What to do when someone dies – Norfolk

What to do when someone dies – Norfolk

When someone dies there is a process and some paperwork to be done: you will need to inform various people and organisations and complete certain documents needed by law.  There are some priorities to consider which include:  

  1. Obtaining the death certificate 
  2. How to register a death  
  3. Organisations you need to contact  
  4. Probate and the estate  
  5. Start Funeral Arrangements 

We take you through each step in this guide to what to do when someone dies:

1) Obtaining a  Death Certificate in Norfolk 

When someone dies a doctor should be called to issue a certificate stating the cause of death, along with a document outlining who is eligible to register the death. If your parent or loved one is in a nursing home, the Doctor will probably already have been called and you may have had some initial conversations about what to do next. 

Depending on the circumstances, if someone dies alone for example and it was unexpected, there may have to be an inquest. The doctor will send a report of the cause of death to the coroner who will decide. The coroners office will be able to give you instructions regarding registering the death.  

 2) How to register a death in Norfolk 

A death should be registered within five days from when it occurred. This period can be extended in special circumstances and if the coroner is involved – see below for further information.   

Norfolk is a single district and you can register a death at any registration office in Norfolk. Visit Norfolk County Council website HERE – for their online appointment system or you can call the council’s customer service centre – 0344 8008020.  

If the death occurred at the Norfolk & Norwich Hospital, there is now a registrar on site, which can make things a little easier for you.  

People who can register a death, in order of priority  

  1. A relative – by blood, marriage or civil partnership  
  2. Someone present at the death  
  3. The occupier of the nursing/residential home/official from hospital where the death took place 
  4. The person who found the body 
  5. The person in charge of the body  

If a couple were not married, a surviving partner is not able to be recorded as the deceased’s partner on the death registration.  However, they can qualify as informant as ‘present at the death’ or ‘causing the body to be buried/cremated’.  

What to take with you  

You will need the death certificate from the doctor or confirmation from the coroners office that the relevant paperwork has been issued to the registration office.  

This includes the birth certificate, marriage/civil partner certificate and NHS medical card.  

You will need to be able to give the registrar the following information about the deceased  

  • The date and place of death  
  • Full name and any other names they are known by or have been known by e.g. maiden name 
  • Their date and place of birth  
  • Last main paid occupation  
  • Full name of their spouse or civil partner and date of birth 
  • Their address 
  • Details of any public sector pensions e.g. civil service, teacher or armed forces 

You will be asked about your relationship to the deceased and your own contact details.  

Documents you will receive from the registrar:

  • A ceritficate for burial or cremation called a green form.  
  • A certificate of registration of death issued to inform the Department for Work and Pensions.  
  • Tell Us Once – unique reference number to use this free service (see below). 

You can buy death certificates which will be needed to sort out the deceased’s affairs – anything which needs to be closed down or claimed, for example bank accounts. They must be originals not photocopies.  

What happens when a death is referred to a coroner?  

In the event that a doctor is unsure as to the cause of death – if it was unexplained or unexpected for example – then it might be referred to a coroner.  

The coroner may determine the death is the result of natural causes, in which case this information will be sent to the registrar on completion of the enquiry, usually within 24 hours.  

If a post mortem examination is called the coroner will issue paperwork in place of the doctors medical certificate.  This will enable you to register the death once the registrar has received the paperwork, usually within a few days. 

If the cause of death takes longer to establish, the coroner will issue an interim certificate so you can settle some of the deceased’s affairs.  

An inquest will be held in cases where the death is deemed to have been unnatural, unknown or unexplained, with an inevitable delay to the registration of death process.  The inquest is held in public by a coroner to establish who died, and how, when and where the death occurred.  

The  coroners findings will allow the cause of death to be registered.

More information regarding the Norfolk Coroner’s Service can be found here – www.norfolk.gov.uk/coroners  

3) Organisations you need to contact 

The Tell Us Once service is a helpful way of reporting a death to all government organisations in one go.  

The registrar will tell you about using Tell Us Once and give you a unique reference number to access the service online or by phone. The following information is required to register: 

  • Date of birth 
  • National insurance number 
  • Driving licence number 
  • Passport number 
  • Details of any benefits or entitlements such as State Pension 
  • Details of any local council services eg Blue Badge 
  • Name and address of next of kin 
  • Name, address and contact details of the person or company dealing with their estate – their Executor/Administrator (you will need their permission to provide their details). 

Tell Us Once will notify: 

  • HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) 
  • Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) 
  • DVLA and the Passport Office 
  • The Local Council – housing benefit, council tax, library service etc  

There will still be a number of organisations that you will need to notify, close down accounts, cancel insurances, subscriptions, payments etc.  

  • Company pensions/personal pension providers 
  • Banks and building societies (including joint accounts) 
  • Company registrars of shareholdings 
  • Credit card companies 
  • Insurance companies 
  • Mortgage provider, land lord, local authority 
  • Utilities  
  • Doctor/Dentist  
  • Employer  

4) Grant of probate and managing the estate  

When someone dies, their Will, assuming they have left one, may contain useful information such as whether they would like a burial or cremation etc.  You may already have a copy of the Will, or it could be held by a solicitor or other family member.  

The Will should also name Executor/s- the person/people they have appointed to close their affairs and “administer their estate” – everything they leave behind – assets, debts etc. If this is not you, you will need to contact the executor to start the process of obtaining probate.  

Probate is the process of officially proving that a will is valid and a grant of probate is a legal document allowing the people named in it to collect and distribute the deceased’s estate – this includes their money, property and possessions.  

A grant of probate is not always needed. If a home and bank accounts are jointly owned and is passing to the joint owner – husband, wife. In such cases, production of a death certificate may be sufficient.  

If amounts of money are small, some institutions may release monies without a grant being produced.  


If there is no will then the person has died “intestate”. One of the deceased’s closest relatives or the legal representative of the deceased will then be appointed to “administer” their affairs.  They can apply to the Probate Registry for a letter of administration, which will give them the permission to administer the estate. 

In complex situations it is a good idea to get legal advice. Start by visiting our Legal Matters .

For more information and to apply – call the Probate & Inheritance Tax helpline 0300 1231072 or visit www.hrmc.gov.uk  

5) Arranging a funeral in Norfolk  

Before you start arranging a funeral, it’s a good idea to check the will for any special requests, such as burial or cremation.  Many people choose to use a funeral director as they can help with all the planning during this difficult time. They can advise on things such as  

  • Where the deceased should rest before the funeral  
  • Time and place of funeral  
  • Type of service – religious or other  
  • Costs  

Our section on funerals has a Comprehensive Guide to Funeral Planning, click HERE to read all about how to plan a funeral.  

Julia Samuel MBE is a specialist bereavement counsellor and we had the pleasure of interviewing her a while back and this is what she had to say about grief. 

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