What you need to do immediately when a family member dies

A family member’s death is upsetting and stressful enough so here are pointers to help you with the practical issues you’ll need to deal with immediately after the death.

The first steps are to let family and friends know, and contact the doctor who was looking after the deceased when they died. It is important to do this as quickly as you can (especially if the deceased was an organ donor, when speed will be of the essence). In most cases, the doctor will be able to issue a medical certificate showing the cause of death and a death notification form explaining what you need to do to register it. The doctor will let you know if the death needs to be referred to the coroner, who may decide to hold a post-mortem, or the Gardai.

You will also want to contact:

  • The deceased’s employer or business partners (if any).
  • Any relevant religious minister.
  • Any funeral director you plan to use. They will need to know if the deceased left any instructions in their Will about their funeral.
  • The executors named in the Will (if there is one).

If you cannot find a Will, or think there may be a more recent Will than the one you have, contact anyone who might have it in safekeeping (if it exists), such as the deceased’s solicitor and bank.

The death should be registered with any Registrar of Births, Marriages and Deaths as soon as possible, but in any event, no later than three months of the death. Where the death occurred is irrelevant to which registry you use – there is a list of registries online.

Usually the death is registered by a relative, the deceased’s civil partner, or anyone who was present at the death or final illness or who knows the necessary details. Registration is free, but you pay for copies of the death certificate (and the executors will need multiple copies to produce to banks, pension funds, etc). If you don’t know how many copies you’ll need at the time you can apply for them later – and do so online if you want. Whoever deals with registration has to attend the registrar’s office in person.

You’ll need to provide the following:

  • Deceased’s full name.
  • Date of death (or approximate date, if not known).
  • Place of death (eg hospital, home, other address).
  • Any previous address.
  • The deceased’s age.

It helps if you have the deceased’s birth certificate and any certificate of marriage or civil partnership.

The Registrar will also give you the certificates you need for the deceased to be buried or cremated, to show to the funeral director.

If the deceased left orphan children under 18, either a family member must take care of them or Tusla – the Child and Family Agency must be brought in.

Different procedures apply for stillborn babies – the doctor or the relevant hospital will help you. If the death occurred overseas, you should contact the Irish Embassy or Consulate for the relevant country for advice.

Once you have the death certificate, you can contact:

  • The deceased’s mortgagee (such as a bank), or landlord if they rented.
  • Any bank or other institution where they held accounts (which will ensure any direct debits are cancelled), and any financial advisers.
  • The deceased’s insurers, and any loan or hire purchase companies.
  • Any pension provider, and the trustees of any trust fund the deceased benefited from.
  • Organisations or publications the deceased subscribed to, to cancel the subscriptions.
  • If they had a driving licence, the NDLS.
  • If they were on any benefits, the relevant government department or agency.
  • The register of electors, to remove them.
  • The post office, to redirect mail to the executors or administrators (who are responsible for sorting out the deceased’s affairs).
  • Utility companies, if the deceased’s home is empty.

If you know passwords you may also want to close down social media and other online accounts – although if there are financial credits on, for example, a Paypal, Ebay or similar account, make sure they aren’t inadvertently lost, as they are part of the deceased’s assets.

The people named as executors in the deceased’s Will will need to think about getting a grant of probate (or letters of administration if there was no Will) so they can sort out the deceased’s estate, pay any taxes and debts due, and distribute cash and assets to the beneficiaries. It’s almost invariably better to get help from a solicitor as it’s complex, and can take many months.

Finally, financial help may be available – for example, to help with the funeral costs – or other support, such as counselling. Usually, you can’t get access to the deceased’s bank account or other funds until a grant of probate has been issued.

In contentious business, a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award or settlement.