Impacted By Suicide – weeks

The coroner and coroner’s office, pre-inquest

In England and Wales, sudden and unexplained deaths are reported to the local coroner, who is an independent judicial officer (usually a lawyer, or for those registered before 2008 may be a doctor) appointed by the local authority and approved by the Chief Coroner. The death cannot be registered until the coroner’s investigation 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 on the inquest process is available here.

What is a post-mortem?

Sometimes the coroner will decide to request a post-mortem examination to be clear about how the person died. The coroner will decide what type of examination is most appropriate, but the process usually involves a detailed internal examination, carried out by a medical specialist known as a pathologist.

By law, the coroner is not required to obtain your consent to carry out the post-mortem, but will give you a reason for his or her decision.

Coroners will try to take account of your religious and cultural needs while at the same time ensuring they are acting within the law when requesting a post-mortem.

Wherever possible the coroner’s office will, on request, tell you when and where an examination will be performed.

Registering a death

You cannot register the death until the inquest process has finished, at which point the coroner will send all of the relevant information to the registrar.

However, the coroner can give you an interim death certificate that you can use to let organisations know and to apply for probate.

Tell Us Once service

Tell Us Once is a service that lets you report a death to a range of government services in one go. When you register a death, the registrar will let you know if the service is operating in your area, and will give you a phone number and reference number to get started.

You will need:

  • Date of birth
  • National Insurance number
  • Driving licence number
  • Vehicle registration number
  • Passport number
  • Details of local services, pensions and benefits that the person was in receipt of.

Tell Us Once will then notify people such as the Passport Office, HMRC, DVLA, DWP and your local authority so that you don’t have to make all those calls yourself.

For other services, like banks and utility companies, many will have staff trained to make arrangements easier for people who have been bereaved; you can search on the organisation’s website for a number for their bereavement team or ask for this when you get through on the phone.

Arranging a funeral

Even if the inquest has not yet been opened, you can talk to a funeral director to start planning what happens next.

It is advisable to contact a funeral director who is a member of a recognised trade association, such as The National Association of Funeral Directors, or SAIF, the National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors.

Following the post-mortem investigation, even if the coroner decides to continue the investigation, he or she must release the body for burial or cremation as soon as possible. If they cannot release the body within 28 days then they must notify the next of kin or personal representative of the reasons for the delay.

Do you need financial help?

You may be entitled to bereavement benefits after someone has died. These differ depending on your relationship to the person who died, your altered responsibilities since they have died (for example, looking after children or grandchildren) and what other benefits you may be receiving already.

Families on a low income may receive some help to pay for the funeral; this Funeral Payment will only be paid after the funeral has been held and covers basic costs.

For up-to-date information visit the Benefits section of www.gov.uk.

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