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United Kingdom (UK) - Death

Despite being an uncomfortable subject, unfortunately deaths from accidents, illnesses, and other incidents do happen. In the United Kingdom there are three things that must be done in the first couple of days after someone dies, regardless of their country of origin.

A medical certificate is needed, which is usually given by the GP or hospital. If the patient is with the GP or in a hospital at the time of death, then the certificate is automatically filled out. In the event of an unsupervised death in the home or elsewhere, a coroner is likely to be called to pick up the body and take it to the nearest morgue. Should a doctor be in attendance at a death but find the death suspicious, they may also call for a coroner before the medical certificate will be provided.

Doctors request coroners when a death is unexpected, unnatural, violent or unexplained, or when a person dies unattended. Any person suffering from a fatal illness should be seen by a medical practitioner upon arrival in the country or diagnosis in order to avoid complications for others after death. In the event of medical malpractice or death during an operation, a coroner will be called. The coroner will not release the body until the cause of death is made clear. The coroner will then fill out a medical certificate and determine whether a post-mortem (autopsy) is required.

Once the death certificate has been obtained, it must be given to the registrar so that the death can be registered. Deaths must be registered within five days, unless the coroner requests additional time. After the medical certificate and death registration have been completed, a funeral can be held or the body can be sent to the expat’s home country.

If the body of the deceased is to leave the United Kingdom, rather than being cremated or buried, then permission from the coroner is necessary. This permission needs to be requested four days in advance of the body being moved.

To bring the body home, an English translation of the death certificate is needed if the country of origin’s official language is not English. This is to make sure that authorities at the transport facility can read the document. In the case of cremation, a certificate of cremation is necessary to bring the ashes back home. Additionally, the airline will need to be contacted regarding the body or ashes to ask what their requirements are for travel. The local embassy of the expat’s nation should also be informed that a body is being brought home to ensure there is no additional paperwork required.

The UK’s ‘Tell Us Once’ service ensures that all parties will be notified of a registered death, including HMRC, Department of Work and Pensions, DVLA, and Passport Office. It is the responsibility of the deceased’s next of kin to notify banks, financial institutions, insurance providers, and other organisations of a death.

Customs for Death

In the United Kingdom customs surrounding death have changed over the years. Funerals are usually held to remember the person who has passed away. A funeral can be held in the United Kingdom for an expat even if they are being sent home, as a way for new friends to say goodbye.

Some people may arrange a laying-out, which can be either in a coffin or in a bed. Coffin funerals are more common than older laying-out traditions. Many individuals hold a wake for departed loved ones, and some choose to hold a gathering that focuses on celebrating the life of the deceased, rather than a more sombre occasion. Several new customs exist such as lighting fireworks, putting flowers at the place of death, and holding events at home rather than at a funeral parlour. Church ceremonies are lessening among younger generations as atheism and secularism are fast becoming the preferred belief systems among younger people in the United Kingdom.

Expat Health Insurance Partners


Cigna has worked in international health insurance for more than 30 years. Today, Cigna has over 71 million customer relationships around the world. Looking after them is an international workforce of 31,000 people, plus a network of over 1 million hospitals, physicians, clinics and health and wellness specialists worldwide, meaning you have easy access to treatment.

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