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When Someone Passes, What Do I Do and Where Do I Stand?

December 29, 2022 Wills, Executry & Probate

Having a friend or relative pass is always going to be an emotional time. It is not easy making sure everyone is agreed on who should take on responsibility. The practicalities will often and understandably be the last thing on your mind, but it is important for you, your family, and your friends to know who will be required to do what and where this leaves you in doing so.

From the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the way we register a death has changed. In recent years we have also seen changes in who is responsible to make funeral arrangements. This blog will tell you what you need to know about who can register a death and make funeral arrangements in Scotland.

Who Can Register a Death in Scotland?

In Scotland since the pandemic, you can register a death if you:

  • are related to the person who has died;
  • were present when the person died;
  • are an executor/solicitor of the person who has died;
  • are the funeral director and have agreed to register the death in line with the family’s wishes;
  • lived with the person who died (if they died at home).

If there is no one available to register the death under the above-prescribed terms, you will be able to do so if you know details of the person who died and you have with you all the necessary documentation.

From 26 March 2020 onwards, remote registration was introduced meaning the informant (person who has notified of the death) will not be required to attend the registration office in person at any point. The doctor providing the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death (MCCD) will ask for the informant details of the preferred registration office. A copy of the MCCD will then be forwarded to the specified office electronically. Once the registrar has received this certificate, the informant should make contact by telephone or email to begin the process of registering the death.

The registrar will ask for contact details, details of the deceased’s birth and any marriage(s), as well as any other relevant life events of the deceased. Using all of this information, the registrar will complete a template for approval of the informant (this is usually done via email, but the registrar can simply read the relevant sections over the telephone if necessary). Once approved, the informant, rather than physically signing the register page, will tell the registrar how their signature usually reads (i.e. John Smith or J. Smith). The registrar will write that signature followed by the term “(Transcribed)” and the extract from the Register of Deaths (more commonly known as the death certificate) will be posted to the informant in due course.

Who Can Make Funeral Arrangements in Scotland?

The law on who is authorised to arrange a funeral in Scotland remains the same as before the onset of the pandemic. The Burial and Cremation (Scotland) Act 2016 was introduced to provide some clarity and certainty for families who were either unsure of who should lead or were in dispute as to how to proceed.

An “Arrangements on Death Declaration” can be made by the deceased in their lifetime stipulating who should make arrangements for them upon their death, and the 2016 Act indicates that this declaration can be either written or verbal. As is often the case, however, no such declaration is made, and it is left to the family to reach an agreement. The 2016 Act attempts to reduce the scope for family disputes and creates a hierarchy for those entitled to make funeral arrangements.

For the death of an adult, the hierarchy is as follows:

  • Spouse or civil partner;
  • Cohabitant;
  • Child (including step-children);
  • Parent;
  • Sibling;
  • Grandparent;
  • Grandchild;
  • Aunt or Uncle;
  • Cousin;
  • Niece or nephew; or
  • Longstanding friend.

For the death of a child, the hierarchy is as follows:

  • Parent (or guardian/person with parental rights and responsibilities);
  • Sibling;
  • Grandparent;
  • Aunt or Uncle;
  • Cousin;
  • Niece or nephew; or
  • Longstanding friend.

As it is a hierarchy, if a person with the authority wishes not to take responsibility, the responsibility will pass to the person next in line. For instances where there is more than one in a group (e.g. children), the responsibility lies with all children to reach a decision. If there is no agreement, as a last resort a claim can be brought before a Sheriff to decide.

The Jones Whyte Bereavement Team can be contacted by phone at 0330 175 1234 or via our contact form below.

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