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What do you need to do when someone dies in Scotland?

What do you need to do when someone dies in Scotland?

Dealing with the death of a loved one is a highly stressful and emotional experience, especially when you have been appointed executor of an estate.

The Scottish Government has produced a booklet called “What to do after a death in Scotland … practical advice for times of bereavement,” which provides a helpful guide to the practicalities. It is definitely worth reading.

Additional practical guidance is also available from organisations such as the General Register Office for Scotland and charities like Age UK Scotland.

To speak with one of our specialist executry (probate) solicitors about winding up an estate, you can call us on 0141 222 7951 or request a callback by clicking here.

We know how hard it is to navigate your way through the process at such an upsetting time, so here is a brief outline of some of the key issues you are likely to face:

Immediately after the death

Actions to be taken in the immediate aftermath of the death will depend on whether the death occurred at home or in hospital. However, certain actions will be the same regardless of the location, including:

  • You will need to contact a funeral director to arrange for the laying out of the body.
  • Do you know whether your loved one wished to be an organ donor? If yes, you will need to make the necessary arrangements quickly.
  • It is important to find the Will, if there is one. This will let you know who has been appointed as an Executor.
  • Have a look for any other important papers – such as a pre-paid funeral plan, organ donor card or letter requesting certain funeral arrangements. 

Getting a medical certificate

If the death took place at home, then you should notify the family doctor. In both home and hospital deaths, the doctor will be able to issue a medical certificate of cause of death, provided the cause of death is clear and there are no unusual circumstances. You will need this certificate when you register the death later.

If you know that the body is to be cremated, the doctor will also issue a cremation certificate. A second cremation certificate, signed by a different doctor, is also required. The second doctor will charge a fee for this.

If the cause of death is not clear, or there are suspicious circumstances, then the doctor will report the death to the Procurator Fiscal, who has a duty to investigate any sudden or suspicious deaths. The Procurator Fiscal will carry out an investigation to establish the cause of death and also to determine if a crime has been committed or a Fatal Accident Inquiry is required.

Once the medical certificate has been issued, the funeral director will be able to take the body away to a chapel of rest or mortuary.

Registering a death

Deaths in Scotland must be registered with the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages within eight days, but ideally you should try to get this done as quickly as possible. There are registrars located throughout Scotland, and you will be able to get details of the nearest one from your doctor, funeral director or phone book.

Deaths can be registered by a variety of people, including relatives or any person present at the death, but you will have to take along certain items, if you can. These are:

  • The medical certificate of cause of death;
  • The deceased’s birth and marriage certificates;
  • The deceased’s NHS medical card;
  • If the deceased received a pension or allowance from government funds, then documents relating to this.

As part of the registering process, you will also have to provide certain key information about the person who has died. This includes their full name, address, occupation, date of birth and details of their parents.

The registrar will then give you a Certificate of Registration of Death, which should be passed on to the funeral director to enable the funeral to proceed. You will also receive a “Registration or notification of death” form that can be used to obtain or adjust benefits or National Insurance.

It is also worth paying for a copy of the entry that was made in the Register of Deaths, as the Executor will need this in order to deal with the property and assets of the person who has died.

Planning the funeral

You should begin making the funeral arrangements as soon as possible, but make sure that nothing is finalised until you know that the death will not need to be reported to the Procurator Fiscal.

Your first step should be to check whether your loved one had left any instructions regarding their funeral, or whether they had any sort of funeral plan in place. You are most likely to find these details in a Will or letter to family/friends.

If there are no instructions, then the arrangements will be up to you. You will need to decide whether to have a burial or cremation, and whether the ceremony will be religious or not. Most funeral directors are a good source of help and advice when it comes to discussing these options.

One point to watch out for is that if your loved one is to be buried then you will need to check whether they had already bought a lair in a cemetery. If not, then you will have to arrange for one to be purchased. Again, the funeral director may be able to advise on how to go about doing this.

Paying for the funeral

Funerals can be costly and you need to know how it is to be paid for before you finalise any arrangements. Costs can vary between funeral directors, so it is a good idea to obtain detailed quotes from at least two different directors.

If your loved one had no pre-paid funeral plan in place, then often the cost of the funeral can be met out of his or her estate. If this is not possible, then you may have to pay for it yourself.

Help is also available from the Department of Work and Pensions for people who cannot afford the cost and are in receipt of certain benefits.

Dealing with the death of a loved one will always be traumatic, but there are steps you can take to make the process a bit less stressful for your friends and family when the time comes. These include leaving clear written instructions on the type of funeral you would like and ensuring your affairs are in order by writing a Will.

“I used Wilson and Fish to get Confirmation for my late fathers estate. They provided a friendly and efficient service. Good communication throughout the process and everything clearly explained. I would happily recommend Wilson and Fish. Thanks to Donna for making it so simple.”

– Gavin Laird, Scotland, December 2019 5stars

Contact our specialist Executry Solicitors Glasgow, Scotland

Wilson & Fish Solicitors are based in Glasgow, Scotland, and can offer professional executry services at a competitive price. Contact us today on 0141 222 7951 or fill in our enquiry form to find out how we can help you.