspect that the death was not due to natural causes, do not touch or remove anything from the room.

The doctor may refer the death to the coroner, and may ask the relatives for permission to carry out a post-mortem examination.  This is a medical examination of the body to find out more about the cause of the death and should not delay the funeral.

Reporting a death to a coroner

In any of the following circumstances the doctor may report the death to the coroner:

  •  an accident or injury
  • an industrial disease
  • during a surgical operation before recovery from an anaesthetic
  •  if the cause of death is unknown; or
  • if the death was sudden and unexplained, for instance, a sudden infant death (cot death).

The doctor will tell you if the death has to be reported to the coroner.  If so, the death cannot be registered and the funeral cannot take place without the coroner's authorisation.  Where a death is reported to the coroner, the coroner's office will contact the relatives.

A coroner can order a post-mortem examination without getting the relatives' permission.  This examination will find out the cause of death.

The coroner may also wish to hold an inquest, an investigation into circumstances leading up to a death.  When this happens, the coroner's office will contact the relatives.  This is a legal formality and should not cause you undue distress.

In such cases the coroner's office will issue the death certificate directly to you.  The relatives must then go to the registrar to register the death.  When an inquest is to be held, the registrar cannot register the death until the inquest is over.  However, the coroner will normally issue a burial order or cremation certificate so the funeral can take place.

The Cumbria County Council website has more information on deaths reported to the coroner.


Published: 30 July 2012 - 10:42am