A while back I was talking to a good friend about looking after older people and it occurred to me that I had no idea what to do if the worst happened and someone died. My friend, who knows about these things, offered to jot down a few pointers. Here is what she said.
1. Directgov – One of the great things about the internet is that information is available 24 hours a day. Directgov, the government website, has a very comprehensive list of everything you’ll need to do, from registering the death and arranging the funeral to contacting all the people you have to inform. You can even print out a checklist.
There’s also information on the Citizens Advice Bureau website www.adviceguide.org.uk
2. Death Certificate – You’ll get more information when you go and register the death. In England and Wales you’ll get a copy of the very useful booklet “What to do after a death”. You’ll also get a chance to buy multiple copies of the death certificate – it’s cheaper to do this at the time of registering than later on. The more complicated the financial affairs of the person who died were, the more certificates you’ll need.
3. Make notes- As well as the check list, you’ll need somewhere to write things down. Get a notebook and keep a list of questions as they occur to you; this will make things easier when you’re dealing with the funeral director, for example. If lots of family members are making suggestions about the funeral write them down too so they’re not forgotten when you’re making decisions.
4. One step at a time – Take things one step at a time. Even if you’ve got a long list of things you need to do, don’t feel it all has to be done at once. Registering the death and arranging the funeral will be your first priorities. Things like sorting out a will or intestacy will be important too, but they do not need to be dealt with immediately.
5. Do think about car insurance – while other financial paperwork can wait a few days, if the policy holder died you should contact the insurance company even if the person wanting to use the car was a named driver.
6. Funeral directors – Nowadays many people who are arranging a funeral will have had little experience of dealing with arrangements after a death before. Funeral directors are used to this and are happy to guide you through the process and answer any questions.
7. Choice – However, do remember that you don’t have to use a funeral director if you don’t want to, and if you do, you don’t have to arrange a funeral in the way that they or indeed anyone else thinks is “proper”. As well as religious funerals you may wish to consider a humanist ceremony. A more recent idea is the civil funeral; this is a service provided by local councils in the same way as weddings and civil partnerships.
8. Trade associations – You should bear in mind that funeral directors are running a business and selling you a service; it’s quite all right to discuss prices or look for the best value for money, or just wish to do things simply. When choosing a funeral director, check that they belong to a trade association, such as the National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD) or the National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF). This requires them to provide full information about their service and prices.
9. Post - Receiving post addressed to someone who has died can be very distressing. The Deceased Preference Service (www.deceasedpreferenceservice.co.uk) is a means by which you can alert organisations that carry out mass mailings to amend their records; this will stop most personally addressed, unsolicited mailings and help combat identity fraud. It will not apply to official communications such as tax returns, bank statements, bills or premium bonds etc. and because mailings are printed in advance it may take a month or two for them to stop completely.
10. Think about it in advance. No-one likes talking about death, but finding out a bit about how to deal with the practicalities and talking to your family about what you and they would like to happen can give great peace of mind at a very difficult time. Sometimes a death is expected, but sadly it can come as a complete shock.
One last piece of advice – back up your digital photos! We all value our memories of family members or friends, and photographs are for most of us a vital part of that. Many people now only have digital photographs stored on a computer, but those of us who use computers all the time but don’t upload every photo we take onto Facebook can be very vulnerable. Laptops can be stolen, desktop computers can break down leaving data unrecoverable and there are sad cases where people who are bereaved also lose all their digital photographs. Think about getting some photos printed out or upload them to an online storage website like Photobox or Snapfish.
Image – Living Memorial Stone by Craig Barrow