How do I notify a death?

Updated on 27 January 2020


On this page, we point out guidance to follow on registering a death and in particular look at what steps to take for tax purposes.

What should I do when someone dies?

This website concentrates on tax and related information. To find out about more general things you need to do when someone dies, including registering the death, see the guidance on the following government websites:

A broader range of information on bereavement-related matters can also be found on GOV.UK.

If the deceased lived in Scotland, you might find the guide 'What to do after a death in Scotland' helpful, on the Scottish Government website. If you live in Northern Ireland, similar information can be found on the nidirect website.

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What is Tell Us Once?

Tell Us Once is a service available in most parts of England, Scotland and Wales. Northern Ireland has a Bereavement Service, but this only applies for social security/state benefits. Your local authority will tell you if they offer the service when you go to register the death. You can find out more about the service on GOV.UK.

If you use Tell Us Once, the information you give is shared with many national and local government services and departments that need to know about the death. This should mean that HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is notified of the death so that the deceased’s tax affairs can be resolved.

If you do not or cannot use the Tell Us Once service, you must let the relevant government departments know about the death yourself.

Even if you have used Tell Us Once, it is important to check what needs to be done to finalise the deceased’s tax affairs, and what tax matters need to be dealt with relating to the deceased’s estate. Also, a death can affect a surviving spouse, civil partner or other dependant’s tax affairs, so it is important to consider those issues too. Other pages of this guide cover each of these areas.

We understand that the Tell Us Once service does not cover student loans. You might know that the deceased had a student loan, or you might see from their payslips or tax papers that they were making repayments towards one. You will need to contact the Student Loans Company to get the loan cancelled. Their repayment website explains how.

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Do I need to contact HM Revenue & Customs?

If you registered the death and used the Tell Us Once service you should not need to notify HMRC about the death, provided you opted at that time for HMRC to be notified.

But if you could not use Tell Us Once, or chose not to, a relative or the executor or personal representative for the deceased should contact HMRC on the Bereavement helpline to let them know about the death. You will need to provide HMRC with the deceased’s full name and address and National Insurance number (NINO). You will also need to tell them the name, address and contact details of the executor or personal representative for the deceased (if this is someone other than you).

Once they have been notified of the death, HMRC will write to the executor or personal representative regarding any tax matters arising in connection with the death – for example, whether enough tax was paid by the deceased up to the date of death. But it is wise to check the situation out for yourself in the meantime – for example to see if a tax repayment needs to be claimed, or if there are outstanding tax returns to be submitted.

You may want to read our short Tax at Bereavement factsheet as this provides a basic overview on finalising the tax affairs of the deceased.

There is more information on the tax duties of the executor or personal representative on the page What if I am an executor or personal representative?.

The Tell Us Once notification to HMRC should also cover HMRC-administered benefits such as tax credits. If Tell Us Once was not used, HMRC’s different offices may need to be notified separately of the death for tax, National Insurance, tax credits and child benefit purposes. You can find more information on reporting a death outside the Tell Us Once service on GOV.UK. See also our page What is the effect of death on state benefits?.  

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What is the Death Notification Service?

The Death Notification Service (DNS) allows you to notify a death to certain banks and other financial institutions with one notification. Not all banks are part of the scheme yet, but as this becomes more popular, it is anticipated that more organisations will choose to join.

Using the service could save you some time and effort. It is not necessary to know all of the account details for the deceased, but the more information you can give the better. Note that if funds are likely to be needed urgently, for example to pay for the funeral, you should notify that bank separately before using the service.

The DNS will acknowledge the information, check the death and then the various institutions will contact the executors or personal representatives of the deceased. If these are not known at the time of notification, the details can be added later by phoning the DNS on 0333 2076574.

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Where can I find more information?

Your local authority might be able to direct you to sources of bereavement support. Find out what might be available by using the following websites:

England or Wales – use the facility on GOV.UK
Scotland – visit the Scottish Government website
Northern Ireland – visit nidirect

You can find out where to get other types of help from third party organisations on our getting help page.

HMRC have a bereavement tool that you can use which will help you understand what you have to do when someone dies. The tool is basically a questionnaire. You can choose to answer all or just some of the questions. Once you have answered the questions and used the 'get answers' button you will see your tailored guide with links to more detailed advice.

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