When someone dies
This page is a guide to some of the practical concerns you may have when someone close to you dies. It answers questions you may have on accessing money, getting help with funeral expenses, dealing with your loved one’s estate, and other practical issues you may be worried about.
Bereavement can be overwhelming and you may be going through many different emotions. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. You will find a list of organisations that can support you and your family at the end of this page.
Registering a death
Every death in Ireland must be recorded and registered at a civil registration office. You should register the death as soon as possible. It must be registered within 3 months. You need a death notification form, which you can get from the doctor who attended the person. Normally, a close family relative registers the death. If there are no relatives available to do this, the death can be registered by anyone who has knowledge of the death.
If the death was sudden or unexplained, the coroner may be appointed to hold an inquest about the circumstances surrounding the death. A post-mortem examination may be carried out to establish the cause of death.
More information about registering a death.
Who should I notify about the death?
You should tell a number of State institutions that the person has died. If the person was getting a State pension or another social welfare payment, you must inform the Department of Social Protection (DSP) that they have died. You must also inform the DSP if you were getting Carer’s Allowance or Carer’s Benefit for looking after them.
Telling other people that someone close to you has died can be very difficult. You can ask a friend or family member to help you to contact the person’s friends, work colleagues and family. It is customary to place a notice in a local or national newspaper when a death has taken place to let people know about it. This is now often done online through services like RIP.ie. Your funeral director can help you with this.
Funeral arrangements and costs
One of the first things you have to do after the death is to make funeral arrangements. An undertaker or funeral director can deal with most aspects of the funeral. The Irish Association of Funeral Directors (IAFD) has a list of funeral directors. There is a code of practice that explains what you can expect from its members.
If the person died in hospital, their body will be brought to the hospital mortuary until funeral arrangements are made. You can choose to bring them home or have them brought to a funeral home.
The person may have left instructions in their will about the type of funeral they wanted, where they wanted their remains laid to rest and if they wanted a religious or non-religious funeral service.
You may prefer a small private funeral or you may feel a large funeral is more appropriate. In general, this is a personal choice that you and your family should make.
In some cases, a funeral may be partially or fully paid for in advance, or the funeral costs are covered by an insurance policy. Otherwise, the person who arranges the funeral must pay the funeral director for the cost of the funeral. This can be repaid from the deceased’s estate (the money and property the person left behind).
If you have difficulty paying for the funeral you can apply for help from the Department of Social Protection.
Help with money
For many people, the loss of a loved one can lead to a reduction in the amount of money that is available to support you and your family. You may be entitled to help from the Department of Social Protection.
If your deceased spouse or civil partner made a will, you have an automatic right to a share in the estate, which is called a ‘legal right share’. If you are separated your inheritance rights may have been renounced or extinguished. If you are divorced from the person who died, or your civil partnership was dissolved, you no longer automatically inherit from the estate.
Cohabiting couples in Ireland have no automatic right of inheritance when their partner dies, but you can apply to the courts so you will be provided for
There are special arrangements for income tax in the year of death and you may be entitled to some tax credits.
If you get an inheritance following a death, you may have to pay tax on it. This is a type of Capital Acquisitions Tax (CAT) and must be paid by the person who receives the inheritance. The amount of tax you have to pay depends on the value of the inheritance and the relationship between you and the person who has died. If you get an inheritance from your spouse or civil partner, you do not have to pay CAT.
You must get a legal document to give you the authority to administer the deceased person’s estate. This is a legal order called a Grant of Representation.
If the deceased person left a will, the person who deals with the estate is called the deceased person’s executor. The executor needs to take out probate. Taking out probate means having the Probate Office or the appropriate District Probate Registry certify that:
- The will is valid
- All legal, financial and tax matters are in order
Wills only take effect when the Probate Office accepts that the will is valid. The Probate Office may make some enquiries before making its decision, for example, it may ask for a sworn affidavit from one or both witnesses
If there is no will, the person who deals with the deceased person’s estate is called an ‘administrator’. An administrator may also be appointed if there is a will but:
- No executor has been appointed
- The appointed person cannot act as executor
- The executor cannot or will not carry out their duties
The administrator needs to take out a Letter of Administration (or a Letter of Administration with Will Annexed if there is a will).
Help and support
Talking to someone you trust about your feelings of loss can be a great support at this time. But sometimes family and friends may be unable to help. If this is the case, bereavement counselling may help.
Bereavement counselling helps you to explore, understand and work through feelings of grief. Often, just getting reassurance can help.
The Aware Support Line can help you if you are feeling depressed or anxious – 1800 80 48 48.
You can call the Samaritans if you want to talk to someone about how you are feeling – 116 123.
AdVIC offers counselling if you have lost someone to homicide – 1800 852 000.
Barnardos offers a bereavement helpline for accessing support services for children who have suffered a bereavement – 01 473 2110.
The Irish Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy has a directory of accredited counsellors - 01 230 3536.
Bereavement - a practical guide (pdf), is a booklet from the Citizens Information Board.
The HSE has published a book about grief and bereavement for people who are grieving and for those who are supporting them. It is called Bereavement: When someone close dies (pdf).
Care Alliance Ireland has a booklet for former carers. It is called The Way Ahead – A resource to support former family carers.
Free copies of this booklet are available on request by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org