This section deals briefly with some of your more immediate concerns
Q. Who should I inform of the death?
A. The next of kin, GP and the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages should be informed immediately. Most people die of natural causes, however if the death is sudden and unexpected, the Gardaí and the Coroner may need to be informed. At a later stage you will need to inform the Department of Social and Family Affairs, if the person who died was getting a social welfare payment, or was a dependent on another person’s payment. You should also inform relevant insurance companies.
Q. Who has to register the death?
A. If the death occurred at home, the next of kin or nearest relative present at the death must register the death by bringing a Medical Certificate stating the cause of death to the appropriate Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages, usually within five days. The appropriate Registrar is determined by where the death took place, not where the deceased lived. The deceased’s family doctor (GP) normally issues the medical certificate, but it can be any doctor. The hospital usually registers the death if the death happened in hospital. Deaths referred to the County or City Coroner are registered when the Registrar receives a certificate of the post-mortem examination or inquest from the Coroner.
Q. Where can I get a copy of the Death Certificate?
A. A Death Certificate can be obtained from the local Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages in the district where the person died. If you are registering the death, it is useful to get several copies of the Death Certificate at the same time as banks and insurance companies etc. typically require an original certificate to be submitted.
Q. What is the cost of a Death Certificate?
A. The fees charged for a certificate are as follows (as of February 2013):
- €20 for a full standard certificate
- €1 for a copy for social welfare purposes (letter from the Department of Social Protection required)
- €4 for an uncertified copy of an entry in the Register
- €10 to have a certificate authenticated (only available from the General Register Office)
Q. What is the role of the Funeral Director/Undertaker?
A. The role of a Funeral Director is to arrange a funeral which fully reflects the wishes of your loved one and their family. They will deal all arrangements regarding the burial or cremation, including organising the burial plot, newspaper notices and religious or civil services if you wish. They can also organise transport of the deceased and mourners, help with arrangements for the church service, liaising with those involved in these arrangements, e.g. florists etc. They will also assist you to obtain any documentation necessary both before and after the funeral. The Irish Association of Funeral Directors have drawn up a The Code of Cremation Practice that explains what you can expect from any one of their members.
Q. What is a post mortem?
A. A post mortem (sometimes called an autopsy) is an examination carried out by a pathologist after a death where is necessary to establish the medical cause of death. The majority of deaths do not require any post mortem because the medical cause of death can be certified by a doctor who has been treating the deceased in the months prior to the death, i.e. a GP or hospital doctor.
Q. Is there any help available towards the funeral costs?
A. Unfortunately the bereavement Grant available from the Department of Social and Family Affairs has been discontinued. Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to get assistance towards the funeral expenses under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance (SWA) scheme, which is operated by the Health Boards. No social insurance contributions are required as payment is based on the means of the person responsible for paying the funeral bill. You should apply to your local Community Welfare Officer at your local Health Centre before you pay the funeral bill, as the cheque will be issued to the undertaker/funeral director. The SWA scheme also provides for Exceptional Needs Payments in particular situations. If the death of your loved one happened because of an accident at work or while travelling to or from work or as a result of a prescribed disease, you may be entitled to a Funeral Grant of €850 under the Occupational Injuries Scheme. Please refer to www.citizensinformation.ie for more information.
Q. If there is money in a joint account can I draw out this money?
A. Yes, if the money is held jointly with your spouse. If the account is held jointly with a person other than your spouse (e.g. the deceased is a brother, parent or partner), talk to your bank, building society or credit union. They may need a statement from the Revenue Commissioners, Capital Taxes Office, Dublin Castle, Dublin 2 (LoCall 1890 201 104). This will allow you to transfer the money while any possible tax liability, such as Capital Acquisitions Tax (CAT), is being checked out. If money in the bank/building society is in the deceased’s name only, then you usually cannot get access to it until probate is granted.
Q. The deceased had a Medical Card – what should I do with it?
A. You should return it to the Health Board which issued it – see Useful Addresses section for addresses. If you are the spouse of a medical card holder, you may be entitled to a card in your own right.
Q. Who deals with the will?
A. Generally, the person named in a will as executor has the job of dealing with the terms of the will and taking out probate. There may be more than one executor. If no executor has been appointed, or if the named executor does not wish to act, an administrator may be appointed.
Q. What is the procedure if the deceased didn’t make a will?
A. If there is no will the next of kin can apply to the Probate Office for a grant of representation.
Q. How do I take out a Grant of Probate?
A. If you are the executor or have been appointed an administrator and the estate is not complicated, you can make a personal application to the Probate Personal Application Section in the Probate Office, First Floor, 15-24 Phoenix St. North, Smithfield, Dublin 7. Tel. (01) 888 6174, or to one of the 14 District Probate Offices (enquire about these at your local courthouse). If the estate is complex, you should consult a solicitor.
Q. What are your rights as a spouse where there is a will?
A. If there is a will, where there are no children, you are entitled to one half of the estate. Where there are children, you are entitled to one third of the estate. The children are not necessarily entitled to the rest.
Q. What are your rights as a spouse where there is no will?
A. If there is no will, where there are no children, you are entitled to the entire estate. Where there are children, you are entitled to two-thirds with the remaining one-third divided equally between the children (if a child has already died, his/her children take a share).
Q. What happens to the family home after the death of a spouse?
A. If the two of you jointly own the house, then you automatically become the owner. If your spouse was the legal owner then you may require that it be given to you as part of your share of your spouse’s estate. If the family home is worth more than this share, then you may have to pay the difference. However, you may apply to the court to have the house given to you either without paying the difference or by paying an amount that the court thinks reasonable. The court may make such an order if it thinks that hardship would otherwise be caused either to you or to a dependent child.
Q. Will I have to pay inheritance tax?
A. If your inheritance is from your spouse it is exempt from Inheritance Tax (Capital Acquisitions Tax or CAT). Otherwise, depending on your degree of relationship with the deceased, there are certain thresholds above which CAT is payable. Please refer to www.revenue.ie for the latest information.