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Introduction

Please do not make any arrangements for a funeral until the Coroner’s office has been in touch with you – as the Coroner may need to make a variety of arrangements and investigations before the body can be released to you.

Please be aware that we require a single designated point of contact for the family. You should all decide amongst yourselves who this will be, and that person should provide us with their details so that we can contact them. Unless there are truly exceptional circumstances, resources do not allow us to keep in touch with more than one family member.

Registering a death

Once a death has been referred to the Coroner, that death cannot be registered until the Coroner has taken all the necessary action about the referral and circumstances of a particular death.

There is a rule that a death must be registered within five days of the event, but this rule does not apply when a Coroner is investigating the death.

You will be allocated an assigned Coroner’s officer who will be your main point of contact – except for any holidays or other leave – and they will keep you advised of the progress in your case.

Getting a temporary death certificate (Interim Death Certificate)

If, after the initial referral, the Coroner decides that more work or investigations are necessary  – for example, if they are waiting for the results of histology or toxicology before being provided with a medical cause of death, or an Inquest is required – you will be provided with a temporary death certificate which may allow you to confirm the fact of death and deal with some of the deceased’s affairs, such as bank accounts or HMRC (HM Revenue and Customs).

Tell us Once

What to do after someone dies: Tell Us Once – GOV.UK is a really useful service which notifies all the various organisations listed below if the deceased person lived in Somerset. It saves you from having to notify them all individually. This includes:

  • Local council
  • Passport service
  • Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA)
  • Department of Work and Pensions (DWP)
  • Ministry of Defence, Service Personnel and Veterans Agency (MoD)
  • HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC)

You can find out more on our Tell us Once page.

Arranging a funeral

It is important that you do not make any arrangements for a funeral until the Coroner’s office has been in touch with you. The Coroner may need to make a variety of enquiries and arrangements before the body can be released back to you for a funeral. If you go ahead and book a funeral before speaking to the Coroner’s office it may be that the funeral will be delayed because the Coroner’s enquiries have not been completed. The body remains under the control of the Coroner until they are satisfied that all the necessary enquiries and investigations have been completed.

What you need to be able to hold the funeral

To arrange the funeral for your loved one you will need to:

  • Have appointed a funeral director. Once you have chosen a Funeral Director you will need to provide their details to the Coroner’s office. Please do this at your earliest opportunity once you have chosen who you will use. If you are choosing to arrange the funeral yourself, you will need to advise the Coroner’s office of this, and you must contact the cemeteries and crematorium department of the local council.
  • Make sure that the body has been formally released by the Coroner. A Coroner’s officer will notify you of this formal release, and
  • The necessary paperwork. This will be sent by the Coroner to both the registrar and your nominated funeral director

If you have any particular religious or cultural requirements, please read our information.

If you are intending to take the body abroad for a funeral or burial, please read our information.

Financial assistance for funeral costs

If you need help with the costs of a funeral, you should get in touch with the Council – they may be able to help you with any funeral arrangements and the costs.

Advice and support for families

This can be a very emotional, distressing time, but below are various organisations and charities that may be able to help you with different aspects of the process that you are now dealing with.

If you are not sure what to do when someone you love dies, here are some links that may help you:

GOV.UK – What to do when someone dies– The government website contains a useful step-by-step guide on everything that you will need to do when someone dies

NHS bereavement and loss – The NHS provides guidance on how to deal with the feeling of bereavement and loss after the death of a loved one

Bereavement Care – This charity provides support to those suffering from grief

The Coroner’s Court Support Service – This voluntary organisation offers emotional support and practical help for people going through the Inquest process

Inquest – This organisation can assist you with a state-related death – where the death has occurred in state custody

Take our Hand – is a nationwide charity that offers support to bereaved young people aged 16 to 25

Somerset Suicide Bereavement Support Service – offers support and guidance to anyone bereaved by suicide within Somerset.

Religious and cultural

If you feel that you have any specific religious or cultural requirements that directly conflict with the standard procedures followed by the Coroner and their office, please notify the Coroner’s officer at the earliest opportunity. The Coroner will do their best to assist you, while staying within the statutory provisions.

Objecting to a post-mortem

Your faith may mean that you do not want the Coroner to carry out a standard invasive post-mortem (sometimes called an autopsy) to establish the medical cause of death. If you have any objections, please inform the Coroner’s Officer of these in writing at your earliest opportunity and the Coroner will make it a priority to consider them.

It is sometimes possible to carry out a non-invasive post-mortem – such as a CT scan – but unfortunately this is not always possible because they do not provide results for some particular causes of death. Non-invasive post-mortems are not something that the Coroner’s service will fund and so it may mean that you are requested to meet these costs directly with the non-invasive provider. Please be aware that carrying out a non-invasive post-mortem may not obviate the need for a standard invasive post-mortem.

It is ultimately a decision for the Coroner as to the type of post-mortem required, but we will do what we can to accommodate your concerns and wishes.

Taking a body abroad (known as repatriation)

‘Abroad’ means anywhere that is not within England and Wales, so ‘abroad’ includes Scotland and Ireland.

Please let us know at least five working days in advance if you intend to take the body abroad for a funeral or burial. It may be possible for us to give permission sooner in special circumstances.

Please email the required Out of England Form to: coroner@somerset.gov.uk

Your chosen funeral director should be able to help you with this.

Last reviewed: February 5, 2024 by Sophie

Next review due: August 5, 2024

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