Thank you to those of you who passed on your condolences either through the blog or directly to me. Losing both parents inside 3 months has been a bit disconcerting. Suddenly I'm an orphan when I've spent the last few months sorting affairs out to fund a care home stay for up to 10 years for my mother. Most of the last five years my weekends at the very least have been spent visiting and helping out my parents as they became increasingly frail so there is a genuine hole in my life right now.
Having been through bereavement twice recently I thought I'd share some thoughts with you all on the process if you have this all to come. These thoughts apply to people living in England & Wales who die in hospital. I think they are pretty generally applicable as I've gone through the process with two different hospitals in two different Local Authorities. Scotland is slightly different, I think, and I've no idea about the US or Canada. Or Australia. I'm also assuming that you are the Executor for the Will. If your parents do not have a will, get them to make one and also make sure you know where it is.
- You will receive a call from a nurse on the Ward who suggests you might like to come in as the patient's condition is deteriorating. This means, - get here quick, they're going to die. If you get to the Ward and they ask you to step into an office first, you are too late.
- If you are not too late you will probably end up having a conversation with a Doctor about wishes in respect of Resuscitation. Both my parents had made it clear to me (and my brother) that they did not want to be resuscitated. It was really helpful knowing this.
- When you have finally said good bye to your loved one you will ask yourself, or even ask a nurse, "What Happens Now". They will have a booklet for you called something like "What Happens Now" or "What Happens Next". This will contain a lot of useful tips on what you have to do, where to get counselling and so on.
- From now on where ever you go for this take a form of ID with you. Ideally both your passport and your Driving Licence. You are going to be getting people to change official records and ths paranoid age you will have to prove you are who you are.
- In practice what you need to do next is get the death certificate from the hospital. You'll pick this up from the Bereavement Office. You'll have to call them the following day to arrange to pick it up (the number will be in the booklet). This may take longer if it is a sudden death (ie within 24 hours of admission) and the Coroner has to be consulted.
- I've had two Bereavement Office experiences, one good, one less so. They are supposed to have the deceased's personal effects for you to collect as well. You may have to go up to the ward to get them however if they Office
is uselessdoesn't have them.
- The Office will give you a folder of information. Make sure the envelope with the certificate is in it. It is possible for the office to overlook this simple fact. The envelope is sealed and must remain so until it is given to the Registrar. Ask the Bereavement Office to give you the cause of death and also the name of the Doctor who signed the form. This is important as the two biggest problems at the Registrars Office are that the family don't agree the cause of death or the Registrar can't read the Doctor's signature.
- You then make an appointment with the Registrar. Actually you can do this when you know you can pick up the certificate as the Registrar may actually have an office in the hospital or be within walking distance. Make sure you take any birth and marriage certificates with you and the deceased's National Insurance number and any other official documentation like NHS card.
- The Registrar will record the death and give you a copy of the Register entry (what everyone calls the "Death Certificate"). They'll offer to give you further copies for £4 each. It's cheaper to get them at that point. I took three each time, which was more than adequate unless your family's financial affairs are really complicated.
- In the UK you are now offered access to the "Tell Us Once" service. Either the Registrar will do this, or you'll be given a registration number by the Registrar to put in a website. You then answer a few questions and all local and national government agencies (including HMRC) are advised in one go. When you finish a handy checklist of other people to advise pops up.
- You can now start to tell people about the death. Gas, Electric, Water and so on. Check their websites first to see if they have a direct Bereavement contact telephone number. That way you'll avoid any issues with staff asking to talk to the deceased as you're not the account owner.
- You'll have to see banks and building societies in person as they'll want to take a copy of the death certificate. If you are not a customer of the same institution you will need your ID as mentioned above.
- I did Probate myself for my father, and I'm doing it for my mother. The on-line resources are pretty good from the Justice Department and so on and the forms aren't as awful as you might expect. You start with form PA1 and you'll also need IHT205 or IHT400 from HMRC.
- You can contact a funeral director at any point in the process after the actual death. We took a day or so as we wanted to speak to one of the Monday Night Group who is also a Church of England minister to get a recommendation.
- It really helps to have a robust hardback notebook with you when you go to do anything and also when you phone people. I made notes of as much as I could as I found my memory didn't work as well as I'd have liked. You need to keep lists of who you need to tell, when you told them and what the outcome was. It makes life easier in the long run.
Arranging the funeral itself is so personal I make no further comment.