Essential Funerals

Humanist Funerals Scotland

What to do when someone dies

A death of someone you love, even when expected, is a traumatic event and arranging the funeral can feel overwhelming. To help you, we have created this section as a short guide of what you need to do when someone dies.

Procedures may vary throughout the UK, a useful resource in Scotland can be found here.

Here is a summary of some of the main points:

  • When someone dies in hospital, hospital staff will arrange for a doctor to issue the Medical Certificate of Death which the family need to collect, along with any belongings, from the hospital. If the funeral is to be a cremation, please advise the hospital staff so they can make arrangements for any additional documentation that is needed.
  • When someone dies at home or in a nursing home the first contact should be with the deceased’s doctor who, if satisfied with the cause of death, will issue the Medical Certificate of Death. In some cases families may be asked to collect the certificate from the surgery. In the case of a nursing home death, their staff should liaise with the doctor.
  • When someone dies unexpectedly, the Coroner (England and Wales) or Procurator Fiscal (Scotland) is in the main automatically involved. If the deceased has not been under a doctor’s care on a regular basis, the emergency doctor, or any police involved, will inform the relevant Coroner’s office or the Procurator Fiscal.
  • When someone dies away from home or abroad different rules apply. The family need to register the death according to local regulations in the country concerned and obtain a certificate of death. They may also be able to register the death with the British Consul in that country for a fee. However, there is no obligation to do so. A record of the death will be sent to Scotland and you will thereafter be able to get a copy from New Register House. This process must be completed before the body is repatriated. There are companies who specialise in repatriation in addition to most Funeral Directors being able to advise on the process.

General Register Office for Scotland, New Register House, West Register Street, Edinburgh EH1 3YT, telephone: 0131 334 0380.