Practical Support

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Who to tell

The Police

  • When a death occurs that may be suicide, the police may:
    Ask you questions to explore how the person who has died was acting in the days and weeks before their death.
  • Ask you to help them confirm the person’s identity, either by seeing them and confirming who has died, or by providing photographs. This may happen immediately if you found the person, or you may be asked to go to the mortuary to do this.
  • Take away any items that could be connected with the death. If the Police take anything away with them, they will return it.

You may want to note down the name and contact number of the officer in case you have any questions after they have gone.
The deceased person’s body will be taken to the local mortuary.

The Coroner

In England and Wales, sudden and unexplained deaths are reported to the coroner. The coroner may decide to investigate, in which case the death cannot be registered until this is completed.
When a death is investigated by a coroner, the coroner’s officer will contact the next of kin, where possible, within one working day of the death being reported, to explain why the death has been reported and what is likely to follow.
The investigation may take time, for example in cases where there is to be an inquest. You could speak to the coroner’s officer about how to make funeral arrangements and inform services about what has happened, as well as any other concerns and questions you may have.

More information about coroners and inquests is provided at https://www.gov.uk/after-a-death

The Post Mortem

Sometimes the coroner will decide to request a post-mortem examination to be clear about how the person died. By law, the coroner is not required to obtain your consent to this, but will give you a reason for his or her decision. Wherever possible the coroner’s office will, on request, tell you when and where an examination will be performed. If the post-mortem examination can establish the cause of death, a coroner may decide the investigation is complete or that further investigation is unnecessary.

Arranging the funeral

Even if the inquest has not yet been opened, you can talk to a funeral director to start planning what happens next.You should contact a funeral director who is a member of a recognised trade association, such as The National Association of Funeral Directors.

The coroner will issue you a certificate of the fact of death. This is an interim death certificate that will allow you to make arrangements for a funeral.

You might be able to receive some help to pay for the funeral; this Funeral Payment is paid after the funeral, to cover some of the cost. You can find out if you can get help on the government’s web pages about Funeral Payments.

The Inquest

An inquest is a public court hearing to establish who has died, and how, when and where the death happened. A coroner must hold an inquest if it wasn’t possible to find the cause of death from the  post-mortem examination, if the death is found to be unnatural, occurred in prison, police custody or in hospital, or if the coroner thinks there are grounds for further investigation.

It is not a trial and its purpose is to discover the facts of the death, not to apportion blame.

The coroner is required to start the process as soon as possible and this is known as ‘opening an inquest’. This is usually a brief meeting in the coroner’s court, allowing them to ‘adjourn’ (postpone) the full inquest to a later date to allow sufficient time for information to be gathered. You are entitled to attend both the initial and the full inquest and the next of kin will be informed of the date.

You do not have to attend – unless the coroner wants to call you as a witness. Many people do not attend the first, brief hearing but do attend the full inquest. The coroner’s officer will be able to discuss this with you. If you do wish to attend, it may be possible for you to visit the courtroom before the inquest begins so you can be familiar with its surroundings.

For more practical help and guidance on the inquest, conclusions from the inquest, the death of someone in mental health services, a death away from home and the death of a chid, please take a look at Help is at Hand. You can read, download and order a copy of Help is at Hand from this website, under “Support Guides”, or by following the link above.

Telling people

The bank/building society.

For most major UK banks and building societies, it is best to go into your local branch. For some banks, you can start by informing them of the person’s death online, but you may still have to go into the branch. It is best to arrange an appointment with the bank/building society of the person who died